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Correct Cleaning – Mission Impossible!

One of the world’s most famous monuments, the Taj Mahal, is the pride of India, but no one spares a thought for the unfortunate craftsmen who faced undue hardships during the construction.

Being appointed as CEO and heading the company is a success story but nobody talks about the people trampled upon on the way up the corporate ladder.

So what does this indicate? Achievement at any cost?

Let us take a look at the hotel industry. Often standards are set but the procedures to be followed are rarely defined and even when they are, rarely followed. Supervision is usually an assessment of the complete product without checking the process used to achieve it.

Cleanliness standards are of utmost importance in any hotel but these do not always ensure housekeeping ethics. Hotel housekeeping is largely a matter of appearance and not of hygiene – no microbial tests or no bacterial checks. If a surface is apparently clean, it is assumed that it is hygienically safe. However, this is not necessarily so. Judging by the common practice of utilising guest linen for cleaning purposes, the surface may not be as clean as it appears.

The Principal Emeritus of India’s premier Institute of Hotel Management in Mumbai, the late Thangam. E. Philip, who was also the pioneer of Hotel and Catering education in India, had an interesting story to tell about this. During her stay in a hotel, she watched in horror while a room attendant cleaned the drinking glass placed in the guestroom. He washed the glass with used guest soap, wiped it dry with a used pillowcase and with a flourish, blew into the cellophane wrapper to placed the glass inside it. Incidentally, the wrapper had printed on it ‘This glass is sterlised for your safety’. If this is the service meted out to a VVIP guest, one shudders to think what might happen to lesser human beings like us.

Often, when there is a shortage of linen, room attendants do not change the bed sheets in occupied rooms. Once this becomes acceptable, they may not change the linen in vacant rooms or even continue with this practice when the linen is available, in order to cut down on their workload.

Dusters for cleaning are always a problem. It is essential to provide adequate dusters and specify which duster is to be used for which purpose.

Perhaps the worst I have heard, is the use of the toilet brush for cleaning the bathtub. This is not only unethical and unhygienic but quite simply disgusting!

In this era of mechanised cleaning, one of my housekeeping colleagues was horrified to discover the carpet in a room of a five-star hotel being cleaned with a broom. Not only did that seem to be a threat to the life of the carpet, but it did not also serve the hygiene aspect of cleaning.

Most people feel that these incidents are typical of third-world countries. Wrong. My friend, Mary Hall, who worked as an Accommodation Operations Training Co-ordinator for CERT in Ireland incorporates five minutes in the training session for room maids, for describing (in sordid detail) how a guest wipes himself dry with the towel. The aim is to stop room attendants from handling guest towels for cleaning purposes. It has an effect but only for a while, clearly indicating the need to re-iterate the right procedure to be followed.

To inculcate ethics in an adult is virtually impossible and the extent to which an individual will lower his standards to meet requirements differs from person to person. In spite of this, an attempt must be made to ensure ethics in cleaning. The primary need is proper training, which must be supported by adequate and appropriate cleaning supplies and guest supplies. It is advisable to carry out colour coding of cleaning materials to ensure that they are used correctly and misuse can be easily noticed.

Above all, supervision of tasks is of utmost importance to maintain ethical cleaning procedures and to provide a feedback for training. After all, doing whatever is possible is easy. Achieving the impossible is what sets the hotel in a class apart.

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