Reducing the Spread of Contagious Illnesses

Winter months bring an increase of cold, influenza, and other communicable illnesses to the workplace. To reduce the spread of germs and cross contamination, housekeeping departments should focus on common contact points.

Sanitize Hard Services. Most hard surfaces, such as doors, drawers, telephone receivers, TV remote controls, light switches, toilet handles, and in-room directories, can be disinfected with a commercial disinfectant cleaner on a daily basis. Returned guestroom keycards should be placed in a separate bin for disinfecting. All guestroom glassware must be thoroughly washed with hot water and detergent—in a dishwasher or three-compartment metal sink—before being placed back into service. Improperly sanitized glassware and utensils can transmit mononucleosis, herpes, E. coli, salmonella, hepatitis A, influenza, and even staph infections. Hotel glassware should never be washed in a guestroom sink.

Wash Your Hands Frequently. Infectious diseases are commonly spread through hand-to-hand contact. Scrub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds and rinse them with warm water to loosen and remove bacteria. Dry hands with a clean disposable towel or warm air hand dryer. Use a disposable towel to turn off the faucet and open the restroom door to prevent recontamination. Antimicrobial wipes or towelettes are an effective alternative to soap and water.

Use Hand Sanitizer. A supplement to frequent hand washing is to use hand sanitizer. To encourage use of hand sanitizers by employees and guests, place labeled hand-sanitizer dispensers at the front desk, restaurant areas, back offices, public restrooms, and elevators. Check and refill the dispensers daily.


Dr. William D. Frye, Ph.D., CHE is coauthor of Managing Housekeeping Operations.

Photo credit: Washing Hands via Bigstock.

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Dr. William D. Frye is a hospitality educator, researcher, consultant, and former hotel general manager. He is the co-author of AHLEI’s housekeeping textbook Managing Housekeeping Operations.