Tips for handling linen
Linens help set a mood, add color and create a tablescape for each event. Most party and event rental stores carry a variety of styles, sizes and colors to meet the needs of customers, but all that fabric also requires a lot of room for storage. As a result, rental stores and manufacturers use several methods to store linens, including boxes, hangers, bins and plastic bags. Many times, the storage method may depend on space limitations as well as the inventory.
For example, Robin Brocklesby, president, Creative Coverings, Sparks, Nev., says her company’s storage system does not differ by material, but by size, product and frequency of rental. “There are a number of older cloths in our inventory that do not rent often, so those products are often folded and stored in boxes. Boxes take up considerably less warehouse space than the hanging racks,” she says.
Many rental operations and manufacturers prefer to store their linens on hangers, covered in clear plastic bags and labeled with size specifications. “We sort them on racks by fabric, then size, then color,” says Sal Mosca, vice president of operations, Jomar Table Linens, Ontario, Calif.
“Hanging them takes up a bit more space, but this keeps them from increased wrinkles from stacking and especially because the hangers make a much nicer presentation to the customer. It’s also faster to pull orders,” he says.
The exception, Mosca says, is the iridescent crush linens. “Some companies fold and lay the iridescent crush linens to keep the ‘wrinkles’ from stretching out,” he says.
Through experience, he says Jomar also has developed what the company believes is the best way to hang tablecloths. “You typically want to fold them in quarters in a way so that they hang long over the hanger, thus keeping them from sliding off the hanger. We suggest you fold them ‘inside out’ for a few reasons. It makes draping them onto the table much easier since you won’t have to open them up to start putting them on the table. Also, it allows you to see any size tags on the linens in the plastic if a hanger tag has been removed. If, by chance, linen falls to the ground, only the reverse side may get dirty and as a result, may still be usable. The plastic bag also helps with this issue,” he says.
Creative Coverings keeps tablecloths and runners folded and hung, then sealed in plastic, but the company uses a different storage method for chair covers. “We have found that folding the chair covers in bundles of five and storing them in boxes that contain 25 at a time keep the chair covers clean and pressed, allowing for a ‘Y’ shaped crease on the left and right of the chair cover. It also allows our staff members to have easy access to the chair covers when they are being shipped or taken to an event to be set up,” Brocklesby says.
Linens: Easy to use, easy to ruin
If there is a common denominator with linens, it’s damage. Whether it is candle wax burns, food stains or rips, every linen owner experiences a certain percentage of damage when linens go out the door for rental.
“Surprisingly, burn holes are not caused by cigarettes, but when candles and tea lights are blown out at the end of an event,” says Ming Gamberg, owner/designer, Linen Pro Designs, La Habra, Calif. “This can be prevented by using a snuffer or moving candles before extinguishing. Wax is another problem. Although some wax can be removed with extra time and cleaning, it is a very time-consuming process and the oil residue can permanently damage a fabric,” she says.
Charlotte Sorrentino, owner of Store Envy, Franklin, N.J., agrees and says another culprit is the laundry. “The most damage occurs in the laundry process. Harsh chemicals and high temperatures in the washer and dryer can cause the fabric to fade, thin out and shorten its lifespan. The edging usually goes, but if the cloth is still usable, then it can be re-edged by the manufacturer. Manglers can cause distortion in the shape, but if linens are put in properly, the situation can be avoided,” she says.
Robin Brocklesby, president, Creative Coverings, Sparks, Nev., agrees. “It’s important to keep in mind when stores are manufacturing or buying linens, to make it larger. That way, if it shrinks during the pressing process, it becomes the correct size, not too small to use. If the life of a cloth is shortened
due to staining or holes, try and make it into a smaller cloth, runner, napkins or sashes,” she says.
“Many crinkle or crush fabrics can’t run through a pressing machine, as it will remove the ‘crush’ in the fabric. Therefore, those fabrics many times don’t need to be ironed at all or, in some cases, should be hand-ironed. We back many of our crush and crinkle napkins with a poly-poplin backing, which does need to be ironed, so those napkins get ironed by hand, which is very time-consuming,” she says.
“There are several improper laundry methods that can cause wrinkles to set into the fabric,” Sorrentino adds. “Detergents or chemicals can break down the integrity of the threads making the cloth threadbare in sections. Don’t wash linens like clothing. The purpose of cleaning is to remove food or soiling.”
Whether from washing or from use at an event, one threat to linens is dampness, which can lead to mold and mildew. “If linens come back from an event wet, get them out of the bags and into an open area to dry as quick as possible,” Brocklesby says. “Once they mildew, removing the mildew stains is very hard and sometimes impossible.”
Gamberg agrees. “Mildew spreads when linens are damp and cannot air dry. A small spot can spread and permanently damage a large number of linens. That’s why it’s always important that linen be dry before bagging or shipping,” she says.
“I’ve seen a number of rental companies hang the chair covers on hangers to store them. This is a tremendous amount of work. If they are pressed and folded carefully, they store much better in boxes. The trick to storing them in a box is to fold them in groups of five. By bulking the chair covers in larger groups, before folding them, they will not show as significant a crease in the folded areas as they will if they are folded individually,” she says.
“Napkins we fold in bundles of 10 and fold each bundle in half one time. We then seal two 10-piece bundles in plastic wrapping. The sashes are bundled in groups of 10 folded three times, then stored openly on racking. We do not store the sashes in plastic wrapping, because the bundles stack well without being wrapped in plastic. They are used so frequently for events that there isn’t a dust issue,” she says.
|“Any kind of light, whether natural or fluorescent, will fade linen over time. It is important to cover linen and keep lighting low when possible.”— Ming Gamberg, owner/designer, Linen Pro Designs, La Habra, Calif.|
“Always test process any unusual fabrics because many manufacturers or textile companies don’t have the facilities to test under the conditions of how a rental store cleans.” — Charlotte Sorrentino, owner, Store Envy, Franklin, N.J.
“For snags or tears, one quick emergency fix is to use fusible Pellon®. If you have linen with a clean tear, not jagged, the opening can be temporarily fused with a small piece of very thin fusable Pellon. You basically iron it on like a patch.” — Sal Mosca, vice president of operations, Jomar Table Linens, Ontario, Calif.
“Fabrics with a tighter weave, i.e. bridal satin, can be tougher to maintain. The tighter the weave of the fabric, the more ingrained the stain can be. Unfortunately, tighter weave fabrics tend to be the ‘high quality’ fabrics that are used often. Looser weave fabrics will usually be easier to clean.” — Robin Brocklesby, president, Creative Coverings, Sparks, Nev.