A guide to organising superyacht laundry on board: Wash, fold, dry, repeat?
Written by Sarah Rowland
Last updated: 10/08/2016
As a superyacht stew or stewardess, you will know all too well the daily task that is yacht laundry. Although you may quickly get to grips with the fact that this ongoing chore is now part of your daily routine, the task itself can often present an ongoing learning curve, with losses and shrinkage just two of the daily challenges faced.
Yachting Pages presents a guide to organising superyacht laundry, with laundry tips for the busy stew or stewardess.
Organising superyacht laundry: Guest clothing and crew uniforms to yacht bedding and table linens
Whether working aboard a private or charter yacht, when owners and guests are on board, the laundry pile is sure to build at a rate quicker than you can typically keep up with.
When guests are not on board, cleaning rags, galley towels and crew linen will add a little to the laundry pile (just enough to keep the yacht ticking over), but with guests on board, countless garment bags of fine clothing and luxury fashions pile in - not to mention the additional bed linen, table linens and towels that are generated.
You will likely have the laundry basics down from life before yachting; empty all pockets, separate whites, darks and colours, and ensure that you follow the care label instructions, but this process cannot always be trusted infinitely. You will undergo some training as you start life as a stewardess or join a new yacht, but you may not have always encountered some of the finer fabrics in life – think silk, cashmere, velvet and embellishments.
Every stew, stewardess and homemaker will have their own home remedies for cleaning fine fabrics and removing stubborn stains, but, if in doubt, it truly is better to leave it to the professionals, or to call them for their advice. After all, ruining yacht linens may not be the end of world, but ruining the owner’s wife’s couture clothing could make for a tricky conversation.
Superyacht laundry duties: Schedule and rotation
Regardless of your preferences and workload, the likelihood is that, at least when guests are aboard, the laundry will run all day, and there may only be one stew/stewardess to oversee the whole operation with two or three stews to support.
Laundry duty starts off where things were left the night before, ironing the now clean table linen and napkins from supper, and organising guest laundry to be returned ASAP. Next there is likely to be a string of requests from the kitchen, deck and housekeeping departments for clean rags, linen and uniform, before the daily bedding, bath towel and clothing cycle begins. Every single item passing through the laundry room must be washed, pressed and folded to the yacht’s standard, and all guest clothing should be logged accordingly and searched and treated for stains.
Daily tasks will also include cleaning and organising the laundry room, from cleaning out lint from the dryers (fire hazard) to distributing clean laundry around the yacht.
As part of your duties as a superyacht stew/stewardess, you may also be asked (or directed) to unpack guest luggage, folding and organising their clothing and belongings in their cabin. A daunting task, but, looking on the positive side, this offers a laundry stewardess an invaluable chance to get to grips with the fabrics and preferences of the guests, allowing you to plan ahead for the week’s laundry rotation.
Washing clothes and linens aboard a superyacht
You will likely at least begin by laundering clothes in the same way that your parents and peers taught you at home, but that doesn't mean to say that the way you learnt is the best or the only way.
Instead of sorting garments, towels and linens by colour only - a pile for whites, one for darks and the remaining colours, it is also often necessary to sort in terms of temperature, with cold, warm and hot piles before further sorting by fabric and colour. This may mean undertaking a host of smaller loads, but the fabric (and the garment's owner) will really thank you for it! Always wash to the hottest temperature that the care label states the garment can handle to ensure it is washed thoroughly, and remember, bleach is a last resort - it eats fabrics and elastics resulting in saggy waistbands!
Furthermore, you may have learnt to be sparing, or over generous with the laundry detergent, resulting in either dirty clothes or those with a sticky, soapy residue. Ensure you are adding the recommended amount of detergent, and that that is designed to work with your washer for optimal use.
Ironing, pressing and folding laundry aboard a superyacht
Although at home there might be items that escape the iron (think socks, sheets and underwear), on board absolutely everything will be ironed or pressed – from socks and sheets through to cleaning rags.
A superyacht is the most expensive five-star resort, so consistency certainly is key to superyacht laundry; every stew/stewardess must be ironing, folding and hanging items in a uniform fashion (forgive the pun). You will learn how to fold socks and underwear properly; you will wrestle bed sheets and table linens through the roller press; and you will starch napkins, bedding, crew uniforms and dress shirts.
Laundering yacht crew uniforms and linens
With your fellow yacht crew members also calling the superyacht ‘home’, living and working on board for the duration of their employment contract or charter trip, their clothing and uniforms come an integral part of the yacht’s mountainous laundry routine.
Along with knowing how to launder yacht uniforms in order to maintain their colour, fit and finish for as long as possible, you will also have to consider timing and rotation to ensure that crew members aboard will always have a suitable and presentable uniform to wear, as well as related work rags, bedding and towels.
There are always preferred ways of laundering crew uniforms, and stews will always be in charge of ensuring that the crew looks immaculate, even when there are no guests on board. But, rest assured, crew will likely be responsible for laundering their personal clothing on quieter days in the laundry room.
Outsourcing superyacht laundry
With the yacht laundry never quite being done, just when the floor underneath the laundry pile is beginning to become a little clearer, a fellow stewardess comes in with the linens of a late riser. The good news is there is often provision to send out laundry to the local dry cleaners and laundry service companies in the area – that is, if you can tie yourself down to a port for long enough! This is also true for tricky stains and luxury fabrics, as it is never worth tackling anything that may cause a problem on board.
With a little forward planning, you may be able to round up a few bundles of the yacht’s laundry and linens to send off to the dry cleaner to ease the pressure on board. Many of which will be able to collect, wash, press and deliver within a day, but it’s vital to choose a reputable laundry service for a stress-free experience.