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Once a date on the calendar within all the standard housekeeping work and services, deep cleaning has now been highlighted with a permanent marker to bring back confidence, Sue Bromley discovers.
You’ve scrubbed and sprayed, diligently followed detailed advice and protocols such as the UKHA’s Covid Secure Housekeeping Standards. Guest rooms and public areas have been adjusted, with some items removed or replaced. You might well have identified tasks where calling in experts and specialists was vital. But let’s face it – this thing is not going away for some time and even with the number of people suffering the most serious consequences of COVID-19 apparently decreasing, the knock-on effects for our industry are huge.
The pandemic crisis has destabilised the world economy and created uncertainty about what the future may hold for us. Many people are nervous about flying, staying in hotels, and going about their normal lives. As sector software specialists Amadeus Hospitality point out, as this new reality unfolds scrupulous cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be vital to executing the cleanliness standards that the new ‘Generation Clean’ guest – a singular segment that blurs the lines between Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennial travellers with high cleanliness standards – have come to value. The challenge for hospitality and those businesses supporting this sector is how to overcome the fears of the public and how to provide hygienically clean facilities that minimise the health risk to guests, as Donau, cleaning 5-star establishments for 50 years and with over 400 customers, has noted in recent weeks as it works in hotels to clean surfaces with disinfectants that kill the virus.
Donau was asked by a West End hotel to clean carpets and upholstery in public areas and use disinfecting fogging in some rooms. The skilled Donau operatives undertook a refresher training session off site in the use of the cleaning materials and were provided with disposable cover suits, face masks and nitrile disposable gloves. On site they were introduced and trained to adhere to the hotel’s health and safety protocols.
Cleaning all the rooms and designated public areas involved pre-treating carpets and upholstery with an anti-virucidal chemical, applied with a minimum 30 minutes of contact time, followed by hot water extraction. In another deep cleaning project for a prestigious hotel, Donau were asked to thermally disinfect duvets, pillows, blankets and bedspreads. These were collected from the hotel and brought back to Donau’s premises in sealed plastic bags to minimise cross-contamination, before washing at 65ºC for a minimum of 10 minutes to achieve thermal disinfection. All were returned to the hotel in protective polythene.
Sometimes the task may be just one in a list of hundreds, but best handled externally. Donau recently undertook a job to dryclean curtains for a London boutique hotel. The items were carefully removed by operatives and brought back to Donau premises for cleaning in perc solvent before being returned to the hotel and professionally re-hung.
Our columnist Delia Cannings, director of Environmental Excellence Training & Development, has a firm warning for anyone still thinking you can cut corners on the cleaning regime: “Things will never be the same again and in many respects those who have in the past resisted training and education, because as we know “Anyone Can Clean” now have had to rethink how they will be compliant with the requirements, expectations and guidance of government and the World Health Organisation (WHO). “Those who have robust training mechanisms in place are one step ahead of the game. The expectation is that the government will start to inspect premises for compliance, this may become compulsory to minimise the risk factors associated with this pandemic.
Cannings has produced an excellent set of criteria for cleaning success, and a checklist covering disinfection to use as part of your detailed COVID Recovery Programme, and you can find these alongside a host of wise words at our website, www.housekeepingtoday.com.
Mike Boxall, MD at Sitemark, the independent best practice benchmarking process supporting facilities management services, says: “It ’s not enough to say that everything will be deep cleaned. There needs to be an understanding among teams about what constitutes a deep clean, how often cleaning should take place and which areas are high-priority.”
Door handles, light switches and stairway railings are all high-risk touchpoints. Boxall suggests labels are placed at these points to serve a dual purpose – they communicate to guests that they have just touched a high-risk area and so should wash their hands, and they remind cleaning teams of the areas that need frequent cleaning. Sanitation stations can be placed next to these areas so that guests are easily able to sanitise, instead of having to go to a bathroom or their room. Boxall concludes: “It’s vital that hotel owners communicate to guests the lengths they are going to in creating a safe environment. Working with an independent cleaning specialist can provide that extra assurance, and any hygiene certification should be displayed prominently throughout the building. “It’s certainly a challenging time for the sector but implementing and sticking to a hygiene programme will go a long way to attracting guests back.”
Crises like pandemics can create panics which make things worse, and it’s well worth listening to the experts rather than simply dipping everything in supposed ‘disinfectants’. Since the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic, scientists and governments around the world have been advising people about the best hygiene practices to protect themselves. This triggered a massive surge in the sale and use of cleaning products and hand sanitisers, sometimes without warnings of the consequence of misuse.
According to a June 2020 report released in Bloomberg Law “businesses across the U.S. have begun intensive COVID-19 disinfection regimes that may be exposing workers and consumers to chemicals that are largely untested for human health.” The report says this is “alarming health and environmental safety experts” because disinfectants can be harmful to cleaning workers as well as building users. Health risks include neurological, dermatological, and reproductive problems as well as an array of respiratory ailments.
Other experts agree, including Steve Teasdale, Co-Founder and Vice President of Scientific Affairs at InnuScience, which has a reputation for being a disruptor in the area of commercial cleaning systems based on biotechnology. He says “Systematic overuse of disinfectants is common and has grown worse due to the pandemic. What we need is ‘Justified Disinfection’ to address this problem.” The company, with a UK base in Milton Keynes defines ‘Justified Disinfection’ as “The principle that effective cleaning using high-quality detergents across non-critical touch surfaces is as effective, if not more effective, than the widespread, systematic use or abuse use of disinfectants.”
It’s always good to know that when you have outsourced any aspect of housekeeping, from extensive deep cleaning projects to keeping windows sparkling, that the providers are matching your standards of care for both staff and guests. This is a rigid ‘rule of thumb’ for Hotelcare, where business development director Robert Kennedy says: “We recognise that our people are our greatest asset. To keep your guests and our people safe during these unprecedented times, we continue to work closely with our clients, developing the unique ‘feel safe in your space’ cleaning methodology. “
Hotelcare published a recommendation document for clients on new cleaning regimes, incorporating post COVID-19, second Step total compliance applications for every bedroom, apartment, suite and public area we clean.”
Kennedy continues: “We never forget that we ask our people to work in challenging environments every single day, which is why we have developed a post COVID-19 training video, which has been viewed by all of our people. Before they work in any of our clients’ properties, we ask our people to provide written acknowledgement that they have seen, accepted and understood the requirements. This means that our clients can provide their guests with total reassurance that their stay will be as risk free as possible at all times from a housekeeping perspective.”
Hotelcare partner with the top hospitality companies in the UK, including Accor, Jurys Inn, IHG, Interstate, Hilton Worldwide, Splendid Hospitality and Queensway, providing dedicated, professionally trained housekeeping teams who clean every surface and touchpoint in hotels and apartments. For touchless disinfection (fogging) and innovations such as electrostatic spraying, they employ recognised professional expertise. Chemicals used in the deep cleaning process have also come under their scrutiny through partnerships with the likes of Citron, Diversey, Ecolab and PHS.
Titan Protection has developed a three-stage disinfection system in partnership with outsource cleaning business WGC to help the hospitality sector restore guest confidence and increase occupancy levels. The process begins with removing all bacteria and biofilm (thin layer of microorganisms) from key touchpoints using ozone technology. They then apply a safe and certified virucidal disinfectant across all areas through electrostatic sprays and fogging machines. This can be applied to all hard surface and soft fabric items including carpets, curtains, sofas, beds and bathroom suites. The final part involved applying an antimicrobial protective layer to all key touchpoints – providing protecting for up to 30 days and minimising cross infection from key touchpoints.
Those considering this level of deep cleaning should ask any potential suppliers questions on cost by area or square metre, if the work can be carried out ‘out of hours’ to minimise impact, and whether products will damage and oxidise surfaces over time, say Titan Protection. Health and safety issues include whether the products used meet EN1276 and EN14476, are nontoxic and continue to kill cells when dry.
We mentioned how Amadeus was keeping a watching brief on ‘Generation Clean’ and what it will mean to have them as regular guests. Their own disinfecting housekeeping checklist is endorsed by the International Executive Housekeeping Association and they recommend a Service Optimization solution to meet increasing demands and ensure efficient completion of all necessary tasks.
The Amadeus Service Optimization suite of solutions includes HotSOS, HotSOS Housekeeping, and the new HotSOS Select – explicitly designed for select-service properties – with the aim of helping to maximise a hotel team’s capabilities while ensuring service delivery meets the highest standards. They believe that those operations which leverage technology will be the first to begin experiencing positive revenue impact and once again help guests embrace everything they love about travel.
And after all the deep cleaning, it’s time to make the most of it. Liz Smith-Mills, an Expert Advisory Council member for P&G Professional has worked predominantly in 4 and 5 star properties in all hotel departments, specialising in housekeeping, training, mystery guest inspections and assisting with new openings. She believes that for those hotels still to re-open thorough cleans as they prepare to welcome guests in the latter half of this year must be followed with ongoing support for housekeeping staff.
Smith-Mills says: “Cleaning has always been of paramount importance, but in this new normal, procedures must adapt and change in line with guest expectations. In practice, this means business owners must be setting their staff up for success, with regimented, high-frequency cleaning rotas, in addition to the best tools and training to ensure the housekeeping team can get the job done right, first time.”
From a training and tools perspective, she recommends supplying staff with the UKHA Housekeeping Toolkit, which outlines a clear process for housekeepers to follow, alongside the innovative and easy-to-use cleaning systems and solutions from P&G Professional. Recently, the brand announced its CleanPLUS Experience – an initiative to support businesses in creating unbeatable cleaning and communicating it to your guests. This seal of approval is a mark of reassurance for guests that hygiene and cleanliness is being managed effectively ahead of, and during, their stay.