Hotel managers are resorting to washing towels at home because of a staff shortage at commercial laundry companies, a report says

Hotel maid
Hotels are finding it difficult to get enough clean bedding, the BBC reported. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • Some laundry companies are struggling to service UK hotels because of staff shortages, per the BBC.
  • Some hotel managers are washing towels at home rather than relying on commercial laundry companies, one expert said.
  • A Northern Irish commercial launderer told the BBC it had lost staff and was swamped with deliveries.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Some UK hotels are struggling to get rooms ready in time for guests because of a staff shortage in companies that clean their bedding and towels, according to sources cited in a BBC report on Monday.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of industry trade body UK Hospitality, told the BBC that hotel managers were taking towels home to wash them “because the commercial laundry providers haven’t been able to guarantee the delivery.”

Lilliput Services, a laundry company in Belfast, Northern Ireland, owns, washes, and supplies the bedding found in hotel rooms. Lilliput is currently understaffed and has been scrambling to get through a backlog of deliveries that have built up over the past five weeks, managing director David Griffiths told the broadcaster.

Griffiths told the BBC that he had paid staff more to work unsociable hours while the company stayed open 24 hours a day, five days a week – but it still wasn’t enough. “About 80% of our staff were Eastern European and a lot of them went home during furlough,” he said.

The BBC report comes amid a massive shortage of truck drivers in the UK, which is delaying the deliveries of goods to companies in various industries, including McDonald’s.

Mark Oldroyd, director of Blackpool Laundry, which supplies hotels and other businesses in north-west England, told the BBC that the trucker shortage hadn’t been a problem for him, but that his company was “struggling to get staff” post-pandemic. “It’s getting quite bad,” he said.

As well as cleaning laundry, part of Lilliput Services’ job is to replace old and tattered hotel bed sheets with new ones, but this is also becoming harder because of a cotton shortage, Griffiths told the BBC. “I’ve been in this game 40 years and I’ve never, never not been able to buy a pillowcase,” Griffiths said.

Pests and bad weather conditions have destroyed cotton crops, especially in Pakistan, pushing production down to the lowest level in 30 years, Bloomberg reported in April.

Brexit, the UK’s exit from the European Union, has also made it challenging for businesses in Northern Ireland to get hold of materials from the UK, Griffiths added.

“We have to pay more money and we have to charge more for our services,” he told the BBC. “It’s the only way forward.”