Hotel housekeepers reveal 8 things guests never think about (but really should)
The COVID-19 pandemic radically changed the way hotels approach housekeeping.
Previously, guests could expect a polite knock on the door each morning, and a housekeeper would appear with fresh towels and sheets. Then came the pandemic and, to maintain social distancing, many hotels eliminated daily housekeeping. Instead, guests could only receive the service upon request.
Even though safety measures like social distancing are now largely a thing of the past, some hotels have chosen not to resume daily housekeeping.
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Certain guests, such as myself, don’t need their sheets changed every day and are happy not to have to organize their mornings around having housekeepers in the room. For others, the luxury of daily service is one of the best things about being on vacation and staying in a fancy hotel.
But what do the housekeepers think?
I spoke with two housekeepers through the Unite Here union, Fabiola Benavides a housekeeper from the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown Soma (which currently offers standard daily housekeeping), and Myleen Hermano, a housekeeper from the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani in Honolulu (which recently resumed daily housekeeping following a housekeeping union intervention), about daily housekeeping. And there are a number of things they would love guests to keep in mind.
Here are eight things to consider during your next stay to be a better hotel guest.
Daily housekeeping makes the staff’s jobs easier, not harder
If you think you’re making a housekeeper's job easier by avoiding daily housekeeping, you might be surprised to learn it actually has the opposite effect. The longer the time between cleans, the longer it takes housekeepers to clean the room simply due to the buildup of mess between cleaning visits.
Both Benavides and Hermano said they have just 30 to 40 minutes to clean each room, regardless of whether it had last been cleaned a day or a week prior. Hermano told me she would prefer if guests at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani had their rooms cleaned regularly so they can have a hygienic, tidy and civilized space to enjoy. It is very difficult for housekeepers to properly clean a room in their allotted time if a guest has lived it in for a week without having anything cleaned or removed from the room.
Coffee stains, for example, are much easier to remove if they are only a day or two old. Hermano also wants guests to put their garbage in the bins whenever possible.
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Declining housekeeping doesn’t reduce the workload
Declining housekeeping will lighten a housekeeper’s workload, right? Wrong.
Benavides and Hermano are required to clean the same number of rooms each shift, regardless of how many guests ask for, or decline, housekeeping. So how does this work if the hotel isn’t full, or half the guests on each floor don’t want housekeeping?
Hotel management will move staff members to other rooms on other floors as needed to complete their shifts. In fact, declining a room cleaning could actually make more work for the housekeepers if they need to change floors multiple times with all their equipment, rather than just cleaning the same rooms on the same floor each day.
If enough guests decline housekeeping to the point that there aren’t enough rooms on other floors to justify a shift, Benavides and Hermano could even have their shifts cut completely. They are very happy to clean your room if you would like it cleaned.
Related: How and when to ask for late checkout at a hotel
Leaving things on your bed is super annoying
It’s tempting to fling items on your hotel bed as you’re getting ready for your day out, especially if you’re on vacation. But Benavides said that, in order to do her job properly and ensure you can come back to a room with a neatly made bed, you should make sure you move any items on the bed to the wardrobe or bedside tables.
Similarly, if you can leave your luggage on luggage racks rather than on the floor, it allows them to clean the floors properly. The housekeepers can’t touch your luggage no matter how much they want to clean under your bag.
You can request housekeeping later in the day
If you left the "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door, or you just asked the housekeeper to “come back later,” you might think you’ve missed your chance to have your room cleaned once that cleaning cart leaves your floor.
But don’t worry.
Many larger hotels, including both the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown Soma as well as the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, offer housekeeping on request, up until 9 p.m. each night. If you want your room serviced completely, or just need some more tea and coffee for the following morning, call the front desk to arrange it.
Related: How to master the perfect hotel breakfast strategy
Your room can be cleaned better if you’re not there
I always try to be out of my room when it's being cleaned, as I feel like I'm in the housekeeper’s way — not to mention feeling guilty that they're doing tasks I could do myself.
However, Benavides and Hermano both said that many guests traveling for business may stay in their rooms during the day to work, such as when they're preparing for an important client meeting or dialing into calls.
It seems obvious, but it's much easier to clean your room if you're not in it. The staff needs space to go about their tasks and don’t want to interrupt your Zoom call with the noise of their vacuum cleaners. If you have executive lounge access, that's a great place to stay while housekeepers clean your room. If you don’t have a hotel lounge, your hotel could offer a business center or even a quiet space near the pool for a change of scenery while your room is being serviced.
Sand is a housekeeper's nemesis
Walking barefoot on a soft sandy beach while aqua blue water laps your toes might be your idea of heaven, but all that sand is a housekeeper’s nightmare, according to Hawaii-based Hermano. Sweeping or vacuuming up every single grain is no easy feat, especially during a checkout clean.
If there's a rinsing station at the exit of the beach, use it and wash your feet off before returning to your room. If you find you still have sand on your body, it greatly helps housekeepers if you head straight to the shower and wash it down the drain.
Related: Beyond Hawaii: 5 Pacific islands for perfect family vacations
They know if you requested a late checkout
If you’re worried you’re going to get a knock on the door right at checkout time when you’ve already organized a later departure with the front desk, you don't need to worry. Housekeepers receive a list of each room on their watch at the start of each shift which indicates if the guest is to check out later than the scheduled time.
There’s no need to have everything ready to go earlier than the time you agreed upon with the front desk.
They don’t wash their own sheets and towels daily
With all this discussion about washing sheets and towels daily, I was eager to hear about the habits of housekeepers in their own homes. I myself am guilty of not washing my towels and sheets more than about once every two weeks, so the idea of changing these items daily is a strange concept.
Benavides and Hermano say they change their sheets and towels about once per week, and they felt this was a hygienic and realistic routine for hotel guests to adopt at home, too.
The lovely housekeeping staff members I spoke to were proud to work hard and ensure guests have a great hotel stay at their properties. However, sometimes it's a thankless and invisible job, and people automatically assume the room they're staying in will be cleaned spotless every day with no interruption to their enjoyment or routines.
So, these are just a few simple things guests can consider during their next hotel stay to ensure the staff members can do their jobs.