Davis photoThere are more than 47,000 lodging establishments in the United States, ranging from the moderately priced drive-up to the luxurious resort or casino hotel. All are vying for our travel dollars. The hospitality market is full of opportunity for jan/san distributors focused on growing market share. But like any market, there are unique cleaning challenges suppliers must understand.

Guests demand a clean, fresh room with no evidence of the previous occupant. Most travelers demand their room be cleaner than their own homes.

Susan Baxter, director of housekeeping for the 770-room Birmingham Sheraton in Birmingham, Ala., uses the Six Sigma quality program to ensure high standards to meet guest expectations. “We look for 181 possible defects,” she says. “Variances from the standard are identified and corrected. Our supervisors use PDAs (personal digital assistants) to inspect rooms for compliance.

“There are four deadly sins in housekeeping: hair in the bathroom, hair in the linens, mold or mildew in the bathtub and debris in the room. Keeping the room free from hair is the greatest challenge,” Baxter admits. Thorough vacuuming and dusting as well as consistent cleaning and monitoring procedures help win the battle.

Mold and mildew are kept at bay by wiping down shower walls and applying a contact disinfectant spray, especially along grout lines. When mold or mildew appear, bleach or some other cleaner containing bleach and a blend of surfactants is necessary to remove it. Sometimes, caulk must be replaced.

Maintaining carpet presents some special challenges as well. Guests often spill drinks or smear shoe polish. The spot must be treated as soon as possible to avoid permanent staining. A good spotting kit (stocked with various products and step-by-step instructions) designed to remove oil and water-based mediums is ideal.

Consistent high occupancy rates present a challenge when cleaning guest room carpet. Carpet extractors do a good job but will leave too much moisture behind to allow the room to be rented the same day. Many properties use bonnet cleaning because it is quick and leaves behind minimum moisture. A light mist of a specially formulated bonnet-cleaning chemical is applied using a pressurized sprayer. A synthetic bonnet is then affixed to a standard 175-rpm swing machine and run across the carpet to scrub, dry, and absorb the soil. This process cleans only the top 25 percent of the fibers and is not a replacement for deep-cycle extraction, but is an excellent response to treat moderately soiled carpet. Rooms can usually be rented 30 minutes after cleaning.

Guest rooms must also smell clean since many travelers have sensitive noses that immediately sniff out any stale or musty odors. Daily vacuuming is a vital step to ensure a fresh smelling room. A deodorizing tablet may be deposited in the bag or a deodorizing carpet powder lightly broadcast before vacuuming. Some properties spray curtains, bedspreads and carpets with a lightly scented deodorizer.

It is occasionally necessary to convert a smoking room to non-smoking. There are odor counteractants designed for this application, but many times more drastic action is needed to completely remove residual odor. Ozone generators effectively remediate the worst conditions.

For jan/san distributors who are willing to become lodging experts, housekeeping professionals like Susan Baxter are eager to use distributors that provide beneficial solutions as well as supplies.

Louie Davis Jr. is a 22-year veteran of the jan/san business, having worked on the manufacturing and distribution sides. He is currently director of sales for Central Paper Co., in Birmingham, Ala.