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Exposed: Hotel Cleaning Procedures

Updated on March 25, 2011

  Before working in a hotel, I would randomly see news reports and features about how "dirty" hotel and motel rooms are.  I would brush it off, checking random things upon check-in and not really paying much mind to any of it.  However once I became an employee of a large chain hotel and saw exactly what the processes are for cleaning up after previous guest, I was frankly floored.  What is done and not done by the maids, what corners are cut for cost purposes, all these things I believe puts your health in direct danger. 

There are many things that contribute to the dirty factors of hotels and motels.  First and foremost I think the time frame and pressure that is put on the maids is a big reason that cleaning is not done as thoroughly as some might expect.  Let's think about our own homes for a moment.  How long would it take you to change out the sheets and pillow cases on 2 beds, vacuum a large room, clean and bleach a toilet and bath/shower, plus mop a bathroom floor?  In my own home that process would take me about an hour, but in a hotel maids are expected to do that in roughly 15-25 minutes.  They are expected to clean at least 20 rooms a day on an 8 hour shift.  How much time does that really leave them?  How many times do you think they cut corners every single day?  When you throw in rooms that are left by uncaring guests, it really takes up their time.  I have caught  more than one maid who we felt was reliable cutting corners to the point where the person had to be let go for their actions.  Actions that were taken in fear of losing a job that has major pressures for time frames.  You don't get enough rooms done, you don't get assigned rooms, you don't get assigned rooms, you don't get a full shift.  You can see where that would lead.  Work hard or starve.  That is basically the system for these poor people who clean up for all of us.  I would be stressed out and cutting corners too.

Let's get into where they cut the corners, and how to protect yourself from unchanged sheets and much more.

The Beds

Starting in the place where you spend the most time, lets hit the most shocking thing of all first. Hotels and motels by law are not required to wash the bed cover or under blanket. They are only required to change and wash the sheets. This means that up to 365 guest per year can occupy a room, and those items will NEVER be washed, unless there is a noticeable stain (meaning one you can see without a black light).

The first thing you should do with these items is strip them from the bed and remove them completely. Bring your own blanket for each bed. Do not sleep or even sit on those bed covers. Once you have removed them, wash your hands.

Second you should check for any patterns on your sheets, by patterns I mean creases that are left by the mattress when someone sits or sleeps in a bed. You can pull the sheets out and flatten them all you like, but you will still be able to see what I would describe as a criss-cross pattern in the sheets if your sheets were slept on and left unchanged. Believe me this happens. I will use two guests experience that ended up with us letting go of a maid, imagine for a moment you are getting ready to settle in to your bed for the night. You slip out of your clothes and under the sheets, but you feel something odd slip around your feet, so you pull the blankets away and find you have just put your feet into a pair of stained mens boxers. Gross enough for you? What about waking up in the morning after turning in to find blood on the sheets that isn't yours, that you slept on all night.

The maid in question wasn't even pulling back the covers to check to see if the sheets needed changing, she was simply making the beds. Curiously there are no sheet counts done in hotels. If I were the owner of a hotel or motel I would have someone in charge of stacking carts and counting sheets. You stack a cart with exactly how many sheets the maid will need and the cart should in theory be empty when they are done. That would however require an additional person on the payroll. This position is usually deemed "Head Housekeeper" and the function of that person is to slip in behind the maids and verify the cleanliness and clear the rooms. Generally punching in a code from the room phone that clears the room in the system as ready for another guest. However as far as our Head Housekeeper was concerned I would get that reporting done probably 1 day out of 7 per week. The other days he was busy covering for someone who didn't show for whatever reason, or cleaning additional rooms in the hotel. What happens when that person is busy is the maids turn in lists of cleaned rooms and we check them off manually in the system. If a room isn't really clean there is no way to know until a guest checks in AND notices something. I have no idea how many "unclean" rooms went unnoticed, but if it is even 1/2 as many as was reported, that is very scary.

The Bathroom

Hotels by law are required to use bleach on the floor, bathtub, toilets, sinks and counter tops.  This however hardly ever happens.  If it does it is a quick spray of bleach around the room to give it a clean smell.  Most of the time only the bathtub and toilet seat are cleaned, unless the toilet is stained.  This means that most likely the faucet handles, door handles, any curtains or doors, touchable surfaces are mostly left teaming with germs.

Bring your own bottle of Lysol and spray the surfaces where people touch, doors, handles, etc.  Wearing flip flops in the bathroom and shower is a great idea.  Not having bare feet at all in a hotel room is preferable.   

Smoke Free - Doesn't mean Smoke Free & Pet Friendly Rooms

A lot of hotel chains are going completely smoke free these days, but what happens when someone smokes in a non-smoking room?  You probably aren't surprised to hear people break the "no smoking" rule all the time.  I assume like me you'd expect that when that happens the entire room, bedding and all would be changed out and aired out.  However, this is not the case either.  Instead there is a small machine that can be placed in the room and will remove the "smell" that lingers within about 3 hours.  This means that the smell has been removed, but not the poisons associated with smoking.  If you are allergic or highly sensitive to smoke you could be in big trouble, because now the warning sign is gone, and all that remains is what is unhealthy for you.   There is not much you can do to prevent yourself from getting a room that has been smoked in.

Although many hotels "reserve" floors for pet designated rooms, many of them do not, which means at any time an animal could have been in your room.  Ask clearly when checking into a hotel, if you have allergies make it very clear to the desk person.  They will tell you the room has not had a pet even if it has, unless you specifically make sure to let them know you could have an allergy attack.  That then makes them responsible if they put you in a room that has had a pet and you are more likely to get one that has not.

Keep your eyes Open

There are many icky things that happen in hotels. I have caught employees naked in the swimming pool doing more than talking. I have frankly seen so many things that I don't know where to start with them. My suggestion is just to keep your eyes open to the things around you, do not blindly think that a hotel is clean because it appears so.

For six months we had a bug infestation. I was not to mention it and I was to play "stupid" if a bug was found in a guests room. Now of course these were not bed bugs, but would you really want someone hiding those type of things from you and letting you sleep in a room that should really be considered "dirty"?  I know I wouldn't, which is one of the reasons I quit working in hotels. I couldn't lie to guests anymore. Every time I would put guests in the "glowing" room I would feel bad. Nicknamed that because of how it would glow when put under black light. I would save it until I was out of all other choices but it would eventually get sold, if I tried to block it off for reservations I would receive a call from the owner to remove the block or simply notice the block was removed.

The owners of these hotels for the most part do not care about you or your family. They do not care about your health. They cut corners and they sell dirty rooms. Keep your eyes open, check your rooms upon check in, demand clean rooms. Do not settle for an offer of a discount to stay in a dirty room. Demand your health, because there is always another hotel right around the corner. I recommend the new Holiday Inn's with all WHITE bedding. If all the bedding is white it must be cleaned more frequently, and for them to install more costly white bedding shows they care about being clean for you.



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      amanda cassiele 6 months ago

      I have just been reading the above, I myself have been a housekeeper for a number of years and never once has a bed not been changed when I guest has slept in it, nor has there been any dirty towels. Every surface of the bathroom and bedrooms have always been cleaned to high standards. The only thing I do have to complain about is the mattress and pillow protectors, yes they are there for a reason but they never get changed unless there are bad stains etc. on them, so basically many people have doing what people do in and bed and then the next guest is lying on the previous guests bodily fluids, they might be covered with a thin sheet or pillow case but they are still dirty, I personally think these should be changed every time the rest of the bed lined gets changed, no wonder there are bugs etc. in hotels, motels, b&b's etc. One hotel I worked in The Orkney Hotel, I just couldn't believe the colour of the bedding in there, the duvet and pillows where thick with bodily fluids, there were no pillow protectors and the mattress protectors where also like the duvet/pillows, thick with old, yellow, stained bodily fluids and the hotel is actually 4 star rating. People need to check what's actually under the bed lined before the stay the night anywhere, because just walking in to a room or seeing it on a web page does not mean the room is going to be very hygienic. The hotel I work in now pay the staff the minimum wage although the hotel makes £11,000 every 24hrs on just the bedrooms, housekeepers do have all the cleaning products they require and the owner checks all the rooms when they have been cleaned to make sure nothing missing, I have not worked in a hotel where I am on a time limit, but I do think there should be a certain (realistic) amount of rooms for cleaners to do and they should work together (2). I also think if the cleaners are the people at the bottom of the chain then where would the people at the top of the chain be without cleaners. everyone plays a vital role in hotels etc and why should a cook be on more hourly rate than a cleaner just because they have a couple of gcse's cleaners (usually) are very hard working people

    • BorneoTattoo profile image

      BorneoTattoo 2 years ago

      Hi Lisa, I am sorry I am just responding, I was away from Hubs for a while. I do not live near you but there are resources for employees. Find your local labor and industry facility and call them, if you are still working for this place.

    • profile image

      lisa 3 years ago

      I currently work for a small hotel with 131 rooms.

      I am expected to clean up to as many as 18/20 rooms alone within four hours, surly this can't be legal ?

      I have an nvq2 in h / k and this hole setup feels wrong to me. I've been inployd with this hotel for a few months now but haven't been given a contract to sign plus my wage slip comes to me with know sealed edging and I have to run around looking for people just so I can receive my wage slip.

      Reception staff run h/k rotas orders etc and to be honest I'm not even sure if my job is legal or cash in hand. They tell me what days to work witch are only between 3/4 days if im lucky. Just wanted some advice please. Thanks for your time. From lisa in Essex

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      J S 3 years ago

      Considering Holiday Inn os synonymous with "Maid-free environment" how much did they pay you to write this article?

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      h.hern 4 years ago

      i have worked in a hotel as a housekeeper for 17 years and you are so right on. i now work at a hiliday inn and have for almost three years, its the cleanest place ive worked in yet there is so much pressure put on us for time.

    • kirstenblog profile image

      kirstenblog 6 years ago from London UK

      I stay in hotels very infrequently (they are too blooming expensive!). The last one I stayed in had bugs crawling on the floor! I don't know what they were exactly but we did wonder what a silver fish looks like? Yikes! Sadly if we had gone to one of the upper class hotels we could have paid much much more and still managed to have to worry about cleanliness. Yuck! I think I would rather stay home or go camping on holiday instead (we do wash our sleeping bags after camping trips).

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      Pat 6 years ago


    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I worked for a national chain hotel for yearss and learned some things that icked me out. This is a great expose and could keep someone from getting sick or diseased. Way to go.

    • BorneoTattoo profile image

      BorneoTattoo 6 years ago

      Thank you so much, I appreciate your positive feedback. :)

    • Vickie Bovender profile image

      Vickie Bovender 6 years ago from Southeastern US

      Extremely well-written (and eye-opening) article. Super job.