On the Job

A Chief Stew's Guide to Laundry on Board

30 December 2022By Kylie O'Brien
loading laundry in washing machine
iStock/Anne Boonkerdthinthai

Written by

Kylie O'Brien

Kylie O’Brien has worked on some of the world’s most magnificent vessels with amazing people for more than 13 years. A graduate of The Australian College of Applied Psychology, she is the author of Crew Wanted, The Stewardess Bible, The Chief Stewardess Bible, The Inside Job, and has been a monthly contributor to Dockwalk magazine for more than five years.

The laundry on board a superyacht is the heartbeat of the interior operations. However, many people readily dismiss this and think of the laundry as a place where the interior crew hide out if they have had too much to drink the night before or if they want to avoid the problematic guests.

All jokes aside, consider what really happens in the laundry. Aside from it being a quiet haven for the retreating stew, it is also the yacht’s workhorse that hardly ever stops. For some, these tips may be somewhat straightforward, but for others, you may find some helpful suggestions to add to your standard laundry operating procedures.

The laundry is the place where clothes, sheets, towels, and cleaning cloths are laundered. It’s where the crew uniform gets allocated, tagged, and adjusted; a place where machines are maintained and inventories are checked.

Laundry 101

The basic laundry cycle is as follows: Collect the dirty laundry from guests and crew cabins. Sort the laundry into darks, whites, colors, galley, and engine room items. Further sort the materials into towels, guest delicates, guest dry cleaning, and sheets.

The next step after the sorting process is the pre-wash treatment and soaking for stained items. The crew tend to be a lot tougher on their uniform and you can quickly soak and stain-remove their cotton uniforms and engineers’ overalls without too much bother. (However, the guests’ clothing is another story.)

The following steps after washing the items are to dry the clothes and iron them. Once again, this is not rocket science, but it can be a costly exercise if the crew are untrained and uneducated on how to treat the various materials they must launder daily. Be sure to train your team well on the different materials they’ll come in contact with.

Follow Label Instructions

Ponder the following case study: The principal charter lady on board sat on an unknown substance, which stained her delicate silk trousers. The chief stewardesses read the instructions on the label and informed the lady that it said “dry clean only” and that she could easily send the trousers off to get cleaned. The principal insisted that the crew try to remove the stain immediately with water. So that night, the stained trousers went into a mild, cold solution of Napisan, also known as OxiClean or Vanish.

The following morning, the stewardess team was hesitant to show the chief stewardess the trousers, as the black trim on the trousers bled into the lighter colored material above the bottom cuff of the trousers. Ultimately, the trousers were ruined. However, as the interior crew followed the instructions per the guests’ request, she absorbed the replacement cost.

The moral of the story is always to follow the instructions on the label and have the confidence to advise the guests accordingly.

Planning Ahead of Fatigue

Returning the items to their correct owners is another area I have noticed people may struggle with. Not because it’s difficult, but because the crew are tired, and a mistake can easily happen.

My suggestion here is to have the laundry systems well planned out. Yes, you’ll be limited to the physical placement of the machines, but the methods you implement as the chief stewardess will help your team immensely.

Consider the tagging method, along with a logbook, when the items come into the laundry. Also, think about the time of the day concerning the crew uniforms, sheets, and towels, which need to be processed as well.

Once again, this is not rocket science, but it can be a costly exercise if the crew are untrained and uneducated on how to treat the various materials they must launder daily. 

If the laundry room is smaller than usual, the last thing you need to battle with is a mountain of sheets on the floor, making it difficult to do your work. In this instance, leave the sheets in another allocated storage area or if this isn’t possible, contain the sheets in a purpose-made sack. The safe working space for your crew must be considered first (and at all times).

Machine maintenance, laundry room ventilation, bench space, and room cleanliness are all equally as essential as each other, as they are all working parts of one efficient machine.

The machines, including the roller iron, steam iron, dryers, and washing machines must be cleaned and maintained. As the chief stewardess, you’ll include these in your standard operating procedures and communicate with the engineer as to how often the air conditioner vents and machine vents are cleaned and with what products. This will be dependent on the water quality, and it will be on a timed schedule.

Good Clean Fun

The last point when writing up laundry operating procedures is to consider which soap you’ll be using. This is an exciting time in the rise of eco-friendly products, which are safe for the ocean and still do the big job that needs to be done.

There are many great products on the market today such as EarthWash, which dramatically reduces the impact on the environment. The soap itself does a fabulous job, and there is no plastic packaging for you to contend with.

I strongly urge you to try as many eco/ocean-friendly detergents as you can and train your crew on how to use them. And, as a bonus, you will have more storage due to less plastic packaging.

This article originally ran in the February 2022 issue of Dockwalk.

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