The Shocking Truth about Hotel Hygiene

Norovirus isn’t listed under in-room extras, but it’s a risk we face when we check into hotels with poor cleaning standards.

Most of us aren’t clean freaks and the majority of hotels have impeccable hygiene records; however, the truth of what can lurk behind your hotel room door would leave most of us shocked.

Looking at undercover reports, reviews from forums and advice from germ doctors, here’s the lowdown on the hotel hygiene danger spots so you can have your sanitizing wipes at the ready…

1) Bed Bugs Can Bite (Even in Luxury Hotels)

Reports have shown a surge in bed bugs in hotels in recent years (luxury rooms are not immune). These miniscule insects feed on human blood.

Spotting these nocturnal creatures is difficult, but you can check your mattress for tell-tale signs, including dried blood speckles. Bites are rarely dangerous unless they become infected, but they do itch like hell and can scar.

What You Can Do

Pack a bug-treated sleeping bag if you’re really worried and don’t put your luggage on the bed as you could take them home if there is an infestation in the room.

Busted—bed bugs. Photo by cuttlefish.

2) Bedspreads Very Rarely Get Washed

Seeing maids piling used bed sheets in corridors is a comforting sight. However, what you don’t usually see is the same happening to bedspreads because these are not often laundered for weeks and even months.

Considering hotel beds serve many functions beyond sleep: table, couch and even a changing mat, it is no surprise that tests on bedspreads have found a multitude of nasties including bodily fluids, fungi, bacteria, dust and insect parts.

What You Can Do

The advice is to take it off and keep it off!

Beware the bedspread. Photo by kimba.

3) Bathroom Surfaces Can be Germ-ridden

You might assume that toilets are the greatest hygiene risk in hotel bathrooms, but reports have shown that most are as clean as your toilet at home.

The real problem comes from bad cleaning routines, like wearing rubber gloves to clean the toilet and then leaving them on to clean other spaces.

Bathrooms present other issues too. Athlete’s foot can live up to three months on surfaces, while water acts as a harbor for bacteria like E. coli. This is particularly risky in the sink and around the faucet, the areas where you brush your teeth.

What You Can Do

Take a small pack of sanitizing wipes and give your facilities a wipe down to be sure you’re bacteria free. Wash your hands regularly and use sanitizing gel for double measure. Flip-flops can also be a good idea for showers.

Fancy towel art might make you smile but is your maid doing her job where it counts? Photo by chrissam42.

4) Vacuuming is Not Always Enough

Guests also usually assume that hotel carpets, which are regularly vacuumed, are safe zones, but that is not the case.

As shown in one report there are plenty of germs, but we usually can’t see them. As well as bodily fluids, which have been found in high levels on hotel carpets, mold can grow where food spills have not been properly cleaned.

Also, daily vacuuming rarely goes behind furniture where allergens can settle.

What You Can Do

Avoid direct contact with your carpet by always wearing something on your feet and don’t drop clothes on the floor. You can always request a deep clean if you see dust.

The carpet might look clean but what lurks below the surface? Photo by acecortinaboy.

5) The TV Remote Might be the Biggest Offender

Toilets, bedspreads and showers pop into most people’s minds when they think of hotel hygiene, but the innocuous TV remote control took the top spot of the bad hygiene list in one report.

Other offenders include door handles, the telephone, light switches, blow dryer and even the in-room menu. These items are the big risks because everyone touches them and they are less likely to be cleaned.

What You Can Do

Simply wipe down the main touch points and wash your hands regularly.

A seemingly innocuous hygiene offender: the TV remote Photo by espensorvik.

6) Beware: the Bathroom Glasses

A shocking undercover video showed a hotel maid cleaning glasses with a spray labeled “do not drink” before rinsing and drying the glasses with a used towel.

Even if this is not standard, most hotels don’t put their room glasses through a regular dish-washing cycle. Not only does this risk catching germs from previous occupants—possibly cold, flu and throat infections, using dirty towels can cause problems like the dreaded 24-hour bug, Norovirus.

Ice buckets don’t seem much safer with one report finding germs five times the accepted level.

What You Can Do

Rinsing the items under hot water for two minutes should do the trick.

Most hotels don’t put bathroom room glasses through a regular dish-washing cycle. Photo by vincentq.

This hotel hygiene list does make for grim reading but keep in mind that millions of people stay in hotels each day and the instances of illness are low, and lower still if you follow the tips above.

Have you had a run-in with bad hotel hygiene? What are your tips for germ-free travel? Let me know in the comments below.

If you liked this, you might also like: Top 10 Cleanest Streets in the World.

Main photo: what hygiene hazards await behind your hotel room door? by solarnu.

For more information see:

ABC News, What’s hiding in your hotel room

Atlanta Fox 5, Hidden Truth Behind Hotel Drinking Glasses

Good Morning America Consumer Alert: Hotel Hazards

TripAdvisor Top 10 Dirtiest Hotels in the US, 2011.

6 thoughts on “The Shocking Truth about Hotel Hygiene”

  1. I am an entomologist.I found your information great. I had very bad experience even in 5-stars hotels all over the world. Thanx for this reminder.

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