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B&B Consulting Job Reviews: Going Green in the Housekeeping Department

August 28, 2009

by Kit Cassingham

Cleaning takes on so many different meanings with people. Housekeeping questions abound. How clean is clean? Do you need a different cleaner for every surface cleaning job: glass cleaning, bathroom cleaning, kitchen cleaning, carpet cleaning. How about some cleaning tips using environmentally friendly cleaning products?

Several of my consulting jobs have revolved around the volatile subject of housekeeping. I'm combining several discussions about cleaning and housekeeping for this article.

The biggest irony, to me, in the way Americans tackle cleaning is that the powerful cleaning products they use often don't kill the "germs" they are going after. In the quest to make the B&B or home clean we load the cleaning closet or cart with numerous products that often are harmful to the people using them, the environment and the people who use the rooms later, and also kill useful bacteria. We have killed so many bacteria around us we are making ourselves sick, or at least more prone to health issues and diseases.

The cleaning and housekeeping arsenal I recommend to bed and breakfasts, hotels, and individuals alike includes microfiber cloths, white vinegar, baking soda, and the oxygen bleach StainSolver. Some people also recommend lemons, borax and hydrogen peroxide, but my idea is to simplify and consolidate.

I do have a "magic" all-purpose solution I personally use for a wide range of purposes, but you'll have to contact me for that recipe.

One innkeeping client of mine had two frustrations. In greening her B&B she switched from using paper towels for her cleaning to using rags. These rags were created from worn out sheets and towels. She was frustrated though because she didn't like the lint that was too often left behind and the fact hair and crumbs weren't picked up to her satisfaction. She admitted some of that may have been a problem with the paper towels too, but she was having trouble adjusting to the new regime and probably looking for excuses to go back to her familiar housekeeping routine.

She's not alone in being at odds with what kinds of wiping material to use in cleaning. Which is the most environmentally friendly cleaning "cloth"?

Microfiber is my conclusion. With quality microfiber cloth friction, static and capillary action combine for an effective cleaning action. And because of these characteristics I have found I don't really even need cleaning solutions, though I do use either my "magic" formula or vinegar water in the bathroom and kitchen sometimes.

There are a variety of microfiber cloths to choose from. Sorting the quality microfiber from the "cheap imitation" is important. Liking to keep things simple I recommended my favorite cloth which is wonderful for every cleaning challenge I've used it for: floors, counters and sinks, showers and tubs, glass and mirrors, refrigerator shelves and doors, as well as walls and doors.

The cleaning tip that works for me with microfiber cloths is to use the cloth dry, spritz the surface to be cleaned with water or a cleaning solution, and wipe.

Other microfiber products I have found that make my other cleaning tasks easier include dust wands and waffle towels for dishes. To avoid doing floors on your hands and knees there microfiber mops too. In doing floors take care of the spots before starting wet or dry mopping, and it comes out perfectly with an easy swipe or two of the mop head.

The second frustration my client had was she hated toting the myriad cleaning solutions around the inn. My arsenal of cleaning "solutions" includes white vinegar (diluted to a 1:15 vinegar:water), baking soda, and StainSolver. I do have environmentally friendly cleaning products available for some situations, but rarely use them. I can clean any and every surface in the house with those items.

Bathroom cleaning, mirror and glass cleaning, laundry, kitchen cleaning -- they are all easy with microfiber cloth and basic kitchen ingredients. Nobody gets hurt, the house gets clean, and the budget is eased too. Housekeeping isn't so bad when you keep your cleaning regime simple.

Check out how the microfiber (my favorite microfiber cloth is the Great White, Super Cloth) and StainSolver work for you. You'll be happy with the results.

See my article Clean With Green Products for more information on green cleaning.

Comments

We're about to open an eco inn, so this is a timely article! We are trying very hard not to have any scents in the rooms, for the same reasons that you detailed.


Amy, I'm glad the timing worked well for you. Be sure to submit your eco-inn on my directory of green hotels -- http://www.EnvironmentallyFriendlyHotels.com


Let me know when you are open!


Hello Kit!
Good to see you back at the helm.

I find this article very interesting...especially on the matter of glass verses plastic. There may come a time when the health departments in the counties and states have to be contacted to change their approach. This local health department requires, plastic wrapped cups in the bathrooms. If that is not what you have in there, you get docked "points" on your inspection.


Trash cans with liners are an ugly sight. But if you have guests that eat or drink in the room one could spend a lot of their cleaning time scrubbing those trash baskets. How about those folks that throw their gum in the bottom and it gets stuck...eeee-yewwww yucky!!!!


All in all I would have to agree with your points. Thanks!!!


Leslie,

I think the health departments that are going to need to be educated about the environmental problems with plastic cups. I sure hope the practice you "suffer" isn't a trend because in my opinion it not only detracts from the guest experience but also it is expensive and is harmful to the environment.


I do understand that some properties might suffer from thoughtless guests dumping food stuffs into wastebaskets, but it doesn't happen often enough to justify the huge waste of natural resources. IMHO, of course. :~) Wiping a wastebasket out isn't that big of a deal, from my perspective.


For example, do you cover your mattresses with plastic covers so that body fluids won't leak through? I doubt it, because it doesn't happen often and ruins the guest experience to have the plastic covers.


I'm glad to hear you basically agreed with my points in the cover letter of the article. I guess I'd better post them for others to see.


Here's the letter that encouraged this chat:


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Happy Labor Day, you Innkeeping laborers you!

I've had two business trips since I last wrote that let me peek
into a lot of hotels and B&Bs. I visited Albuquerque, NM, and
Chicago, IL. As usual, the experience has been revealing.

Touring Albuquerque B&Bs and hotels, as well as just visiting the
Chicago hotels, gave me a fresh look into housekeeping issues. I
visited a half-dozen properties on a recent inspection tour through
Albuquerque and gained new insights into the challenges
housekeeping faces. My experience as a guest at the Chicago hotels
was less "behind the scenes" but just as interesting. What perfect
timing since that's the subject of the article I'd written for this
week's Innfo.

I found, for the most part, a mixed bag of approaches. The B&B
seemed to like using bleach -- a lot. Every time I entered my
bathroom the strong bleach smell almost knocked me over. Bleach is
so hard on fabric and people I still don't understand why it's
used. I suspect that innkeeper has to replace his sheets and towels
two to three times more frequently than if he used oxygen bleach
for the hard-to-clean items and merely good laundry practices for
other items.

I found some hotels still using the "sanitize glasses in the
guestroom" approach to their glassware. Plastic cups wrapped in
plastic was found at a couple of hotels too. But it was satisfying
to see a couple of the hotels, and the B&B, bringing fresh
glassware from the kitchen to the guestrooms.

Lined durable wastebaskets are another puzzle to me. They ruin the
look of the wastebasket and room, in my opinion. I understand the
desire to line some wastebaskets, but those that primarily see
paper only? I find liners a waste of natural resources, financial
resources, and manpower. Think about it.

One hotel had a "signature fragrance" that was sprayed in the
carpet of the rooms as the housekeeper was finished. I kept my
windows open the entire time I was there but that wasn't enough
fresh air to get rid of the chemicals lingering in the scents. I
was very congested during my stay, and the entire next day. Though
the hotel had a wonderful potpourri in the bathroom, it wasn't
scented; I checked. I loved the hotel but hated the scent.

Housekeeping and cleaning shouldn't hurt the people doing the work,
nor the people using the space afterward. Doing a thorough and
frequent job of cleaning is sufficient for having a clean property.
Don't make people wonder what you are hiding by using scents in the
laundry or housekeeping areas. Don't try to save time by sanitizing
your glassware in the guestrooms -- let the dishwashing machine
clean them before you return them to guestrooms.

I know all of this sounds like common sense, but if there weren't
lots of people out there cleaning and running their housekeeping
departments like that it would be a non-issue. What are you doing
that's harming you, your staff and your guests? And costing you
money in the process?

The article on Going Green in the Houskeeping Department is posted
on The B&B Lady website -- ">http://www.TheBAndBLady.com

As usual, let me know if you have a burning question I can cover in
a future Innfo article.





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