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A Peek Behind the Scenes of a Friday Harbor B&B

Using a mangle to crisp up our sheets
A Peek Behind the Scenes of a Friday Harbor B&B
Head Housekeeper Elsa Lopez guides a tablecloth into the old mangle.

At the Inns, sometimes it seems like we are all on stage, trying to ensure that we do our best for the many guests who visit us in Friday Harbor. More than not, unbeknownst to guests, there is a lot of thought, discussion, trial and error that goes into each little facet of our service. Here is a rare peek behind the curtain for you:

We like starched sheets, but it seems we’re in a minority. Responding to feedback from guests, we decided to forgo the starch, but that created a new problem: how to get the sheets perfectly smooth. Head housekeeper Elsa Lopez, who’s been with us for nine years, came up with the brilliant solution of pulling the sheets from the dryers when they are still just slightly damp. That gives the fabric enough moisture to lay flat and crisp up a bit when going through the mangle.

A Peek Behind the Scenes of a Friday Harbor B&B
Sisters Elsa Lopez and Janeth Lopez demonstrate how to run an over-size tablecloth through the mangle, folded to fit it’s width.

Ah, the mangle! Now that’s a canterkerous piece of equipment, though I suppose anyone would be at that age. Parts are hard to come by, and belts snap more than we’d like, but we can’t seem to part with this venerable machine. After ironing the pillowcases by hand for two years, a used mangle seemed like a good purchase in 2006 when the neighborhood dry cleaner wanted to replace it with a larger model.

At about eight feet long, it takes two people to run it, one on each side carefully feeding the cloth over the belts. The cloth rolls back over the upper belts and comes through to the front on the lower belt. The process takes about a full minute per item, but the item may have to be run through several times, depending on how wrinkled it is. With full Inn capacity at 65 beds (top sheets, fitted sheets, pillowcases), plus tablecloths and napkins for both the Garden Room Cafe and Coho Restaurant, the housekeepers make ironing a twice-daily priority in summer and once-per-day in winter. The mangle gets turned on when they first arrive in the morning, allowing it time to heat up; then they can do the ironing while guests are having breakfast, so that fresh sheets are available when housekeeping staff tends to the rooms.

A Peek Behind the Scenes of a Friday Harbor B&B
Weaving a pin through the belt clasps for a tight fit.

This behemoth mangle requires propane to operate, and it heats up the room rapidly; after two hours of ironing, the room gets too hot and housekeepers need to move on to other projects. They have become adept at repairing the ancient belts, weaving a pin through the clasps at the ends of the belts to ensure a tight fit, and they know its quirks and sounds like some long-married couples.

A Peek Behind the Scenes of a Friday Harbor B&B
Old and new belts intermingle.

The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be, but we’ll keep her, just the same. We are grateful to our housekeeping staff for keeping the old girl going, and our quest to reduce, reuse, recycle as much as possible continues in every phase of the business, seen and unseen. A Peek Behind the Scenes of a Friday Harbor B&B

Other than in commercial use, mangles are rarely seen these days. Have you used a mangle? Do you remember your mother or grandmother using a mangle?

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