Housekeeping Cleaning Agents and Equipment

  • Post last modified:16 March 2023
  • Reading time:22 mins read
  • Post category:Hotel Management

What is Cleaning Agents?

Cleaning Agents are substances, usually in liquid form, that is used to remove dirt, including dust, stains, bad smells and clutter in solid surfaces. Purposes of using cleaning agents include health, beauty, elimination of offensive odour, and avoiding the spreading of dirt and contaminants to oneself and others.

Some cleaning agents can kill bacteria & other microbes and clean at the same time.

Types of Cleaning Agents

The different types of cleaning agents used are discussed below:

  1. Solvents
  2. Detergents & Soaps
  3. Liquid Cleaning Agents
  4. Washing Soda
  5. Soda-bars, Powders and Flakes
  6. Window Cleansers
  7. Acids and Alkali
  8. Absorbents
  9. Paraffin Oil
  10. Polishes
  11. Disinfectants, Antiseptics & Deodorants


A solvent is a liquid that dissolves a solid or liquid solute, resulting in a solution. The most common solvent used in everyday life is water. It is the simplest cleaning agent and some forms of dirt will be dissolved by it, but normally unless it is used in conjunction with some other agent like detergent, water is not an effective cleaning agent.

Caution must be taken that the water is ‘soft’ as most detergents are ineffective with hard water. Moreover, hard water does not wet the surface adequately which is a precondition for good cleaning action.

Detergents & Soaps

Detergent is a compound, or a mixture of compounds, intended to assist cleaning. Detergents and soaps are used for cleaning because pure water can’t remove oily, organic soiling. Soaps allow oil and water to mix so that oily grime can be removed during rinsing.

Detergents are similar to soap, but they are less likely to form films (soap scum) and are not as affected by the presence of minerals in water (hard water).

There are several factors that dictate what compositions of detergents should be used, including the material to be cleaned, the apparatus to be used, and tolerance for any type of dirt.

Liquid Cleaning Agents

Liquid cleaning agents can be either diluted in a little water or used directly with a dry cloth.

  1. Ammonia is alkali which softens water and emulsifies grease.

  2. Methylated sprits are effective against grease stains.

  3. Paraffin is also grease solvent.

  4. Turpentine is a grease and paint solvent.

  5. Vinegar is a mild acid (acetic acid) unaffected by hard water and useful in removing light stains in baths.

  6. Hydrochloric acid is useful in removing stubborn stains in bathrooms but care must be taken in its use as it is damaging to the skin and destroys fabrics and light bathroom fittings.

  7. Carbon tetrachloride is also excellent grease solvent. Care must be exercised there, too, as the fumes are corrosive and harmful.

Washing Soda

This agent is quite outdated due to the advent of domestic detergents like vim, etc. However, it is particularly useful for emulsifying grease on drain pipes, gutters or stone surfaces. In strong concentration, it could be an irritant and injurious to the skin, fabrics brushes, wood and paint. Washing soda is useful as a water softener and is a chlorinated compound.

Soda-bars, Powders and Flakes

Nowadays soaps have been replaced by excellent synthetic soapless detergents which are unaffected by hard water. However, some housekeepers may not have access to these detergents and may have to rely on soaps.

Powders and flakes are useful in getting instant lather but are expensive. When used, care should be taken that they are thoroughly dissolved. Being expensive, one should know exactly how much powder or flake is dissolved to get an optimum concentration for best results and also how long the resultant solution is effective.

Window Cleansers

Window cleaners consist of water-miscible solvent to which a small quantity of surfactant and possibly an alkali are added to improve the polish effect of the cleanser. The cleanser is applied with a cleaning rag and rubbed off with a clean soft cloth. Cleansers can also be applied by spraying and the surface wiped clean.

Acids and Alkali

The cleaning action is carried out by chemicals such as:

  1. Acid : Acids are used for the removal of metal stains. Vinegar and lemon are used for the removal of tarnish of copper and brass and of mild water stains on bath tubs, etc. More resistant water stains may be removed with stronger acids such as oxalic acid or hydrochloric acid used under experienced supervision.

  2. Alkali : Caustic soda, sodium hydroxide and ammonia are alkalis and are used as grease emulsifiers and stain removal agents. Extreme care is to be taken in their use as they are very strong and are highly corrosive.


These are used for cleaning action by absorbing the stain or grease e.g. starch, French chalk powders, and besan or gram flour.

Paraffin Oil

Paraffin is wax-like or liquid hydrocarbon mixture used as the solvent. It is also efficient for the cleaning of baths but owing to its smell it is seldom used. Organic solvents such as methylated spirit, white spirit (turpentine substitute) and carbon tetrachloride are grease solvents and are used for the removal of grease and wax from different surfaces.


It does not necessarily clean but produces a shine by providing a smooth surface from which light is reflected evenly by smoothing out any unevenness on the surface of the articles. Polishes fall into three broad categories – spirit-based, oil-based and water-based.

Spirit-based is used primarily for mirrors, window panes, etc. Oil-based is used on wood, linoleum and synthetic floorings, leather, tiles, etc. Water-based is used on sealed floors, rubber and thermoplastic floors

Polishes may be used only after dirt and dust have been removed from surfaces. It should be used in small quantities

Disinfectants, Antiseptics & Deodorants

Disinfectants, antiseptics and deodorants are not strictly cleaning agents but are often used during cleaning operations. Disinfectants kill bacteria, antiseptics prevent bacterial growth and deodorants mask the unpleasant smell by combining chemically with the particles producing the offensive smell.

Cleaning Equipment

Following are examples of cleaning equipment:

  1.  Manual Cleaning Equipment
  2. Mechanical Cleaning Equipment

Manual Cleaning Equipment


Brushes used for cleaning come in various sizes, such as very small brushes for cleaning a fine instrument, toothbrushes, the household types of brushes that usually comes with a dustpan, or the broomstick. Hall brooms are even larger and are used for cleaning large areas.

Cleaning brushes also include brushes for cleaning the toilet, washing glass, finishing tiles, and sanding doors.

There are mainly three types of brushes:

  1. Hard brush: It contains bristles that are stiff and well spaced. These are most suitable for removal of litter. Example: upholstery brush, carpet brush etc.

  2. Soft brush: It has bristles that are flexible and set close together. They can be used to remove loose soil and litter. Example: tooth brush, feather brush, shoe brush, coat brush etc.

  3. Scrubbing brush: It can be used to remove heavy soiling from small areas or by the use of mechanical scrubbing machines, if possible. Example: deck scrubber, club shaped / hockey stick shaped toilet brush, etc.


A mop is a tool used for cleaning floors, when possible it is also used for cleaning other surfaces, for example tiled walls, to avoid unhygienic working conditions. The following are the different types of mops.

  1. Dry mop, dust mop
    A dry mop or dust mop is made to pick up dry, loose contamination like dust, earth and sand from the floor surface. It consists of yarn and / or microfiber and is used as a first step in cleaning a floor. Professional dry mops consists of a flat sheet of micro fibre about 15 cm wide.

    The dry mop can in many instances replace a broom and has the ability to hold a limited amount of dust or sand within itself. Ideally, it should be machine washed when it becomes saturated with dust.

  2. Wet mop, moist mop
    A wet mop or moist mop is, in professional cleaning, used as a second step in the cleaning of a surface. The wet mop is swept over the surface to dissolve and absorb fat, mud and dried-in liquid contaminations.

  3. Yarn mop
    A yarn mop is usually mounted on a long (about 1.5 m) handle with a ganged end on which the mop can be fastened by turning it clockwise. To clean a floor, the mop is soaked in a bucket of water, usually mixed with a cleaning solution and swept against the surface.

    Yarn mops are also often used to clean up liquid spills. In professional cleaning, mops are often pre impregnated with an ideal amount of liquid.

  4. Mop for remoistening
    Mops for pre-moistening are flat sheets about 15 cm wide, and comes in variable lengths (usually 30 to 100cm). Pre-moistening can be done with a special washing machine or by hand by simply folding and packing the mops tight in a container and pouring the measured amount of water over them. Advantages with pre-moistening are:

    The cleaner does not have to have a bucket of water with him / her when cleaning the floor, but simply carries an appropriate amount of mops.

    The risk of over-wetting the floor and leaving pools of water which collects dust is eliminated if the wetting is ideal.

  5. Hot mop
    Wet mop is also called the hot mop, which works on a similar concept to a steam iron. After adding water, it is heated to make the water exude on top of a floor, which can then be cleaned without using a cleaning solvent. These can work best on surfaces where a regular mop would also be used, such as floors, hearths, and laminates.


A broom is a cleaning tool consisting of stiff fibres attached to, and roughly parallel to, a cylindrical handle, the broomstick. A smaller whisk broom or brush is sometimes called a duster.

Melamine Foam

The foam, having its microporous properties, may remove “uncleanable” external markings from relatively smooth surfaces. For example, it can remove crayon, magic marker, and grease from painted walls, wood finishings, and grime from hub caps.


A squeegee is a cleaning tool with a flat, smooth and thick rubber blade, used to remove or control the flow of liquid on a flat surface. It is used for cleaning floors and small thin and flexible squeegee is used for cleaning windows.


  1. Floor cloths
    It is a yarn fabric usually made from loosely

  2. Wipes and swabs
    They are used for removal of spillages from the floor for wet cleaning of surfaces above floor level.

  3. Scrim
    It is a loosely woven linen cloth which is absorbent and does not leave stains. They are suitable for cleaning glazed area.

  4. Rags /Disposable cloths
    This old discarded linen are obtained from the linen room and used for the purpose of general cleaning. They are discarded when heavily soiled.

  5. Dust sheets
    These are thin cotton sheets used to cover furniture especially during special/ spring cleaning. They are also old discarded linen obtained from linen room.

  6. Drugget
    It is a sort of cheap stuff, very thin and narrow, usually made of wool, or half wool and half silk or linen; it may have been corded or plain. They are used for rugs, tablecloths, carpet square to protect the floor during bad weather and during redecoration.

Carpet Sweeper

These are thick fabric cloths placed under the buckets to prevent marking of the floor/ surface. They are used for cleaning windows and mirrors. A carpet sweeper is a mechanical device for the cleaning of carpets in place.

However, some restaurants continue to use them (as they are lightweight and very quiet, enabling the wait staff to quickly clean crumbs up from the floor without disturbing other diners. A carpet sweeper typically consists of a small box.

The base of the box has rollers and brushes, connected by a belt or gears. There is also a container for dirt. The arrangement is such that when pushed along a floor the rollers turn and force the brushes to rotate.

The brushes sweep dirt and dust from the floor and deposit the particles into the container.

Carpet sweepers would frequently have a height adjustment that enabled them to work on different lengths of carpet, or carpetless floors. The sweeper would usually have a long handle so that it could be pushed without bending over.

Spray Bottle

A Spray Bottle is a bottle that can squirt, spray or mist fluids. A common use for spray bottles is dispensing cleaners and chemical formulation through a fine nozzle for cleaning.

Mechanical Cleaning Equipment

Vacuum Cleaners

A vacuum cleaner uses an air pump to create a partial vacuum to suck up dust and dirt, usually from floors. Most hotels with carpeted floors possess a vacuum cleaner for cleaning. The dirt is collected by a filtering system or a cyclone for later disposal. Vacuum cleaners come in a variety of models owing to their usage:

Scrubbing / Polishing Machines

Scrubbing/ Polishing Machines consist of one large or several small brushes which revolve and scrub the floor while water and detergent are released from a tank attached to a machine. With suitable brushes this versatile machine can be used for shampooing carpets, polishing, spray buffing, spray cleaning or polishing floors.

Hot Water Extraction

Hot water extraction is also known as “steam cleaning” is the method of deep rinse cleaning of the entire carpet. But actual live steam (vapour created at the boiling point of water) is not employed in the cleaning process. Hot water extraction is a deep cleaning process that removes embedded soils that have been carried or blown over the carpet.

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