DETROIT -- Yes, hotel guests want chic rooms and free Wi-Fi. But most of all, we want the room to be clean.
Clean, like you could eat off the floor. Clean, like your Aunt Bertha could do the white-glove test and smile. Clean, like Mr. Clean could unpack his T-shirts and stay overnight.
That's why over at the Best Western Sterling Inn in Sterling Heights, Penny Styles, executive assistant housekeeper, scans high-contact areas of rooms every day with a long UV scanner. She sweeps it over the phone. The remote control. Switches. Drawer and door handles. The toilet seat. The faucet. She holds the blue light on the area until the unit beeps, indicating disinfection. Then she sweeps on to the next area.
Meanwhile, hotel president Victor Martin uses a black light flashlight to inspect the bathroom, searching for any spots that light up, indicating organic deposits. The UV sterilizes germs, "but it won't find the grody stuff that's still there," he says. This day, the bathroom passes the test.
Sterling Inn has about 200 Purelight wands, which look a little bit like Star Wars light sabers. It has been using the technology for six months, as part of the Best Western chain's push to have housekeeping staff in all 2,200 hotels in the U.S. do the same. Eight Best Western Michigan properties have implemented the "I Care Clean" program.
"Every hotel competes on things like the comfort of the bed or the pictures on the wall, but Best Western found that what is most important to the traveler is cleanliness of the room," Martin says.
At first, he was skeptical of the UV wands, but he's changed his mind. First, by using the wands, "the housekeepers just naturally do a better job in the room; that's the payoff," Martin says. Second, the public notices what housekeeping is doing.
"It's working. I can't stress enough how many people have commented on it," he says. It's also good for their ranking on TripAdvisor -- they're up to the No. 1-ranked hotel in Sterling Heights.
What's left behind
Anyone worried about germs can buy black light and UV sanitizing wands. Sharper Image sells a small travel-sized one for $29.99. But the wands Best Western uses are industrial strength -- very light but about 24 inches long. The housekeepers recharge the scanners between shifts. Best Western trained the staff in how to use them -- and where.
Where? The sides and backs of toilets and the lower half of bathroom walls are the most overlooked in hotel rooms -- but cleanliness depends on the hotel. And fancier does not always mean cleaner.
Martin takes a black light flashlight with him when he travels, and sometimes he is not happy with the results.
"I've gone to five-star hotels and, oooh, it's amazing what you find," he says.
Likewise, if you try using it at home, "you won't sleep at night. It's an eye-opener. Just go round your house and use it," he says.
The likely overlooked germ spots at home? Anyplace where people are eating. And behind the toilet.
I don't know about you, but I want my hotel room to be even cleaner than my house.
Detroit Free Press