Basic cleaning principles for Housekeeping

Principles of cleaning housekeeping
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As we have discussed in the previous section, it is the duty of the housekeeping department to keep the hotel rooms and public areas clean and hygienic.

Why is this so important?

  • promote health and safety
  • prolong the life of furniture, fixtures, fittings, and surfaces
  • improve the appearance of the establishment
  • prevent the spread of infection and disease
  • control dust
  • provide a socially acceptable environment
  • comply with the standards set by management

The basic principles of cleaning to remember

There are standards to follow when a building is washed. Here are a few of them:

  1. Any process that creates dust must be done first.
  2. Polished surfaces must be protected.
  3. Processes involving dirt or liquid must be done before vacuuming.
  4. Polishing should be done as late as possible.
  5. Safe methods of working must be encouraged.
  6. All stains and marks must be removed.
  7. Restore all surfaces as soon as possible.
  8. Follow the least obstructive methods of cleaning.
  9. Always use the simplest method of cleaning.
  10. Carry out each cleaning process:
  • – as quickly as possible;
  • – to the highest standard; and
  • – with due consideration for the convenience of the guests.

Cleaning methods and schedules

Although it might not seem clear, most hotels have a systematic cleaning strategy. This structured method takes the form of a fixed schedule involving daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly and annual activities.

There are three common cleaning methods that are used in hotels.

Conventional Cleaning

A room or zone is cleaned in a clear sequence. When employees finish one room, they move on to the next one.

Block Cleaning

One duty, such as stripping beds is performed in a variety of rooms during block cleaning. Once this task is completed in all rooms attendants move onto the next task in all rooms. The second job is then finished, and then the third, and so on until all the tasks are completed. For establishments where it is understood that the rooms will be vacant for at least the entire morning, this cleaning is more appropriate.

Team Cleaning

This type of cleaning is done by a “Team” (two or more people) in a certain area. They either work together or carry out different tasks in one area.

Maintaining Standards

In any hotel, you must establish standards before you can guarantee that you offer outstanding, clean rooms. So what is a standard? Well quite simply, a standard is a specific level. The room is only deemed to be clean if this level is met.

With cleaning, there are different standards, when cleaning the various areas, housekeeping staff must be conscious of the standards required of them.

Most housekeeping areas are expected to be physically, chemically, and entomologically clean.  Yet toilets and bathrooms need to be bacteriologically clean. For linen used in rooms and restaurants, this quality (bacteriologically clean) also applies.

The housekeeping department should have a checklist that is completed on a regular basis to maintain certain requirements in hotels. After the room attendants have washed, the supervisor, who checks all the rooms, must complete a checklist and return it at the end of the shift to the housekeeper. If a guest complains, this checklist also offers a monitoring mechanism for the executive housekeeper to see if the complaint is actually legitimate. It is also good for educating workers and counseling employees for bad results at work.

Housekeeping costs

The executive housekeeper must deal with cleaning costs. In order to ensure efficient resource usage (resources are labor and materials), costs need to be planned.

The housekeeper and the manager of the rooms division will be expected to generate a budget each year that is approved by the hotel general manager. This budget will provide guidance on the financial resources that the housekeeping department can spend. The housekeeper is expected to manage his or her costs within the budget that is set for the year.

Saving costs

There are many ways to save on housekeeping expenses. These are a few of the ways to reduce costs for the housekeeper and his or her employees:

  1. Staff should be carefully selected and trained.
  2. Staff should be provided with sufficient equipment so that they do not waste time waiting to use the equipment.
  3. The layout of storerooms and housekeeping offices should be effective.
  4. Supervisors should check the work standards of staff.
  5. Care must be taken when purchasing and storing, and stock should be controlled through regular physical stock checks.
  6. Maintenance should be planned to prevent the neglect of equipment and furnishings.
  7. There should be effective use of cleaning materials, in other words, not overuse or under-use.
  8. Good use of preventative devices, such as liners in bins and sufficient ashtrays in bedrooms, reduces damage to surfaces.
  9. There should be good intradepartmental communication systems in place.

Removing stains

Grease on carpet

  • Scrape off excess grease. Cover the stain with blotting paper. Apply a hot iron, which will absorb the grease.
  • If the stain is only slight, remove it with carbon tetrachloride.
  • Rub a paste of Fuller’s Earth into the grease.

Grease on walls

Rub in dry Fuller’s Earth.

Candle wax

Remove excess wax, iron the item, placing brown paper underneath the item. Wash the item in boiling water.

Blue ink

If it is fresh ink, use warm soapy water with a paste of lemon and salt. If the stain is on linen, stretch the linen over a container and pour the milk through the stain. If the stain is old, use bleach.

Ink on carpets

Mop up the excess ink. Rub in mustard powder and water. Leave until it’s almost dry. Wash with soapy water.

Red ink

There are two methods:

  • use acetic acid in methylated spirits
  • wash with a powdered synthetic detergent.

Ballpoint pen ink

Use methylated spirits, amyl acetate or acetone.


Use cold water and kitchen salt.


Dry and brush off. Wash the marks with soap and water.

Rust on carpets

Use oxalic acid, salts of lemon, or sodium hydrosulphite.

Rust on marble

Use vinegar or lemon juice. Flood with water to remove.

Fruit juice, tea, coffee, or cocoa

Soften the stain with glycerine. For tea stains dab with ammonia. Soak in a borax solution before washing. If the material is white and the stain is wet, use salt.

Soot or coal

Use salt. Leave on for half an hour and then vacuum clean. Remove any remaining marks with a soap solution.

Nail varnish

Use acetone. Wash off with a detergent in water.

Grass stains

Use methylated spirits.


Use petroleum jelly or lard. Any remaining marks can be removed with petrol or benzine.


Use a detergent.


Soak the linen in a strong soap solution for one hour and then dry in sunlight. Lemon juice with salt also removes mildew. If the mildew is on a wall, you must strip the wall and paint it with tar.

Iron mould

Use bleach, but not if the material is a print or coloured. If it is a print or coloured, use salts of lemon or oxalic acid solution and pour it through the fabric.

Salt, seawater, perspiration

Use a solution of ammonia.

Tea stain on a blanket

Use a solution of ammonia.

Chewing gum

Use carbon tetrachloride and then sponge with soap and water.

Rubber heel marks

Wipe off with paraffin.

Stains on wooden surfaces

Heat marks

Use metal polish, but do not allow the polish to dry, or use Brazil nut or boiled linseed oil.

Old heat marks

Use equal quantities of wood naphtha, vinegar, and boiled linseed oil. Apply in a circular motion with the grain of the wood. Finish off by rubbing well with a clean cloth. If the surface seems rough, wait until the solution has dried and then apply 000 grade steel wool and a wax polish.

Alcohol, perfume or medicine

If alcohol seeps into the surface, use powdered pumice or Fuller’s Earth in linseed oil, made into a paste. Rub with the grain and wipe the paste away with plain linseed oil. Continue applying until the mark is removed. Re-polish the surface. For carpets, any good carpet cleaner should work.


Treat as above for alcohol.


Use iodine, shoe polish or a tinted furniture cream.


Cover the dent with a wad of damp cotton wool and apply the tip of a warm iron. Leave it to dry and then treat as a watermark.


If the surface is rough, then use finest grade sandpaper and liquid wax with 000 grade steel wool. Camphorated oil can also be used.

Cracking or crazing (when you get fine little cracks all over the surface)

Coat the surface with liquid polish. If there are deposits of polish, remove this with a fine wire brush inside a cloth saturated with turpentine. Then apply a more suitable polish.


This is a dark ‘fur’ that appears on wood in damp weather. Use turpentine or a solution of 1 part salt to 40 parts vinegar (by volume). Dry the surface and polish.

Paint stains

Oil paint

Use white spirits or a proprietary paint remover followed by a solvent.

Cellulose paint

Use amyl acetate, acetone (not on rayonacetate) or a commercial cellulose thinner.

Emulsion (water soluble) paint, for example, PVA

Wash off the surface immediately, because this paint is almost impossible to remove once it has dried.

General stain removal

If you are unsure about how to remove a stain, the general advice is to dry-clean the garment or use enzyme washing powder.


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