7 Must-know Topics to Successfully Learn English for Hotel Housekeeping
Housekeeping is a service that will always be needed, and it provides a lot of employment opportunities.
This is especially true when compared to other fields that require more English skills. Even so, there are some vocabulary you’ll need to know to succeed.
To guide you on your path to use English successfully as a hotel housekeeper, we have put together a helpful list featuring seven topics that housekeepers must be able to understand and talk about in English.
- 1. Reading Room Assignment Sheets
- 2. Knowing Where Things Are
- 3. Following Cleaning Instructions
- 4. Taking Care of Guest Requests
- 5. Listening to Complaints and Problems
- 6. Responding to Guest Complaints
- 7. Staying Safe and Emergencies
1. Reading Room Assignment Sheets
To know which rooms to clean every day, you will probably receive a room assignment sheet. This piece of paper will list hotel rooms by room number. It will tell you exactly what needs to be done in each room.
Different hotels use different columns and terms for their room assignment sheets, but here are some words you might see on yours.
- room status — This means the current situation in the room. Will a guest check out (leave) today? Is a guest sleeping over for another night? Many of the terms below are possible room statuses.
- unoccupied — This means no one is in the room. Its opposite, occupied, means that someone is staying in the room.
- checked out — This means that the guest has settled (paid) their bill at the front desk and left the hotel. Some hotels use “checked out and gone” for this same status.
- due-out — The guest has not yet checked out, but they are expected (due) to leave by the check-out time that morning. Other schedules might use “checking out today” for this room status.
- stayover — The guest will be staying over another night, and is not due to check out.
- sleep out — The guest is still staying in the room, but the bed was not slept in the night before.
- skipper — A guest has left the hotel without paying their bill and without correctly checking out.
- do not disturb (DND) — Guests might place a “do not disturb” sign on their door handle, meaning they do not want to be bothered (disturbed). Do not knock on the door to clean their room.
- no service today — The room does not want service today.
- time in — The time that you enter the room to begin cleaning. If you are working somewhere that uses the 12-hour clock, be sure to use “a.m.” if it is in the morning and “p.m.” if it is in the afternoon or night. For example, 1:30 p.m. is an hour and a half after noon (13:30).
- time out — The time that you leave the room when you are finished cleaning.
- remarks/comments — This is a place for you to write any additional notes or comments about a certain room.
- maintenance issues — These are problems that need to be fixed by the hotel’s maintenance employees. Such problems might involve the lights, electrical outlets, sinks, toilets or showers, for example.
- signature — This is where you sign your name. When you sign a room assignment sheet, you are usually agreeing that all of the information you wrote is correct.
Sample room assignment sheets
Here are two sample room assignment sheets to practice understanding the columns and terms.
- Room Attendant Sheet — This sample comes from a company called Set Up My Hotel. Notice the “Codes” section at the bottom of the sheet. This tells you to write short codes (abbreviations) in the chart, like “S/O” for “Sleep Out”and “DND” for “Do Not Disturb.”
- Room Assignment Sheet — Go to pages 20-23 of this PDF to see some sample room assignment sheets. The final column, “Initial,” wants you to write the initials of your name instead of a signature. This means the first letter of your first name, and the first letter of your last name. For example, Mickey Mouse would write “MM” for his initials, and Edgar Allan Poe would write “EAP.”
2. Knowing Where Things Are
Whether you are receiving instructions from your manager or talking to a guest, as a hotel housekeeper you must be able to describe locations of items. Did the guest forget their phone on the night table, in the desk drawer or under the bed?
To talk about a specific location, you must know your English prepositions. These words are used to describe position (location), direction and time.
Here are some common prepositions: at, on, in, under, above, next to, beside, by, between, across, from.
There are many more, so here is a complete list. That page also has very clear explanations and examples, so it’s a good resource to start with. Pages 52-53 of this PDF have big word cards of common prepositions for housekeepers, which is another great tool to use when learning.
As mentioned, prepositions are also used to describe certain times. For example: Are you supposed to clean room 302 in the morning, at noon or during the afternoon? This is another reason why prepositions are important to learn now.
Here are some videos to help you learn prepositions:
- Prepositions: In, On, By — This video shows example sentences and pictures to help you learn the prepositions in, on and by.
- Where Is It? — This basic song is one of those tunes that will easily get stuck in your head! It focuses on the three prepositions on, in and under.
If you like written quizzes, here are some online preposition tests with answers:
- Prepositions of Place: At, In, On (via Really Learn English!) — Here are three links to different exercises for the prepositions at, in and on. Scroll up to see many helpful example sentence with images.
- English Prepositions (via World-English) — For each question, the options are in, at or to. Say the answer in your mind, say it out loud and/or write it down. To check your guess, click on the pull-down in the blank to see the answer.
- Quiz on Prepositions (via Capital Community College) — This is a multiple choice quiz with 20 questions. Click the “Please Grade the Quiz” button at the bottom of the page to see the answers.
- Preposition Basics (via English Page) — The eight links in the “Preposition Basics” section are all links to quizzes.
3. Following Cleaning Instructions
You will also need to know the language for common cleaning instructions. These words will be very important to know for your training, so that you understand directions.
Here are some common verbs (action words) with example instructions.
- flush — to press the lever on a toilet that makes clean water to flow in
Flush the toilet after cleaning the toilet bowl.
- scrub — to clean something by rubbing it hard
Scrub the bathtub using a sponge and the cleaner in spray bottle #4.
- wipe (up) —to clean by rubbing with a cloth; to move something over a surface
Wipe the counters with a clean cloth.
- change — to replace something with another
Change the sheets on the bed. (Put new sheets on the bed.)
Change the toilet paper when you clean the bathroom. (Replace the used toilet paper roll with a new one.)
- rinse — to wash with plain water and no soap
After you scrub the shower, rinse it with water to completely remove the cleaning product.
- polish — to clean by rubbing in order to make something smooth and shiny
Use a cloth and furniture polish to polish the table and desk.
- wash — to clean with water and soap
Bring the dirty linens to the laundry room where we will wash them.
- spray — to release (squirt out) very small droplets of a liquid
Spray the mirrors and windows with window cleaner, then wipe them with a clean cloth.
- fold — to bend
Fold the clean towels neatly and set them on the shelf in the bathroom.
- vacuum — to clean a floor with a vacuum cleaner
Vacuum the carpet and rugs in every room.
- mop — to wash a floor with a mop
After you sweep the floors, mop them using hot water, floor cleaner and a mop.
- disinfect — to kill germs and bacteria
Disinfect (sanitize) the counters with this disinfecting spray.
- dust — to clean by removing dust
Remove the newspapers and magazines, and then dust the coffee table.
- empty — to remove something; opposite of “fill”
Empty (take out) the trash once you’ve finished cleaning.
- check — to look carefully
Open the desk drawers and check for forgotten items.
- throw out — to put in the trash/garbage
Throw out any trash you find on the counters.
- tidy up — to make something clean and organized
Tidy up (straighten up) the bookcase when you clean the master suite.
- refill — to replace; to fill again
Refill the mini-fridge with soda and water.
- turn off — to stop something by pressing an “off” button or turning a switch
Don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave the room.
- unplug — to remove a plug from an electrical outlet
Make sure to unplug the iron after using it.
Resources to practice/learn cleaning instructions
- Guest Room Attendant Rubric — This is actually a rubric for a competition, but many statements on these three pages are useful. Start at the “Safety and Sanitation” section of page 1, and then work your way through the rest of the document.
- Hotel Housekeeping Tutorial — This site can serve as a handy checklist for hotel housekeeping tasks. It covers cleaning unoccupied vs. occupied rooms, laundry and linen maintenance, preparing your cleaning supplies and more.
- Room Attendant Job Description — On this job description, look at the “duties and responsibilities” section. Can you do each of the tasks? Do you know what all of the words mean?
- OP Hospitality – How to Clean a Guest Room — This document has step-by-step instructions for cleaning a guest room. How many of the words from our list do you see? Look for other words that you see over and over?
- Housekeeping Trainee Manual — Page 50 of this PDF shows instructions for how to make a bed. Can you follow along?
4. Taking Care of Guest Requests
If a guest sees you during the day, they may request (ask you for) extra items. When someone asks for something, it’s called a request. Here are some different ways that guests might ask you for more of something, followed by a sample conversation.
The sample conversations will show you some ways to respond to common guest requests. Although you might not always have guests that are this polite, the phrases can be used in many situations.
Could I have a new ~?
Guest: Excuse me, could I have a new towel?
Housekeeping: Sure! Here you are.
Guest: Thank you!
Do you have more ~? / Could you bring us more ~?
Guest: Could you bring us some more toilet paper?
Housekeeping: Of course! What’s your room number?
Housekeeping: Okay, I’ll bring you some right away.
We have no ~. / We’re out of ~. / We ran out of ~.
Guest: Excuse me, we’re all out of shampoo. Could you bring us some more?
Housekeeping: Yes, of course! Is one bottle enough?
Guest: That would be great, thanks.
I don’t have any ~. / ~ is missing.
Guest: The iron is missing from our room, and I really need to iron a shirt.
Housekeeping: I’m so sorry about that. Do you have the ironing board?
Guest: Yeah, the board is here. We just don’t have an iron.
Housekeeping: Okay, I’ll bring you one right away.
How to respond to guest requests
To help summarize, here are some phrases you might use when guests ask for more of something:
- I’m sorry about that
- Of course / Sure
- How many do you need?
- Let me check for you
- I’ll bring you one right away
- What’s your room number?
- Here you are
5. Listening to Complaints and Problems
In addition to requests, unfortunately some guests will always have problems or complaints. Here are some phrases you might hear, with an example complaint for each.
- ~ is wet
The floor is wet in the bathroom.
- ~ is dirty / ~ isn’t clean
The sink is dirty.
- ~ is broken / ~ doesn’t work
The hair dryer is broken.
- ~ is empty/full
The garbage is full! It looks like it hasn’t been emptied in days!
- there’s hair on/in ~
There’s hair on the bed pillow. Are these really clean sheets?
- there’s a bad/weird odor (smell)
There’s a really bad smell out on the patio.
- the water is too hot/cold
The water in the shower is too hot.
- the toilet is clogged (does not flush)
The toilet is clogged in room 204. We need a plumber ASAP (as soon as possible)!
- ~ is overflowing (flowing over the edge/top of something)
The plumber never came, and now the toilet is now overflowing! Help—there’s water spilling onto the floor!
- ~ is dripping
The faucet is dripping in the kitchen sink.
- ~ is stained
The carpet in our room is stained; it looks really dirty.
- I spilled ~
I’m so sorry, I just spilled red wine on the carpet. Do you have any carpet cleaner I can use to get the stain out?
- there’s no electricity / the power went out
The power went out in our room—what’s going on?
- out of order (Note: this is sometimes abbreviated in housekeeping forms/guides as “ooo“)
The vending machine in the lobby is out of order. Is there another nearby?
6. Responding to Guest Complaints
It is important to be polite and kind towards guests, even if they are rude or upset. Listen closely without interrupting and make eye contact. Here are some phrases you can use when guests have complaints:
- I’m so sorry about that
- I sincerely apologize (for…)
- Thank you for bringing this to our attention
- Thanks so much for letting us know
To show empathy (understanding)
- I understand how you must feel
- I can understand your frustration
- I know how upsetting it must be to…
- I realize how frustrating it is to…
- I will get someone to…
- I will… right away
- Unfortunately… , but what I can do for you is….
- I can offer you…
- I’ll call … right now to fix this
- I’m calling my manager right now
Since complaints are not usually fun, we’ve found a way to make your practice entertaining! You can use this 2014 Travel article of the most bizarre Trip Advisor hotel reviews to role-play. How would you respond to such terrible complaints?
If those situations are too strange/funny for you, you can always find average (regular) hotel reviews on Trip Advisor. Type in a city or hotel name in the search box and click on a hotel to read guest reviews. Imagine this guest is standing in front of you, saying their complaints. Then, practice saying your responses out loud.
To be the most effective in dealing with guests, it’d be a good idea to learn to understand native English speakers with ease. After all, the English-speaking world has numerous accents that all require getting used to.
A virtual immersion program can help with this. FluentU, for example, uses culturally-relevant videos in English along with tools like interactive subtitles, which will help you learn new words and connect them with how they’re pronounced.
7. Staying Safe and Emergencies
Lastly, it is very important to stay safe while working and to know what to do in case of an emergency. Your hotel should provide safety and emergency training.
At your safety training when you start working at a hotel, make sure you understand everything clearly. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and take materials home to study if you need to. Knowing safety guidelines and emergency procedures will not just help keep you safe, but also guests.
Here are some words and phrases you might see in safety/emergency training:
- emergency action plan — This is a guide that tells what action to take in case of an emergency, such as a fire, crime or health problems.
- fire alarm — This is the loud sound that will go off when there is a fire. The loud alarm and blinking lights will alert people of the fire.
- fire exit door — These are doors that should be used when there’s a fire to get people out faster. They are clearly marked as a “fire exit.”
- evacuate — To evacuate means to leave quickly and go to a safer place. During a fire, for example, everyone should evacuate the hotel.
- first aid kit — This is a set of items used to treat physical injuries. Items in a first aid kit often include band-aids (adhesive bandages), medical gloves, gauze, bandages, cloth tape and aspirin.
- hazard — Hazards are dangers or risks. For a safe workplace, you should pay attention and eliminate any hazards you see. Possible hazards in hotels include harmful cleaning chemicals, cleaning carts blocking a hallway, wet floors (someone could slip and fall), electrical cords that someone could trip over, etc.
- severe weather — When weather can be dangerous, it is called severe weather. Depending on where you work, this could include floods (lots of rain), tornados, thunderstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards (strong winter storm) or extreme heat.
To practice these safety words and others, watch this safety training video: Stay Safe: Awareness Training for Housekeepers. It is almost a half hour long, so you might want to watch ten minutes at a time on three different days.
Now it is up to you to use this list to reach your goals. Maybe you’ll learn one topic each month, or spend a week learning each point. Go at whatever pace (speed) is best for you.
By becoming comfortable with these seven topics, you will be well prepared to work as a housekeeper in any English-speaking hotel.
We wish you the best of luck, much success and few guest complaints!
Rebecca Thering is a freelance writer and editor who has taught English in Spain, South Korea and France. She offers online English lessons, editing services, and more for English learners at English With Rebe.