Cleaning Like an Olympian

Housekeeping has evolved from merely cleaning and tidying rooms to ensuring a pathogen-free environment for guests. Priority is given not just to the cleanliness and appearance of rooms, but also to sanitizing surfaces and preventing the spread of contaminants, allergens and harmful bacteria. Given that hotels can service hundreds—and sometimes thousands—of guests daily, it’s vital that hoteliers equip housekeepers with the right tools, practices and procedures for protecting guests.

In anticipation of the 2012 Housekeeping Olympics in Las Vegas, held on Aug. 15, hoteliers can recharge and reinvent their housekeeping teams by providing them with the right training and equipment to ensure a safe, clean, and healthy environment for guests.

In order to maintain a “winning” housekeeping team, below are seven tips for increasing a housekeeper’s performance and productivity:


Offer on-the-job training. Prior to last year’s Housekeeping Olympics event, hotels held auditions for team members and trained teams extensively in the months prior to the games. Similarly, it’s important for hoteliers to proactively develop a housekeeping plan that includes a checklist of tasks, the order of cleaning tasks, which types of cleaning tools and chemicals to use for each task, and the amount of time it should take to complete tasks and deliver high-level, consistent results. Familiarizing housekeepers with the plan and proper methods for cleaning saves time, improves cleanliness, and helps prevent repetitive motion and on-the-job injuries, such as back, shoulder, and upper arm strains.

Equip housekeepers with the right tools for cleaning. According to the ISSA 540 Cleaning Times, equipping housekeepers with the right cleaning tools can enhance productivity by up to 54 percent. For example, microfiber towels and mops can improve cleanliness by not leaving lint behind, and protective equipment like kneepads and gloves improve productivity by reducing housekeeper strain and exposure to germs. In addition, it’s important for hoteliers to provide housekeepers with uniforms that are designed for practicality and comfort. Back vents, underarm shields and fast-drying, breathable lining help keep wearers cool and dry, and uniforms with a lot of pockets provide ample storage.

Equip housekeepers with stocked and locked carts. According to a senior brand manager from Sodexo, Inc., “a housekeeping cart is [an employee’s] workstation, office and assembly line, and it has a huge impact on overall productivity of the housekeeper.” Providing housekeepers with fully locked and stocked carts at the beginning of their shifts eliminates unnecessary trips to storage areas, ensures that housekeepers are using the right tools and chemicals, and promotes consistency of cleaning results from room to room.

Make janitorial closets accessible and easy-to-use. Placing frequently used items, such as chemical stations, in easily accessible locations helps reduce the amount of time and energy housekeepers must spend restocking supplies. Chemical dilution systems also help reduce clutter and limit opportunities for worker injury or error.

Conduct procedural audits. Almost every major hotel chain has an audit system in place, but most are outcome driven, such as examining the surface appearance of a room to determine its cleanliness. To ensure that rooms are truly clean, it’s also important to audit the hotel’s cleaning programs and processes. Procedural audits help identify opportunities to improve both hygiene and productivity.

Offer an “engineering checklist.” Hoteliers can promote better internal communication and increase productivity by providing housekeepers with a checklist of potential issues for the engineering department, such as replacing light bulbs or fixing air conditioning units. These lists can be submitted at the end of a housekeeper’s shift and help limit guest complaints by ensuring that requests aren’t overlooked.

Set housekeepers up for success. Hoteliers can help protect their investments and maximize productivity by supplementing housekeepers’ daily cleaning routines with commercial deep cleaning—a complex process involving high levels of heat, pressure, and extraction as well as specialized equipment and trained professionals. Deep cleaning penetrates the surface of assets such as tile, carpeting and air conditioning units to completely remove dirt, bacteria and organic soils. This service helps keep assets clean, functional, and attractive for longer periods of time and makes housekeepers’ daily cleaning routines much more effective.

Housekeepers work a very tiresome and often thankless job. Because of their direct impact on hotel cleanliness and guest satisfaction, more organizations are starting to vest time and energy in recognizing and rewarding these skilled individuals. To honor hotel housekeepers, the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) began an annual Housekeeping Olympics. This year, housekeepers from Las Vegas hotels will compete for prizes during a series of events that included a bed-making contest, a mop race, a buffer pad toss and a vacuum relay. By following a few simple, practical steps and incorporating a little fun along the way, hoteliers can champion award-winning housekeeping teams and improve guest service.

Todd McKeown is Vice President of Global Hospitality and Gaming for Cintas Corporation, a provider of uniforms and hospitality solutions. Cintas offers a wide range of solutions that enable hotels to build their image and increase profitability and productivity. For more information, please visit