How to protect and disinfect high-design interiors

In order to attract discriminating travelers, upscale and boutique hotels have invested heavily in high-design interiors and carefully curated artwork in recent years. Marble floors have replaced carpeting; custom-made furniture sits in place of cookie-cutter tables and chairs. Hotel lobbies have been designed for Instagram, with impressive staircases, luxurious seating and unique furnishings. Gone are the days when travelers would drop off their suitcases in their hotel rooms before dashing out the door to explore the area, only to return at night to rest their heads. Today, many hotels are destinations unto themselves. 

But like any other investment, these high-end features must be monitored and maintained. That used to mean polishing surfaces until they gleamed and scrubbing windows to maximize natural light. Now with the advent of COVID-19, it means cleaning for health as well as appearance.

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With the stringent cleaning and disinfecting procedures put in place in the wake of the pandemic, many hoteliers are uncertain about how to properly maintain and care for their bespoke, high-end interiors. Their top priority is the health and safety of their guests and employees, but they are afraid to use harsh disinfectants that may scratch or discolor surfaces. As a result, some hoteliers are considering toning down the aesthetics to simplify the cleaning process and avoid damaging their investments. 

Luckily, cleanliness does not have to come at the sacrifice of quality. It is possible to establish a thorough, upgraded cleaning protocol that keeps a hotel both safe and stunning. With the proper planning, preparation and professional help, hoteliers can help their guests breathe easy and ensure their hotels remain picture perfect.

Seeking Professional Assistance

While the hospitality industry as a whole is struggling right now, upscale and boutique hotels have been hit particularly hard. Many of these hotels operate independently and are not affiliated with a larger brand that can offer financial protection during slow times. Even those that are on more secure financial footing are needing to cut back on expenses in response to an unprecedented decline in revenue. 

While it may be tempting to try to contain costs by keeping the disinfection in-house instead of hiring trained professionals, this decision can cost more in the long term. Hoteliers would need to invest in training for their cleaning staff and purchase personal protective equipment like gloves, masks and safety goggles. They’d also have to buy the right disinfectant for their particular surfaces and the proper equipment to apply the disinfectant.

Electrostatic spraying is by far the most efficient and effective method for disinfecting surfaces. Unlike time-consuming wipes or less effective (and potentially harmful) foggers, electrostatic sprayers provide full coverage by allowing the disinfectant to wrap around and evenly coat surfaces. Professional-grade electrostatic sprayers can run from $1,500 to $5,000—when they’re available. They are currently in short supply due to high demand. Even if a hotelier was able to locate an electrostatic sprayer, it’s important to remember it’s just a tool and the right person needs to wield the tool. Improper use can result in inconsistent coverage and oversaturated (and damaged) surfaces. 

Trained and certified surface care providers know exactly what to do and how often to do it to best protect both surfaces and guests. Providers should have undergone at least seven hours of training and earned an infection prevention credential through the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, the Academy of Cleaning Excellence or a similar organization. Ideally, they’ve been disinfecting since long before last spring and aren’t looking to recoup the costs of their new, expensive equipment by taking advantage of anxious clients. Proper disinfection shouldn’t cost more than a standard carpet cleaning.

Preparing to Disinfect

After choosing a provider, the first thing hoteliers need to do is take inventory of all the different surface types in the hotel. Different surfaces require different disinfectants; in fact, some surfaces, such as carpet, cannot be disinfected at all, only sanitized. Hoteliers should give their provider a list of all the various surface types (such as marble, stone and hardwood), including textiles (such as leather sofas, velvet chairs and silk curtains). The provider can then use this list to identify the best disinfectant(s) to use. 

This can be a surprisingly complicated task. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, providers should choose a disinfectant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. The almost 500 products on this list have been extensively tested to ensure they either demonstrate efficacy against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 or a similar pathogen. But just because a disinfectant is on the EPA’s List N doesn’t mean it’s safe—for surfaces or guests. Disinfectants are categorized as pesticides in the U.S. and should be treated as such. In addition, many disinfectants have extremely high or extremely low pH levels that can damage a variety of surfaces. Hoteliers should ask providers to select a disinfectant with a Hazardous Materials Identification System rating of and a near-neutral pH level. For especially unique surfaces, hoteliers can ask their provider to see if a disinfectant has been tested by a third party such as Boeing or TexTest to determine its suitability. 

The disinfection process itself is relatively straightforward when performed by a trained professional. Valuable artwork should be removed or covered; everything else must be thoroughly cleaned first. As long as hoteliers ensure their provider follows the directions on the label, disinfecting can be completed safely and quickly.

Hotels have invested a lot of time, energy and resources into creating a truly memorable experience for guests. That doesn’t have to change because of COVID-19. As long as they work with professionals who follow proper enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures, hoteliers can trust their high-end interiors will remain enthralling—on social media and in real life.

Thomas Holland is the CEO of Apex Surface Care.