Hospital cleaning is a neglected component of infection control. In the UK, financial constraints have forced managers to re-evaluate domestic services and general cleaning has been reduced to the bare minimum. Services have been contracted out in some hospitals, which has further lowered standards of hygiene. Control of infection personnel believe that cleaning is important in preventing hospital-acquired infections but they do not manage domestic budgets and have failed to stop their erosion. It is difficult to defend high levels of hygiene when there is little scientific evidence to support cleaning practices. This review examines the common micro-organisms associated with hospital-acquired infection and their ability to survive in the hospital environment. It also describes studies which suggest that comprehensive cleaning disrupts the chain of infection between these organisms and patients. It is likely that restoring hygienic standards in hospitals would be a cost-effective method of controlling hospital-acquired infection. Furthermore, good cleaning is achievable whereas the enforcement of hand washing and good antibiotic prescribing are not.