EH involved in renovation; best practices; how to get rid of soap scum

Clean Talk with Rose
By Rose Galera, CEH
Hawaii Hospitality Magazine, Mar/Apr 2007

Dear Rose,
Why is the executive housekeeper, often times, not part of the early decision-making process when choosing the goods that will be utilized in a hotel renovation? We are given the enormous responsibility to help maintain the new product AFTER renovation but are often having to clean goods that are not practical in a hotel setting.
Gary Nushida
President, IEHA Hawaii chapter

Aloha Gary,
Yours is an excellent question and concern that I thought was no longer a problem faced today by executive housekeepers. Professional cleaning is a diversified technical field. Management at all levels must understand that environmental cleaning is a science and an art that requires knowledge, skills, abilities and well-trained personnel dealing with the many and complex processes of cleaning and maintenance. The old thought of a “head housekeeper” no longer applies today. As an executive housekeeper, I once faced a similar situation in the early years. The approach that I took then and still recommend today to all in the profession, regardless of type of facility, is to strongly emphasize to upper management that involvement in any renovation process is important and essential for the department, the property, future guest services and employee training, morale and safety.

Once a renovation program is announced, begin gathering information on time, critical path, the project manager, design company, type of selected furnishings, materials and products. Request to be assigned to the renovation committee and attendance at all meetings.

Prepare this request in writing, informing that your role would focus on the cleanability and maintainability requirements of selected products, fabrics, furnishings and other materials, that would affect daily cleaning processes, productivity, labor cost, safety, employee morale and guest satisfaction. And that, as a result, the department’s budget and overall bottom line of the facility may also be impacted. As information is received on products and/or materials recommended for the renovation, request for samples to perform product evaluation tests. Document and report your findings. Persevere while keeping abreast of trends and technology in the field.

Certification by the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) will be to your advantage. The program with modules on Interior Design, Purchasing and Waste Management will provide helpful information. Certification will be a definite plus when working with architects or interior designers. Good luck on future projects and programs.

Hi Rose,
I’m asked to come up with a best practice program for housekeeping of which I’m not familiar. Please share any information on best practice programs.

Aloha Sparkle,
Best practices are documented strategies and tactics utilized by companies for “best performance results.” The practices are implemented and honed to provide for efficiency and effectiveness to produce the optimum results. “Best practice” information is gathered from a variety of sources. Information is generally based on interviews, testing, surveys and other mechanisms of “primary” research information that is not available necessarily in the public sector. Other insights may be from secondary research — books, magazines, libraries, Internet and other public-domain resources. Listed are a few best practices that I have researched, tested, implemented and worked successfully. Because of limited space here, you may e-mail me at for additional write-ups (including a training workbook I can send you) on the best practices listed below.

Microfiber cleaning cloth and mop
Dual cart systems
Team cleaning systems
Backpack vacuuming systems
Vapor cleaning systems


Dear Rose,
How do you get rid of soap scum in the shower of a hotel, and how do you prevent from getting soap scum in tubs and showers?

Dear Jenna,
Hotel guest rooms are generally cleaned daily and properly and should not have a build-up soap scum problem. Soap scum problems are a result of mineral scale buildup where scum residue clings, due to improper and /or incomplete cleaning processes. Soap scum is oily fatty deposits that require a degreaser or strong alkali-type cleaning chemical, followed with heavy brushing or scrubbing action. The degreaser cuts into the soap scum with a dissolving action of the residue. A professional steam vapor cleaning system is also excellent for eliminating such buildup problems.

Regular and proper cleaning practices with industrial cleaners, microfiber cleaning cloths, rinsing and diving of the surfaces are measures that prevent scum buildup. Selection of the type of soap provided and used as guest amenities should also be wisely considered. Heavy oil-based soaps should be avoided. Application of lemon oil on tile or glass surfaces following cleaning will make it scum resistant. Care in application is important as drops or spray residue may create a slippery surface. Good luck on your project.

Posted in Clean Talk Columns.

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