Consultations have begun with customers to help source alternative suppliers and with affected staff to minimise redundancies.

Rentokil said the UK linen and workwear operations had suffered from a significant lack of investment, and historically from a “flawed commercial strategy”.

The businesses made an operational loss of £5million in 2004 and projected losses for 2005 are estimated at £9m. The closure will allow Initial Hygiene to focus on its strong and profitable washroom and dustmat operations.

Rentokil chief executive Doug Flynn said the UK closure would not affect the linen and workwear operations in continental Europe, where it has built up several profitable and growing businesses.