Here's What Hotel Housekeepers Wish You Knew (And What They Wish They Could Tell You)

When you stay at a hotel, you're kind of suspending reality a bit. Regardless of the hotel's quality, from budget inns on the interstate to ultra-luxe resorts, you'll still have the privilege of a housekeeping staff and a front desk trained to satisfy the requests of guests. Unfortunately, many hotel guest abuse this privilege. Whether it's trashing a hotel room, being too demanding, or acting generally rude to staff, a hotel's staff puts up with a lot of bad behavior, especially the housekeeping staff.

Whether you'd like to consider it or not, the hotel's housekeepers will get to know you rather intimately during your stay. From the sheer amount of cleaning that housekeepers perform each day to what your luggage says about your traveling style, there are plenty of things that hotel housekeepers wish you knew. If you'd like to be a more considerate hotel guest — while saving yourself a little embarrassment — here are some things to consider before your next hotel stay.

You will be judged by the hotel staff

For some, housekeeping services may be one of the highlights of a hotel stay. This can be especially true for those regularly tasked with cleaning up their own household or parents of young (and messy) children. If you're on vacation, who doesn't appreciate a whole team hired to clean up after you? However, to enjoy housekeeping services, we need to compromise our privacy a bit. This lack of privacy means the housekeepers will get to know you pretty intimately during your stay, which is something to keep in mind when traveling.

Many housekeepers admit that it's impossible not to judge someone based on their luggage and belongings. While housekeepers may not even see the guest in person, they tend to get a vibe from the contents of the room. If maintaining a good appearance is important to you, make note of any items you might want to discreetly hide during their visits. 

A little modesty helps retain boundaries

Hotels are kind of strange places. Yes, you're paying to feel like you're at home, but you're not at home. You are instead at a place of business, and the housekeepers work at this business. So, your hotel room is designed to feel like a home away from home, but the housekeeping staff will visit your room each day if you don't place a "Do not disturb" sign on the door.

According to housekeeping staff members, if you want to retain some privacy, then you should be a bit more modest regarding your underwear. For one, housekeepers report that they don't exactly appreciate when guests are too "comfortable" in regards to leaving everything out in the open. After all, the hotel staff is already cleaning up behind you. There's no reason to make it unnecessarily uncomfortable.

While they'd never tell a hotel guest this, the staff typically appreciates some boundaries in their day-to-day work. If you value your privacy and/or want to be considerate of the staff, then you should also consider placing your underwear and other "sensitive items" in your luggage versus strewn everywhere.

There are right and wrong ways to help the housekeeping staff

If you tend to be a helpful guest or a guest who's empathetic to the hard work of the housekeeping staff, then the housekeeping staff may (or may not) appreciate your assistance. For starters, guests who are somewhat tidy (or at least don't slovenly celebrate staying at a hotel) are typically helpful enough.

The housekeeping staff may clean a dozen or more rooms per day. As you can probably imagine, a few manageable rooms per day can really help the staff's workload. However, being helpful can be a bit troublesome. For instance, according to housekeepers, you shouldn't make the bed when checking out. By doing so, especially if you do a good job, the staff may assume you didn't stay in the room the night previous, so they may not change the sheets.

To help the staff (and the next guests), it's better to simply pile your sheets on the ground. This makes it clear that the sheets require changing. This "make a pile" action is true for towels, too. If your towels and sheets are placed on the ground, there's no ambiguity to their cleanliness.

Make use of your do not disturb sign

We've all probably been guilty of this, but there's no reason to be snarky or rude when the housekeeping staff knocks on our door. If we didn't place our do not disturb sign up, then the housekeeping staff is doing exactly what they're hired to do — get inside our room and clean it. There's absolutely no way for them to know if we want our room cleaned or not. So, if you did forget to place your sign up, simply apologize and place your sign up after speaking with housekeeping.

Also, while there's no reason to be shy about wanting our rooms cleaned, there's typically also no reason to have your room cleaned daily. If you were at home, would you change your sheets every night or use your towels only once? If you were to ask, housekeepers know that the largest water and energy consumption of the hotel is used for washing linens. If you want to be a more sustainable and eco-friendly traveler, skipping a few days of housekeeping can significantly reduce your carbon footprint when traveling (and the workload of an often overworked staff).

Tips and gifts are highly appreciated (and rare)

In the U.S., the service industry is kept afloat by tip culture, and tipping hotel housekeeping is no different. While perhaps not always true, many housekeepers make minimum wage or a low hourly wage. According to housekeepers, leaving just a dollar or two per day is much appreciated, or if you'd prefer, one larger tip upon checkout that considers each day of cleaning is acceptable.

While you may think tipping the housekeeping staff is a pretty widely accepted cultural norm, housekeepers maintain that tipping is actually pretty rare. In fact, housekeepers report that only a fraction of guests actually leave tips. While they'd never explain this to guests directly, these tips can greatly improve livelihoods, and let's be real, leaving a few bucks is warranted in terms of the hard work performed.

Along with tips, housekeepers also report that they appreciate unopened drinks and snacks left in the fridge. "We work hard, and (especially in hot areas) there's nothing better than finding a cold drink or ice cream during your shift," one housekeeper told Business Insider. Who knew?

But it actually helps if you allow some cleaning

It's admirable and good personal policy to leave the smallest carbon footprint possible when traveling. Full stop. However, we should be cognizant of two things when refusing hotel room cleanings. There can be a human toll of eco-friendliness in terms of difficulty cleaning the room later and the potential of shift cuts.

So, for one, cleaning after a week's-stay can be much more difficult than continually keeping the room quasi-clean. Let's say you spill coffee on the floor. That stain must be cleaned, and it's a lot easier to clean a fresh stain than a week-old one. Depending on the hotel and the size of the room, housekeepers may have 30-45 minutes to clean each room. It doesn't matter if the room's a pigsty or immaculate, they can only allot a certain amount of time to each room.

Secondly, if enough people refuse room cleanings, then the cleaning staff may have their shifts cut. In an interview with Woman's Day, Brigida, a Toronto-based housekeeper, explains. "If 100 guests choose not to have their room cleaned at my hotel, then the next day six to eight housekeepers get a call that they don't have to come in to work," says Brigida.

When staying at a hotel, it seems thoughtful to find a balance between considering the human cost and the environmental cost. If nothing else, if you're committed to eco-friendly practices by refusing daily cleanings, which is proper on many levels, perhaps consider supplementing the staff's potential lost income with a decent tip.

Housekeepers know if you've had a rendezvous

Okay, this insight is self-explanatory. Hotels are hotels. And, whether you're on a honeymoon or entertaining (hopefully) another guest, the context clues will definitely inform the housekeeping staff. In an interview with Reader's Digest, Anaïs Lucia, a former housekeeper and current travel vlogger says, "A messy bed with the sheets strewn all about as a pretty dead giveaway, as well as finding certain hairs on the sheets, and (gross!) condom wrappers. Please throw those away!"

If you can imagine (or, better yet, try not to), this type of scenario is baked into the hotel housekeeping gig. However, there's a level of etiquette to these things. A romp's a romp. A vacation's a vacation. Love's love. Bodies in motion, etc., but when it comes to this level of intimacy, try to empathize with the staff. It's enough that they're cleaning for you, so try not to leave a biohazard. Hygiene and safety for all involved should be at the forefront of our morning minds.

Star ratings often reflect cleanliness standards

We really try to avoid generalizations. In our experience, a four-star resort isn't always immaculate (just sometimes overpriced), while the quirk and charm of a two-star motel may make for a fantastic stay. In the U.S., the hotel industry's star-rating system is self-monitored and managed by the industry itself. In other words, there's no rating association or regulatory body that set star-rating standards. With that said, star ratings can reflect cleanliness standards.

"Where I work now, bedding and pillows are replaced at every check-out," explained a housekeeper working at a five-star hotel in Orlando in an interview with Trivago. "However, before, when I used to work at a budget hotel, we rarely changed them, even when there were sweat stains or marks on the pillow, we would just cover it with a new case — some differences between staying in a budget hotel and a luxury hotel."

Again, we want to avoid generalizations, but a cleanliness standard is a large consideration when it comes to star-rating estimations — just like the hotel's location, amenities, and overall quality of the accommodations. If nothing else, consider the star rating to manage expectations. Your two-star hotel room may be dinner-off-floor clean, but you'll also need to be realistic if traveling on a budget.

Naps happen, especially in nicer suites

We found this surprising, but maybe this gem of a housekeeper's secret shouldn't have been — naps happen. In the same interview with Trivago, published by Huff Post, the Orlando-based housekeeper lifts the veil a little more when asked if housekeeping staff ever take power-naps to get through the day. "Yes, we do actually — if we are really tired and have the time. For example, if we are doing a large suite and are given longer to clean it, we will have a nap in the beds," the housekeeper explained.

And before we get all huffed and puffed, housekeepers may clean up to 30 rooms per day. If we haven't learned anything thus far, we've learned that housekeepers work hard and are exposed to daily experiences that would wipe out most of us. And another consideration in terms of napping — you can definitely guarantee your sheets are clean. Trust, housekeepers change the sheets when catching a quick snooze.

Help out by removing your stuff from the bed

One thing that's easy to do, as a considerate hotel guest, is to remove your stuff off your bed. There are a few unspoken (and written) policies that housekeepers adhere to. One of these policies includes trying their best to not touch your belongings. While they'll clean out your trash and perhaps the general trail of vacation life, your belongings are a different story. While it doesn't happen often, if a guest loses something — something valuable — then the amateur detective work performed by a guest may point an uncredible finger at staff. To completely avoid this, housekeeping tries its very best to just not touch your property.

However, it's problematic when your belongings are on your bed. While your bathroom will usually always be sanitized, the room vacuumed, and surfaces wiped, your bed is the crown jewel of room-cleaning proof, so it will always be made. So, when these two policies collide — make the bed and try not to touch the guests' property — leaving your stuff on the bed is tough. We're all guilty of throwing our clothes, luggage, and whatever else on the bed, but if you can remember, just try to help the housekeeping staff by placing your stuff in other places.

You may be able to request a time for cleaning

If you really want to sleep in, go ahead and place your Do Not Disturb sign on the door. You don't need to worry about your room not getting cleaned. At most large hotel chains, you can actually request housekeeping services later in the day, whether that's a full cleaning, changing towels, or more coffee and tea. Simply call the front desk to arrange it.

In an interview with The Points Guy, Fabiola Benavides, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, and Myleen Hermano, a housekeeper at the Sheraton Princess in Honolulu, both reported that housekeeping services could be requested until 9 p.m. at their respective hotels. However, you may want to check your hotel's particular policy upon check-in.

Also, housekeepers typically receive a list of guests with a late checkout, so they'll know if you requested a few more hours of relaxing and wait until you're gone before cleaning.

People die in hotel rooms (rather frequently)

A previous hotel guest dying in our now current room is something we'd rather not think about. However, this happens more than we realize, and cleaning crews are largely tasked with handling the clean-up. Obviously, depending on the specific incident, more specialized cleaners may assist, but the hotel's housekeeping staff still performs the bulk of the work.

When a death in a hotel occurs, a normal protocol includes removing any stains and sanitizing the room with industrial-strength cleaners. That's about it. Depending on the city or country and specific circumstances, regulations may require a quarantine period. However, there are plenty of stories concerning hotels trying to avoid quarantine periods to make the room available as soon as possible. Needless to say, housekeepers are strictly forbidden from talking about someone dying in a hotel room. In other words, you'd probably never know if someone permanently checked out before your arrival.

The pay for housekeepers can vary dramatically

Unfortunately, there's no real standard of pay for housekeepers, even within the same hotel chain. In an interview with Woman's Day, Annemarie Strassel, a spokeswoman for Unite Here's Hotel Workers Rising campaign, explains. "In a city like Chicago, where the majority of hotels are unionized, housekeepers make $14.60 an hour," says Strassel. "But in a city like Indianapolis, where there are no union hotels, a housekeeper at that same chain will be making about half that."

Although housekeepers typically earn a low hourly wage, their shift involves cleaning a quota of rooms each day versus receiving payment per room. Whether this quota includes cleaning 15 or 30 rooms in a shift, housekeepers' pay remains the same.

Considering this (and everything else we've discussed), it seems like good travel practice to leave both your hotel room reasonably clean with a reasonable tip. As a quick aside, when leaving a tip, you should probably also leave a note or place the cash under the pillow to clearly indicate that the money is for housekeeping.