Confessions of a cleaner – including how often hotel staff really change bedsheets
This is the second in a series of articles with anonymous employees who lift the lid on their industry and reveal the horrifying secrets the public have no idea about
In our series of confessions from workers, we speak to one former employee of a cleaning agency – who lifts the lid on what it is really like to work behind the scenes.
Here’s his real life experience of working in kitchens, hotels and private homes.
“I worked as a cleaner and have seen so much bad practice I think the public would be sickened if they found out about it.
“I’m employed by an agency and normally clean hotel rooms or private houses.
“Some of the things I’ve seen would turn your stomach. For example, we use different coloured cleaning rags and mops depending on where we’re cleaning – so in theory, things used to clean a toilet won’t be used to clean a kitchen.
“But in practice I’ve seen cleaners get that wrong all the time, with toilet rags used to wipe down food preparation surfaces, bedside cabinets and so on.
“Where I see it, I correct it, but I worry about all the times it happens and I don’t spot it. People could get seriously ill.
“Likewise, people use spit to clean things, or use the wrong chemical – like using glass cleaner on a kitchen surface.
“Another thing that commonly happens in hotels is that rooms are never as clean as you think they are.
“The public expects that everything is spotless between guests – and that’s definitely what we’re meant to do.
“But we’re under so much pressure that corners inevitably get cut.
“For example, if someone’s only stayed one night in a room and the bedsheets look fine, often we won’t change them.
“It’s the same with hoovering the floor, or cleaning the bathroom – if it looks alright, we won’t do it.
“It becomes more about avoiding complaints than actually cleaning.
“One trick is to spray a couple of bursts of glass cleaner in an otherwise uncleaned bathroom – if a room smells like chemicals, guests assume it’s been cleaned.
“I hate all this, and we all have pride in our work, but it’s due to pressure from management.
“When we clean hotel rooms, we might need to do an entire floor of dozens of rooms before we even have a 15-minute break.
“Imagine cleaning one or two entire hotel floors yourself, in one day – that’s what we’re expected to do.
“That said, I’ve also seen theft, and there’s no excuse for that.
“Often when an overseas guest leaves a hotel, they’ll leave any British coins on the side as it’s easier than getting them exchanged. It’s fair enough if we take those.
“But I’ve also seen cleaners assume that anything left in a hotel room that isn’t a wallet or a phone is unwanted – clothes, books, you name it.
“We do also see some horrifying things ourselves. Members of my team have often found dead bodies when they went in to clean a room – and after the police have been and gone, they’re expected to go in there cleaning like nothing happened.
“But we also see the aftermath of people losing their grip on reality a bit, which sadly often seems to happen in hotels.
“I’ve seen rooms with urine and faeces smeared up the walls, or with messages written in blood – and again, you just have to get your rubber gloves on and get cleaning.
“The overall worst thing I had to clean up was in a student house – a bathful of dead ducks, in the height of summer, after they’d been getting ripe for a few weeks. Some of them had exploded, which was pretty messy.
“The previous occupants had managed to catch some ducks from a nearby park, and clearly decided they’d make a good alternative to buying food.
“They’d hung them up in the bathroom by their feet from the shower rail, then apparently forgot about them and left the house to go home for the summer holidays.
“When we opened the door to the house we were greeted by a cloud of black flies and an unimaginable smell – like something out of a horror film.
“All the blood and fluid from the decaying ducks had stained the floor and left an almighty smell that we couldn’t get out.
“Cleaners have a tough life for not much pay, and are treated pretty badly by a lot of people – but the word needs to get out that endless management pressure is backfiring on the people we’re meant to be cleaning for.”