Cleaning Hotels during an Outbreak or Pandemic

Cleaning Hotels during an Outbreak or Pandemic

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, many doctors and health organizations are advising against nonessential travel in favor of social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19. These necessary precautions are having a major effect on the travel industry, and will continue to have a lasting impact in the months ahead. In fact, the U.S. Travel Association continues to monitor the economic downturn, with current estimates noting that nearly 6 million travel-related American jobs will be lost as a result of this health crisis. Furthermore, total spending on travel, which includes lodging, restaurants, transportation and more, will result in losses of $400 billion.

During this period of reduced travel, hotels have an opportunity to address overlooked areas like carpet, and a responsibility to properly clean, sanitize and disinfect soft and hard surfaces throughout their properties. Managers and housekeeping teams should understand best practices for how to clean hotels during a pandemic.

Cleaning During a Downturn

With many hotels hypersensitive to their bottom line right now, managers and owners are looking for creative ways to quickly reduce costs. Some are relying on housekeeping staff to thoroughly clean rooms and all common areas, rather than splitting the work between housekeepers and building service contractors (BSCs). Often, BSCs handle carpet care in areas like lobbies and meeting areas. Given the current economic climate, it’s wise for hotels to pivot and have housekeeping staff help clean  carpet.

For successful hotel cleaning during a pandemic, properties should focus on the following best practices:

  • Clean carpet first. Vacuuming is the first step of proper carpet care. Even as foot traffic slows, it is still likely that soils are embedded in the carpet fibers. Hotels should instruct housekeeping staff to vacuum carpet in guest rooms, hallways, lobbies and other main areas. It’s recommended to use a vacuum that is certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute to ensure that the machine has HEPA-filters and  can be used on a daily basis without fear of carpet damage.   
  • Invest in low-moisture equipment. Low-moisture encapsulation is a preferred method for carpet care, as it effectively removes soils without oversaturating carpet. Carpet needs just 20-30 minutes to dry, allowing staff to be more productive. Look for ergonomic machines that are easy to operate, maneuver and maintain. Counterrotating brushes simultaneously lift carpet pile and agitate chemistry, while a machine-mounted solution tank allows employees to clean without carrying a separate tank.
  • Teach employees how to use the equipment. Thankfully, low-moisture encapsulation equipment is as simple to use as a vacuum, so training can be efficient. As housekeeping staff may be unaccustomed to performing carpet care beyond vacuuming, take some time to show them how to fill the machine with solution, operate it and put it away for the next use. When employees understand how simple the process is, they will be more inclined to use the equipment to maintain carpet.
  • Clean carpet regularly. When cleaning hotels during a pandemic, it’s important to remember that you can’t disinfect carpet, as the Environmental Protection Agency does not certify disinfectants for use on soft surfaces. Not only is cleaning carpet important while the pandemic is still ongoing, it is essential moving forward, as many people are now more sensitive to the ways in which businesses are protecting patrons.

Consider using Whittaker’s Crystal® Quick Restore™ chemistry, which contains hydrogen peroxide. After cleaning carpet, be sure to sanitize the machine’s brushes to avoid cross contamination and wipe down the machine with a disinfectant.

Maintaining a Home-away-from-home

Hotels always aim to provide clean and comforting environments for both leisure and business travelers. However, right now, many are faced with an unprecedented challenge as occupancy rates remain at an all-time low due to the coronavirus pandemic. The American Hotel and Lodging Association’s CEO, Chip Rogers, has stated that half of U.S. hotels could be forced to permanently close as a result. Industry leaders are also noting that this global health crisis has already impacted the U.S. hotel industry more than the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 2008 recession combined.

Properties can reduce maintenance costs in the face of sinking profits by training housekeeping staff on proper carpet care if they cannot afford BSCs. This ensures that flooring assets remain in good condition for guests and reduces long-term maintenance costs associated with repair and replacement. During slower periods when fewer guests are present, properties have an opportunity to clean  soft surfaces, like carpet, and disinfect hard surfaces. At a time when many people are still fearful of contracting the virus, cleaning hotels to eliminate infection is key.

Maintaining carpet year-round is essential for protecting your asset. Be sure to choose the right machines, chemistry and tools for your facility. For more information about carpet care the Whittaker way, access our video tutorialsarticles and case studies, or contact us at 800.422.7686 or

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