A housekeeping department or outside company keeps the sanitation level high and disorder under control in diverse facilities such as hotels, hospitals, nursing homes and offices. "Housekeeping" may refer to an in-house department or an outside service. Cleaning staff members often work into the evening and on weekends, and in some facilities, housekeeping operates around the clock. The responsibilities of housekeeping are wide-ranging, but the specifics vary with the type of facility.
Performing Routine Responsibilities
The basic duties of a housekeeping department or service include routine cleaning and everyday maintenance, such as dusting, polishing furniture and vacuuming. Housekeepers empty trash cans, take out garbage and replace supplies such as towels and toilet paper. They clean all rooms, offices and hallways and wash flat surfaces, including windows and walls. In hotels, motels and health care facilities, they make beds and change linens. Depending on the industry, housekeepers clean sinks, toilets, shelves, stoves, refrigerators and appliances.
Unlike janitorial departments, housekeeping isn't usually in charge of repairs, painting or outside work. Janitors work in facilities such as schools and typically have duties that go beyond cleaning, such as checking the heating system and fixing leaky faucets.
Using Tools and Equipment
Housekeepers use wheeled carts to carry cleaning equipment, chemicals, linens and supplies. For floor care, housekeepers use vacuum cleaners, power buffers and floor polishers. They also use hand equipment, such as brooms and mops, and cleaning chemicals in various forms, including liquids, sprays and gels. Storing this equipment and keeping it in good condition are other responsibilities of the housekeeping unit.
Some tools and chemicals are dangerous, so each housekeeping department or service must establish and follow safety procedures, such as wearing uniforms and protective gear. This gear may include gloves, safety shoes and aprons.
Communicating With Other Staff and Clients
Housekeeping must communicate instructions down the line from bosses to housekeepers and subordinates. Overseeing the quality of work is vital. In addition, the housekeeping unit trains new workers, typically by having them assist experienced housekeepers. All housekeeping staff must communicate clearly with one another and with those who use the facilities.
Housekeeping needs a strong orientation of customer service. For example, hotel housekeepers should be trained to fulfill client requests cheerfully. Housekeeping must also adapt to the needs of others -- for example, cleaning a hospital room before a new patient arrives.
Using Management Skills
Housekeeping staff, from supervisors to cleaners, also have various management responsibilities -- for example, organizing schedules and shifts, deciding on the order of tasks and completing work on time. Housekeeping must also maintain an inventory of supplies and keep duty checklists updated.
Many housekeeping units use relevant computer programs such as facilities management, database and inventory software to assist in management functions.
Performing Other Responsibilities
Hotel and motel housekeeping staff may deliver equipment such as cribs and ironing boards to customers' rooms. In hospitals and nursing facilities, housekeeping typically is in charge of disinfecting surfaces, equipment and bed frames in patient rooms.
Housekeeping staff in health care environments also follow additional safety procedures. For example, hospital housekeepers use special protocols for cleaning up body fluids or for disposing of used needles.