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How To Protect Your Guests And Staff By Reducing Toxic Chemical Use In The Hospitality Industry

In the hospitality industry, cleanliness inspires guest loyalty. In my experience, it is one of the most important factors when choosing a hotel. Just consider the more than 60% of hotel guests who research reviews on sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and AAA: 71% expect above-average cleanliness ratings when making their selections.

As community-acquired infections emerge as a serious public health concern, public places are subject to tougher scrutiny than ever. Germs and contaminants threaten the health of everyone who visits a hospitality-based business — be it a restaurant, cruise line, hotel or recreational facility.

In light of this, some hospitality businesses are leveraging many potent chemicals in cleaning processes in an effort to meet high guest expectations. While cleanliness is key, when it comes to staff and guests, I believe hospitality businesses should consider the effects of the chemicals they’re using to keep everything shiny, clean and free of germs.

Consider the question: “Are all these chemicals really necessary?”

Toxic Chemicals In Cleaning: What We Know And What We Don’t

Of the tens of thousands of chemicals used commercially in the U.S., a small fraction have been restricted. Under our country’s key chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (in place since 1976), the Environmental Protection Agency has banned nine chemicals.

Despite this, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health lists two of the major hazards of hotel cleaning as respiratory illnesses from cleaning products that contain substances such as irritant aerosols and skin reactions from detergents and latex.

A study published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine followed more than 6,000 people over a 20-year period and found that regularly using cleaning sprays can pose a risk to your respiratory health, particularly in women. Another study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that three- and four-month-old infants exposed to antibacterial cleaners weekly had higher levels of a type of gut bacteria that removes extra energy from food. These babies were more likely to have a higher body mass index and be overweight or obese by age 3. I believe it’s also worth noting that indoor air pollutant concentrations are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.

A few factors can influence whether cleaning chemicals will cause health problems, including chemical ingredients, how the product is being used or stored, whether the product touches the skin and more. Many cleaning supplies can also irritate your eyes and throat, cause headaches, etc., as well as impact the environment when disposed of improperly.

These are important factors for all hospitality leaders to consider because these supplies can greatly impact the well-being of your employees and guests. My company creates high-performance textiles and specializes in researching how to prevent infections in the hospitality space. Through this, I’ve developed a few tips to keep in mind:

How To Maintain The Highest Levels Of Cleanliness While Reducing Chemical Use

To get started, audit toxic chemical use in your organization. An audit of chemicals used in hotel housekeeping should start with highlighting the function of each room, how each room should be processed and the chemicals required.

Both guest room attendants (GRAs) and hotel administrators should be involved. By securing OSHA-required safety data sheets for all hazardous cleaning products and chemicals used, administrators and team members can review hazardous chemical ingredients, adverse chemical reactions, overexposure symptoms and health problems that might be caused by the ingredients. This can be supplemented by an audit of cost versus effectiveness for all chemicals used.

From my perspective, you stand to gain significant benefits, including the well-being of your employees and guests, when you assess the use of chemicals in your hospitality organization. Moreover, you could attract customers who are focused on sustainability and wellness, a growing market, as evidenced by the number of hotels implementing comprehensive wellness programs.

All this can result alongside improved hygiene and cleanliness. For example, when my company conducted a cleaning products audit, one leading hotel company determined that hundr of products were being used across properties. In a subsequent 30-day trial, the microbe count was rated on a 10-point scale, with a 10 being the highest number of microbes. All surfaces tested at 9-10 prior to the implementation of the new color-coded, one-per-room cleaning process. Thirty days later, reducing from seven chemicals to just two — a disinfectant and an all-purpose cleaner — all surfaces tested at 1 or less.

We also found that the average guest room attendant cleans 15-20 rooms per day, most with little to no ventilation. Training keeps them safe and keeps rooms clean. I recommend implementing cleaning process training that includes:

• Color-coded, one-per-room methodology. This reduces chemical usage and offers a straightforward, elegant way to eliminate cross-contamination risk.

• Microfiber wipers, mops and dusters for superior results, in accordance with CDC recommendations.

• Proper use of high-performance products, followed by disinfectants.

• More thorough cleaning of high-touch surfaces.

A Final Word

You should also make a point to consider the ingredients in the products you use. When assessing cleaning products, look out for chemicals that can cause damage if you’re exposed to them over longer periods of time, such as phosphates nitrilotriacetic acid, ammonium chloride, ethanolamines, diethylene glycol monomethyl ether and more. According to the Environmental Working Group, ingredients such as these can be harmful to your health.

That said, it’s equally important to avoid “greenwashing” marketing ploys. Instead, look for products with third-party certifications from organizations such as the EPA’s Safer Choice program.

Finally, remember that in many instances, all that is needed to clean effectively is a high-performance microfiber wiper and the universal solvent: water.

Hospitality businesses are taking a hard look at the chemicals used throughout their facilities. Those who do are keeping guests and employees safe, improving customer satisfaction ratings, boosting financial health and minimizing their environmental impact.