Cleaning help and hacks from hotel housekeepers

If there was a world record for number of rooms cleaned in a lifetime, there’s no doubt a hotel housekeeper would hold the title.

They can turn over rooms faster than most people can figure out where their vacuum attachments go and find an outlet.

Heavy duty spring cleaning may still be a few weeks away, but here are some everyday housekeeping tip from the folks who make careers out of deep cleaning on a daily basis.

1. Folding the Toilet Paper Shows You Care

zeppelin bathroom

(Douglas Friedman)

Doesi t really matter how your bathroom toilet tissue looks? According to hotel cleaners, yes. “First, it’s two basic folds,” demonstrates Maricres Gapol, a room attendant at Hotel Zeppelin in San Francisco. “Fold the right corner to the left side, making a left pointing triangle. Next, take the left point and fold the triangle in half toward the right side. It gives you a perfect point which allows for easy pulling action.” Folding toilet paper in your guest room is one of the cheapest and most time-effective ways to show your company you take care of even the smallest details to make them feel welcome.

2. Out of Sight is Peace of Mind

zeppelin guestroom

(Douglas Friedman)

Even if they’re only staying one night, Gapol advises guests to unpack and utilize the dressers and closets in Hotel Zeppelin’s guest rooms. “It will keep you from tossing things around and feeling like you’re living out of your luggage.”

Plus, if you keep surfaces clear, they’re much easier to clean regularly. “Get in the habit of editing your stuff...i.e. simplify,” she notes. “It’s something small you can do every day to prevent major messes in the future. The best cleaning advice I ever received was cleaning a little each day keeps the mess away.”

3. There is a Method to the Madness

zeppelin living room

(Douglas Friedman)

Hotel Zeppelin’s housekeepers work in a systematic fashion. They start at the door and work their way around the room in a clockwise manner. “We start with the shower and tub area to let the cleaning projects soak in and do their jobs. Then all we have to do is come back when we’ve finished the rest of the room and wipe to be done,” says Gapol. Cleaning in one direction makes it harder to skip something-- and it allows you to devote more energy into doing the actual task as opposed to trying to determine which task to tackle next.

4. It Really is Possible to Fold Fitted Sheets

hotel zetta

(Hotel Zetta)

For Gapol and her team, folding fitted sheets is all about creating pockets by placing corners in their opposite corners. If you need visuals, she recommends watching Martha Stewart’s how-to video. On the other hand, Hotel Zetta, another San Francisco boutique property, doesn’t even bother with fitted sheets. “We don’t use fitted sheets,” dishes Maria Alfaro, a room attendant who admits they’re still a bit of a mystery to her. Regular sheets work just as well for the bottom as they do for the top, and you don’t have to worry about struggling to fold them wrinkle-free.

5. Vacuuming is Like Seeing a Shrink

vacuum hotel


“Vacuuming is the most cathartic thing I do,” admits Gapol, who finds the whole experience soothing. It’s critical, she says, to vacuum in both directions to pick up dirt hidden on both sides of carpet fibers. “Also, who doesn’t love to see those lines in the carpet that signal you’re done. For someone who is OCD, it’s like heaven!” Note, never vacuum until after you dust. You’d be surprised at the number of particles that transfer from your rag and feather duster onto the floor.

6. Streak-Free Mirrors Are Surprisingly Simple

bf9587c1-Hotel zetta

(Hotel Zeta)

According to Gapol, the trick is actually to use very little cleaning product. Here, less saves you more—in time.  And while paper towels are popular and some cleaners swear by wiping glass with old print newspaper, hotel housekeepers like to use restaurant cloth napkins on glass. “They’re perfectly stiff enough to get the job done,” says Alfaro. They’re also eco-friendly. Finally, it’s important to have a steady hand and work from the top down, starting in a circular motion before using vertical and then horizontal wiping action to remove any excess product.

7. Take Inventory of Your Toolkit

cleaning tool

Closeup of unrdcognizable home cleaning products with blue bucket and a mop in front in sharp focus. All products placed on white and poorly lit bathroom floor. (iStock)

Alfaro swears by microfiber cloths—they can clean almost any surface—and magic eraser sponges—perfect for scuff marks on walls. “We also have a great wedge we put between the mattress and the box spring. This makes tucking sheets into beds a breeze,” she says before going on to explain how a white vinegar and water combination works great on floors and baking soda is very effective at removing stubborn stains.

“If you don’t understand the ingredients of your cleaning products, they’re probably not good for you or the environment.”