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Hotels and Airlines Claim Deep Cleaning: What Does It Mean?

Hotels and Airlines Claim Deep Cleaning: What Does It Mean?

Generation Clean

We have gone through Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials; now the marketing focus is on deep cleaning with Generation Clean. People are intensely concerned with their health and safety since the COVID-19 attack. This focus is and will continue to impact and ultimately change the hospitality, travel and tourism industry. The apparent inability to assure a totally germfree environment is delaying the rebooting of the industry and keeping people close to their homes, cars, bicycles, and neighborhood take-out restaurants, while companies that make soap, hand sanitizers, and toilet paper are busy counting their good fortune all the way to the bank.

Hotels and Airlines Claim Deep Cleaning: What Does It Mean?

Having just returned from a short stroll through my neighborhood park, I noticed that men and women appearing to be 60 and over, were carefully distancing themselves (unless of course they were a couple…and then she was holding onto him for dear life), while everyone younger (by appearance) were having picnics, hugging, kissing, playing with their kids, and, in general, enjoying a beautiful afternoon.

Sanitation Complexity

GlobalData’s COVID-19 consumer survey found that 85 percent of global respondents are either extremely or quite concerned about the global outbreak. The challenge of disinfecting and cleaning hotel guest rooms, meeting spaces, public areas, dining outlets, fitness centers and spas can be daunting. How to determine a standard for hotel hygiene policies that will satisfy guest needs and wants is not easy as guidelines range from recommendations for Lysol spray and handi-wipes to organizing a cadre of robots with ultraviolet lights and having them periodically march through rooms and hallways.

You Go First

Given my totally unscientific research my bet is that Gen Z and the Millennials will, as soon as they get their jobs back (or find new employment) will be the first to grab a rental car, a bicycle or a motorcycle and direct their attention to long-delayed holidays, from skiing on the slopes, hiking the hills and swimming off the coast of Florida to heading to the Long Island beaches.

It will take months (or longer) for Boomers (and older) to begin to trust “cleanliness” on public transportation, trains, and airlines and to believe in the hype about heightened health and sanitation systems supposedly prevailing at airports, hotels and attractions.

If you have reviewed an airlines definition of clean, you are likely to find that your understanding of clean, sanitary and safe is considerably different than theirs. This translates to a serious deterrence to flying, and deep skepticism about staying at hotels or dining-in at restaurants.

Beyond Clean!

I learned about clean from my Mother, Etta. She taught me the difference between clean and Clorox clean, about the art of washing a bathroom floor with bleach, scouring a bathtub, vacuuming rugs and carpets, and how to get a shine on the refrigerator and oven. We never spent quality time making breakfast, lunch was frequently macaroni and cheese (the entire box), while dinners were burnt lamb chops ending with a pint of chocolate ice cream; however, we did spend lots of time making beds, sorting laundry, pairing socks, and ironing creases in trousers and shirt collars.

So – I challenge any hotel housekeeper or airline maintenance manager to ask me whether I can tell the difference between deep clean, clean or dirty… I have an advanced degree plus decades of experience, and I know clean when I see it.

Hotels and Airlines Claim Deep Cleaning: What Does It Mean?

I recently watched a promotional video about an airline maintenance program where the Communications Director (not someone with a background in sanitation or science), explain and applaud the cleanliness of his airline, while showing a video of a cleaning crew, onboard an airplane, using the same yellow rag to clean multiple parts of the passenger and public spaces! Just looking at the video made me note that I will not enter this plane unless I am wrapped securely in a large plastic bag wearing both a face mask and shield, with heavy duty kitchen cleaning gloves on my hands.

The Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting

Hotels and Airlines Claim Deep Cleaning: What Does It Mean?


Hotels and Airlines Claim Deep Cleaning: What Does It Mean?


Cleaning removes dirt and impurities including germs from surfaces; however, cleaning alone does not kill germs; to kill the buggers it is necessary to disinfect using chemicals. Disinfectants should be used during cleaning and efficiently applied using electrostatic sprayers, foggers, and misters to make sure hard to reach surfaces are reached. Disinfectant should also be used to wash linens, towels and clothing while bed scarfs and bedspreads require the warmest water setting and completely dried.

According to Molly, Deep Cleaning requires special equipment, from disposable rag and scrub pads to 2 buckets (dirty/clean water), a degreaser, dish soap and disinfectant spray, rubber gloves, a spray bottle with vinegar and water and a scrub brush. The process includes dusting and vacuuming just about everything from ledges and windows to light fixtures and cabinet tops (good use for the stepladder).

To make it perfect, you should consider one of these best vacuum cleaners from Unclutterer, which will help you to clean any room efficiently with minimal efforts.

Faucets and showerheads are sprayed with vinegar and water, HVAC vent covers are removed and washed with warm soapy water; windows and screens have cobwebs and bugs washed away; ceiling fans are wiped; carpets have spots removed; doors and doorframes are wiped for smudges and fingerprints; garbage cans are wiped and sanitized.

Some hotels are using technology to bring the definition of clean into the 21st century with the introduction of robots. The Westin Houston Medical Center hotel uses a pair of LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots (Xenex Disinfection Services) at a cost of approximately $100,000 each. The machines emit broad spectrum ultraviolet light to destroy viruses and bacteria in minutes. The company was started by two epidemiologists and their scientific approach forms the foundation for the technology and it is combined with six sigma implementations to reduce infection rates.

Hotels and Airlines Claim Deep Cleaning: What Does It Mean?

Objective Clean is Not Good Enough

It is impossible to eyeball spaces to determine if it has been disinfected. However, thanks to science and technology, new methods are available to detect clean/dirty surfaces through the use of an invisible fluorescent marker system that targets surfaces in consumers immediate surroundings.

Before the introduction of fluorescent markers readings from at least 30 surfaces and objects in a room revealed only 11 percent of the targets had been cleaned. With training, educational interventions, empowerment, creating a change environment and acknowledgement, staffers were able to improve their cleaning techniques to reach 77 percent of cleanliness according to Wai Khuan Ng in his research, “How clean is clean: a new approach to assess and enhance environmental cleaning…”

Hotels, Consumers and Clean

Is it likely that more robots will be introduced into the hotel eco-system? Research by Shi Zu, Jason Stienmetz and Mark Ashton (International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 2020) looked at the use of service robots and their role in hotel management. Dr. Xu finds that, “Application of service robots in the hotel industry is on the rise. With the added factor of a need to reassure potential guests that their stays will be compatible with minimized social contact and human interaction, this process could be accelerated.” As hotel managers contemplate the challenges of reopening their properties and truly need a “fresh start,” the incentive to integrate robots into the labor pool and accelerate the acquisition of robot technology is almost a certainty.

Travelers Search for Clean

Hotels and Airlines Claim Deep Cleaning: What Does It Mean?

It is unlikely that a call to a hotel will result in a definitive guide to their cleaning practices. Press releases are certainly not objective and are likely to include generalities and vague statements about following the guidelines established by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

As there is no way for a guest to determine the truth or validity of published information and if staying home or renting a RV or packing a tent are not viable options, what is a traveler to do?

Clean It Yourself

  1. Select hotels that offer contactless reservation, check-in and room assignments. Contact the hotel to make sure that your smart phone and tablet can be used for everything from selecting a tv channel to ordering room service and arranging a time to visit the spa and swim in the pool. If the technology is not available, select another hotel.
  2. When you enter the room, check the bathtub and shower for mildew. If you find any, make sure that you never walk around barefoot. If a quick scan for fingerprints and hair in the sink turn up positive, make an immediate call to the Front Desk with a request for a sanitized room.
  3. Open and use your personal stash of handi-wipes to clean light switches, door handles, tabletops and chairs, and remotes.
  4. Do not use the glassware; the safest bet is to use individually wrapped plastic glasses or at least wash the glassware yourself with soap and water before use.
  5. The ice bucket can be a Petri dish for bacteria. Do not use it! Hopefully, you brought along your own plastic bags – use them when you visit the ice machine. Check the machine before you use it, you might find rings of mildew or industrial oils around the ice shoot. If you do – forget the ice machine and head to the dining room for ice.
  6. Keep all your personal items (tooth and hairbrush, comb, etc.) in your own plastic bags and leave them in your luggage; pull them out when they are needed and replace them in your own space.
  7. If bedroom clutter still exists (from bedspreads and scarves, to pillows and note pads) – get rid of the stuff…immediately. Put all it in a corner of the closet, close the door and wash your hands.
  8. Check the sheets and the pillowcases. If they do not look clean, call housekeeping and ask for a fresh set. The same process for towels. If they even looked used, send them back to housekeeping and get clean replacements.
  9. Bring your own cans of disinfectant spray and use it on the bed as well as the top layer of blankets and pillows and/or bring your own UV light and shine it all over the room.
  10. If the hotel does not provide a luggage disinfectant station, use your disinfecting spray or Lysol handi-wipes to clean the luggage before opening.
  11. To determine if a product is effective against germs such as the ones that cause Covid-19, review the product label and ensure it states “EPA-approved emerging viral pathogen claims,” or search in the agency’s registered product database.
  12. Traveling clothes. Keep the clothes you traveled in separate from your other clothes. If you have the budget, send the travel clothes to the valet cleaning service as soon as you arrive. If this does not work for you, keep the travel clothes in a plastic bag, separate from everything else.

Sanitization Management

Many hotels have added a new manager to the employee list with the title of Hygiene Manager and this person is responsible for stringent employee safety and sanitation training, as well as maintaining a safe and healthy environment for the guest. Staff temperatures will be taken before each shift and many will be required to wear protective gear at all times. Some resorts are not allowing employees to wear their uniforms to/from work and increasing safety and sanitation protocols from suppliers.

In order to maintain social distancing hotels are limiting swimming pool access, strictly scheduling spa appointments, and requiring advance reservations for tennis courts, golf courses and other amenities. If a hotel offers guests the use of bikes, beach chairs and umbrellas, they will be cleaned before and after each and every use.

Hotels and Airlines Claim Deep Cleaning: What Does It Mean?

Brave New Clean World

If the cleanliness protocols are followed, everyone (including staff, guests and service vendors) will be healthier and safer for the effort. The challenges? The budget to initiate the systems and procedures and the willingness to maintain the tasks at an operational level.

© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.


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About the author

Dr. Elinor Garely - special to eTN and editor in chief,