housekeeping vocabulary english for work

English for Hotel Housekeeping Work: 64+ Essential Vocabulary Words for Spotless, Professional English

The tallest hotel in the world is in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

It’s 1,165 feet tall and has 77 floors.

The most expensive hotel in the world is in Geneva, Switzerland.

In 2014, their most expensive suite cost $83,200 per night.

What do these two hotels have in common?

They are both cleaned by hardworking housekeepers—who can communicate in English.

It does not matter if the hotel you work in is expensive or cheap, tall or short, new or old. If it is in an English-speaking country or a large international city, you will need to be able to communicate in English as a hotel housekeeper.

But don’t worry! With the help of this post, you will learn more than 64 useful English words for working as a hotel housekeeper.

Note: The words in this post are not the only words you will need to know. Here is a guide of very important hotel vocabulary words, including types of beds and rooms, room features, inside a hotel room, hotel staff and more. We highly recommend that you become familiar with these words too.

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Resources for Learning English Vocabulary for Hotel Housekeeping

First, here are some resources to help you practice and learn more vocabulary for hotel housekeeping.

Hotel product websites

Hotels need to buy all of the items inside and replace them when needed. This means there are many companies who produce (make) items just for hotels. Their websites are a perfect place to practice and learn vocabulary for housekeeping, because each product (item) comes with a picture.

  • National Hospitality — On this American company’s site, you will want to check out categories like “Bath,” “Bedding,” “In-Room” and “Housekeeping” first.
  • American Hotel — This is a great website to learn the names of cleaning products and tools. If you will be working in the United States, these are the same brands and terms that you will likely see at your hotel.
  • Hotel Supplies — This is a UK site, so start here if you want to work in the UK or Europe.

FluentU hotel vocab flashcards

FluentU is a language learning platform where you can learn English through real-world videos. FluentU also has interactive flashcards, and this set has 135 must-know words for working in a hotel.

There are many different types of videos, as you can see here:

housekeeping-vocabulary-english-for-work

FluentU makes it easy to watch and understand native English videos with interactive captions. Tap or click on any word to see what it means, learn how to use it, hear it pronounced and more.

housekeeping-vocabulary-english-for-work

For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” then you see this:

housekeeping-vocabulary-english-for-work

You can learn any video’s vocabulary with FluentU’s fun quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

Learn English with FluentU

The videos are organized by genre and level, so it’s super easy to find the ones that work for you. FluentU also keeps track of your learning, then suggests videos and examples perfect for you.

Start using FluentU on the website or download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.

Housekeeping training videos

Some hotels have put their training videos online. These are really useful because you can see what actions the people are doing while they are talking about that specific cleaning task.

  • This training video from Outer Banks Resort Realty teaches housekeepers how to clean a bedroom.
  • This 10-minute training video from Fairfield Inn & Suites begins with a description of a housekeeper’s cart, and then teaches how to clean various rooms.

Hotel housekeeping training manuals

This is an incredible housekeeping learner’s manual that you can use to learn hotel vocabulary, and so much more. It is a huge document with lots of text, so here are some more visual pages that might be useful to start with:

  • Page 35 — A helpful chart of types of cleaning solutions
  • Page 54 — An image of a housekeeping cart, and a list of items usually found on the cart
  • Page 60 — Steps for changing/making a bed
  • Page 71 — A room inspection (check) report

English for Work: 64+ Essential Vocabulary Words for Hotel Housekeeping

In the bedroom

  • headboard — This is a beautiful piece of wood that stands up vertically against the wall at the head of the bed for decoration. The name is pretty easy to remember, as it is a board by your head.
  • mattress — This is the soft cushion on top of a bed, on which people sleep.
  • box-spring — This is a hard box that is the same size as the mattress of a bed. It has springs inside, it is covered in cloth and it sits underneath the mattress. (Note: Beds with box-springs are most common in the United States, Canada and Australia.)
  • bed skirt — Imagine a bed wearing a skirt. That is where “bed skirt” got its name. It is a thin sheet with short, decorative fabric that hangs down along all of the edges to cover the gap (space) between the floor and the box-spring. Here’s a quick video that shows how to put a bed skirt onto a bed, by placing it between the box-spring and the mattress.
  • fitted sheet — This is the first sheet to go on a mattress, and has round, “fitted” corners. It is made to fit the shape of the mattress. These sheets can be tricky to fold, so here’s a funny video with Martha Stewart that teaches how to fold a fitted sheet.
  • flat sheet — The sheet that goes on top of the fitted sheet is called a flat sheet.
  • bedspread/comforter — The thicker blanket that goes on top of the flat sheet and covers the bed is called a bedspread or comforter. Both words are used commonly. In this Ikea catalogue it is called a bedspread, while this Target catalogue uses the word comforter.
  • pillows — Pillows are soft rectangles that make your head comfortable while you sleep. The fabric that covers a pillow is called a pillow case.
  • night table — The small tables on either side of the bed are called night tables.
  • alarm clock — This is a small digital clock that can also be used to set an alarm.
  • lamp — On a night table you will often find a lamp, which is a small light so people can see at night. It has a light bulb inside, which needs to be replaced every now and then when it “burns out” and no longer produces light. On some lamps, the light bulb is covered by a lampshade to make it look prettier. (You can see here that the Pixar lamp has a light bulb, but it does not have a lampshade.)
  • outlet — The alarm clock, lamp and other electronics are plugged into electric outlets, found on the walls. The part at the end of the cord with two electric prongs is called a plug. You put the plug in the socket (on the wall) to “plug in” the device. You can see the Pixar lamp’s cord and plug in this cute little video.
  • garbage bag/liner — The plastic bag put inside empty trash/garbage cans can be called a garbage bag or liner.
  • mints — Mints are small, flavored candies that make your breath smell good. They are made with spearmint or peppermint. Sometimes housekeepers in hotels leave these on the pillows after they clean.
  • ice bucket — This is a small, plastic container—usually lined with a plastic bag—where guests can put ice (from the ice machine in the hallway).
  • closet — In a bedroom, this is where clothes can be hung and stored. Clothes are hung on hangers.
  • luggage rack — This is a small surface where guests can put their luggage (suitcases), to keep it off the floor. In hotels, luggage racks usually fold up, so they do not take up space while not in use.
  • drawers — A dresser, desk or counter might have drawers that pull out so guests can store items inside. When cleaning rooms, it will be important to open drawers to make sure guests have not forgotten any items.
  • lost and found — If you do find items left behind by guests, the hotel should have a lost and found. This is an area to store items that belonged to guests and were found in the hotel. When guests lose something, they will ask if you have a lost and found.
  • thermostat — The thermostat is a small device on the wall which tells you the room’s temperature. It is also used to change the temperature in the room and make it warmer or cooler.
  • smoke detector — These are circular, battery-operated devices used to warn people of fires. They are usually put on the ceilings in rooms. If smoke detectors sense (detect) smoke, a loud alarm will sound.

In the bathroom

  • face cloth — Guests use this small, square cloth to wash their face. It can also be called a wash cloth.
  • hand towel — This is a small towel that guests use to dry their hands.
  • bath towel — A bath towel is a larger towel that guests use to dry themselves after taking a shower or bath.
  • bath mat — This mat is larger than a hand towel. Guests put it on the floor before taking a shower or bath to keep the floor dry when they get out.
  • toilet bowl — The bowl-shaped part of a toilet, filled with water, is the toilet bowl. You can see it when you flip open the toilet lid, which covers the toilet bowl when closed.
  • toilet seat — This is the horseshoe-shaped part of a toilet, where people sit.
  • toilet handle — To flush a toilet, you press this handle (lever). The toilet handle is attached to the toilet tank—the large, rectangular, covered part of a toilet that sits against the wall.
  • toilet paper — This is the roll of thin, soft paper used to clean oneself after going to the bathroom. After cleaning the bathroom, housekeepers will often fold the toilet paper like this to show that they have cleaned. Type “fancy toilet paper fold hotel” into a Google image search for some fun results.
  • plunger — This tool has a stick handle connected to a rubber cup base, and usually sits upright on the floor next to the toilet. It is used to fix plumbing (system of water pipes) problems in toilets.
  • bathroom vanity — A vanity is a North American word for a dressing table, which usually has a mirror and drawers. A bathroom vanity is similar, but will also have a sink—like this.
  • tiles — These are thin, square pieces of pottery used to cover floors or walls. They have a smooth, shiny surface (like these) which are okay to get wet. That is why they are most common in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • shower curtain — Regular curtains hang in front of windows to keep the light out and for privacy (so people cannot look in from outside). A shower curtain hangs in front of the shower to keep the water inside the shower/bath and to give people privacy.
  • shower head — Water comes out of the shower head when the shower is turned on. In North America, the shower head is usually attached to the wall, at the height just above someone’s head.
  • faucet — In a bathtub or sink, water comes out of the faucet.
  • drain — This is where water exits the sink or shower. Showers/bathtubs have a drain on the floor, and sinks also have a drain underneath where the faucet pours water. The verb to drain means to let water out gradually (little by little). For example, after taking a bath, you drain the bathtub by letting the water leave down the drain.
  • shower cap — When guests do not want to get their hair wet when taking a shower, they can use a shower cap to keep their hair dry. Many hotels provide shower caps for their guests.
  • air freshener — This is used to make the air smell clean, and is usually something that you spray into the air.

Hotel cleaning equipment and supplies

  • cart/trolley — Most housekeepers have a cart or trolley to store their cleaning materials and basic supplies. It is a shelf on wheels, so the cart can hold essential items and easily be pushed from room to room. Laundry carts are bins on wheels, in which you can put towels, sheets and other laundry items.
  • sponge — A sponge is a small rectangle of soft material that is used for cleaning. It can absorb (soak up) water, so you will use it with water and a cleaning product.
  • rag — This is an old cloth used for cleaning.
  • microfiber cloth — This type of cloth is very, very soft, and traps a lot more dirt than regular cloths and rags. It is spelled microfibre in many English-speaking countries outside of the United States.
  • duster — This tool has a fluffy, feather-like end for cleaning dust (and often spider webs!), usually in high places. When you dust surfaces like tables, however, you will likely use dusting spray and a rag/cloth instead.
  • broom — A broom is used to sweep the floors in order to clean away any dust or other tiny items. It has a long handle with a brush at the end. You sweep the dust into a dust pan, which you can then pick up and empty into a trash can.
  • mop — A mop is kind of like a broom, except it’s used to wash floors. Attached to the long handle will either be a large sponge or thick, loose strings that can soak up water. You usually use a bucket of water when mopping the floors.
  • wringer — After you dip a mop into a bucket of water, you will use a wringer to wring out (squeeze/twist out) extra water from the mop before putting it on the floor.
  • vacuum cleaner — This is a cleaning machine that sucks up dust and dirt from the floors. It is usually used on carpeted floors and some rugs, and it must be plugged in to work. Some vacuum cleaners have vacuum cleaner bags that need to be replaced when they are full. Other vacuums have a section that collects the dust and dirt, and needs to be emptied when it is full.
  • steam cleaner — This is a machine that uses hot steam (water vapor) to clean various surfaces. Some steam cleaners look like vacuums and are used to clean floors. Others are handheld (are held in your hand), and used to clean a variety of surfaces, such as windows, tiles, mirrors and more.
  • lint roller — Has a cat ever sat in your lap when you were wearing a black sweater? The cat probably left lots of cat hair on your sweater. A lint roller is a sticky, circular “brush” that you can roll over fabrics (like sweaters, couches, blankets, etc.) to remove hair and lint (short, tiny fibers from fabrics).
  • window/glass cleaner — This is a liquid substance used to clean surfaces like windows, glass and mirrors. It is almost always sold in a spray bottle so that you can easily spray the cleaning product onto the surface. Windex is a brand of window/glass cleaner sold in the United States, Canada and Germany, and it is easily recognized by its blue color.
  • squeegee — When washing windows or mirrors, you might use a squeegee to smoothly scrape off any dirt and the window cleaner without leaving smudges (marks) on the windows.
  • furniture polish — This is a cleaning liquid that you spray onto furniture and then rub with a cloth. Tables, desks, beds and chairs are all furniture—basic items that make a room livable. Not all furniture polishes can be used on the same surfaces. For example, Pledge furniture polish can be used on wood, laminate, stainless steel, leather, marble, granite and plastic surfaces.
  • multi-use — If a cleaning product is labeled multi-use, that means it can be used on multiple (many) surfaces (like Pledge furniture polish above), or for various uses. Be sure to read the label to know which surfaces the cleaning product is meant for.
  • non-toxic — Non-toxic cleaning products are not poisonous, so they are safe to use. Be very careful with toxic cleaning products, like our next word, bleach.
  • bleach — This is a chemical used to clean and disinfect (kill bacteria) certain surfaces like sinks and drains. It is also used to make linens (cloths) whiter. You will want to wear a face mask when cleaning with bleach. A face mask helps protect you from breathing in dangerous chemicals. And be careful—if you get bleach on your clothes, it will turn them lighter!
  • drain cleaner — This is a chemical liquid that you pour down drains to help keep them clean and unclogged (unblocked).
  • toilet bowl cleaner — This liquid is used to clean the inside of toilet bowls. You will spread the cleaning product around and scrub with a toilet bowl brush.
  • latex gloves — These are rubber gloves that you will wear over your hands to protect them while cleaning.

Whether you want to work in a regular hotel or an expensive one, you will need to know these words to work as a housecleaner. So start practicing today, and you might be the next housekeeper in Dubai or Geneva!


Rebecca Thering is a freelance writer and editor who has taught English in Spain, South Korea and France. She offers online lessons, editing services, free articles and more for English learners at English With Rebe.

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