Hotel Cleaning 101: Tips from Executive Housekeepers with National Trust Historic Hotels of America
WASHINGTON, D.C. | Spring is in the air—and so are dust and germs! As the world outside awakens from its slumber, refresh your world inside with an old-fashioned spring cleaning. Take a cue from some of America’s finest hotels and embrace the new season by rejuvenating your home this spring. Whether it’s an all-out assault on dirt and grime, stubborn stain removal or simply sprucing up your carpets and upholstery, National Trust Historic Hotels of America offers ideas on how to achieve a home you’ll be proud of for all seasons. A tip or two from these professionals, who tackle hundreds of rooms every day, will ensure that you’ll pass the white glove test every time.
Ready, set, clean! Mary Ann Rodino has served as executive housekeeper at The Spa at Norwich Inn in Norwich, Conn., for 16 years. She advises, “Always have an organized system, and follow it. You don’t tiptoe around it. You have to be very efficient. You have to hustle and stay in the flow of the job. It’s important not to break your momentum.” She also believes it helps to be prepared by “reading the room.” She explains by saying, “I let my eye go around the room and make a mental note of the supplies that I will need, and I get them into position.”Rodino offers a suggestion for a dreaded task. “Use fabric softener dryer sheets to clean vinyl shades,” says Rodino. “They do a good job of removing dust and dirt.”
Elke Risser, director of housekeeping at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Ojai, Calif., recommends having “a handy helper available.” Her indispensable item is a lint roller with a long handle which comes in handy for removing hair, dust and lint from furniture, under the bed and tile floors.
Sandy Gough, executive housekeeper at The Sagamore in Bolton Landing, N.Y., removes heel marks from waxed floors by using an ordinary pencil eraser or a tennis ball on a stick.
To remove hairspray on mirrors, Paulette Sable, executive housekeeper at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans uses very hot water instead of window cleaner.
To keep your vintage linens in tip-top shape, Julia Beach, marketing director at the General Morgan Inn in Greeneville, Tenn., suggests storing them in long, flat boxes and wrapping them in acid-free tissue paper. To avoid creases, use empty paper towel or toilet tissue rolls (also wrapped in acid-free paper) and tuck them in the folds.
Stain, Stain Go Away
Household stains are a common problem. Ever try removing chocolate from fabrics or carpet? Sean Nies, executive housekeeper at the Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pa., has encountered more than his share of chocolate mishaps. He cautions that chocolate is a “combination” stain—one that contains substances of both a greasy and non-greasy origin. Treat the stain first for the non-greasy portion, using cool water and detergent. Rinse thoroughly and let dry. Then sponge the remaining greasy portion with cleaning fluid. Let dry and repeat if necessary. Bleach is sometimes necessary to completely remove tough stains but be sure to test for colorfastness first.
Sandy Gough, executive housekeeper at The Sagamore in Bolton Landing, N.Y., recommends using a slice of bread to remove makeup smudges from dark clothes and fabrics. Also, to remove light scorch stains on linen, rub the cut side of an onion over the stain then soak in cold water.
When hot food, such as a pizza box, is served on bare wood, the heat can leave a cloudy film on the surface of the wood. According to Mary Ann Rodino of The Spa at Norwich Inn in Norwich, Conn., when this happened to their conference room, she used spirit of camphor, rubbed with the grain of the wood and, “the table turned out beautifully.”
A Bloody Mess
Whether from a nick, cut or bloody nose, blood can be one of the hardest stains to remove. Paulette Sable, executive housekeeper at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans suggests that hydrogen peroxide works well to remove fresh blood stains.
Ewa Borkowska, executive housekeeper from the Historic Hotel Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pa., notes that shaving cream removes blood on throw pillows, rugs and upholstery.
Melted candle wax on carpets or fabric can be a big mess. To remove it, Addie Johnson, executive housekeeper at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston places a thin, wet cloth on top of the stain. Set an iron to low heat and iron over the cloth. The wax will slowly melt and be absorbed into the cloth.
To give your carpets a fresh scent without the use of artificial sprays or chemicals, Laurel McKown, executive housekeeper at the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, Colo., suggests placing a cotton ball with clove oil in the blower compartment of the vacuum. Any essential oil will work just as well and leave a subtle, pleasant fragrance in the room.
Do you have red wine stains after that great dinner party? According to Ewa Borkowska, executive housekeeper at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pa., white wine will remove red wine stains on carpets.
Paulette Sable from the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans cautions that before putting chemicals on fabric or upholstery stains, use cold water and blot with a clean, white terry cloth. Remember, when removing carpet spots to clean in four directions.
Are you one of the many homeowners who leave that heirloom silver in the drawer because you hate to polish it? Sandy Gough, executive housekeeper at The Sagamore in Bolton Landing, N.Y., suggests placing a piece of chalk in the silver chest. This will absorb the moisture and keep the pieces from tarnishing so quickly. Gough cautions not to use rubber gloves when polishing silver as these will cause the silver to darken.
Ewa Borkowska, executive housekeeper at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pa., notes that regular toothpaste is great for polishing silver.
For cleaning chandelier crystals, Mary Ann Rodino, executive housekeeper at The Spa at Norwich Inn in Norwich, Conn., recommends mixing one part rubbing alcohol with three parts of water in a spray bottle. Spray on crystal and wipe clean with a white cotton cloth.
Looking for another way to make chandeliers glitter? “Wash crystal prisms from chandeliers safely and quickly in a French fry basket,” suggests Sandy Gough, executive housekeeper from The Sagamore in Bolton Lake, N.Y. “Just dunk them several times in a solution of hot water and detergent until they are clear. Rinse in clear water and drain in the basket.”
Historic Hotels of America is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Historic Hotels has identified more than 200 hotels that have faithfully maintained their historic integrity, architecture and ambiance. To be selected for this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old, listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or recognized as having historic significance. A directory of member hotels can be purchased for $4.00 by sending a check to National Trust/HHA, P.O. Box 320, Washington, D.C. 20055-0320. Rooms at any of the member hotels can be reserved by visiting or by calling 800-678-8946. Reservations made through Historic Hotels of America support the National Trust, a non-profit organization of 200,000 members that provides leadership, education and advocacy to save America's diverse historic places and revitalize our communities.