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You have arrived at your hotel, checked in and received your room key. As you let yourself in, you note how fresh it smells and how tidy it is. The bed is nicely made and dressed, the bathroom is polished and clean, the TV is working, and the mini fridge is switched on. But what you don’t know is that there are at least 10 things in the room that you should avoid close contact with because they are just plain dirty.
It begins with your key card/room key. This essential item is handled many times every day by a multitude of people. It can carry as many germs as money does and is seldom, if ever, washed or disinfected. Industry standards recommend that the card or key fob should be disinfected between guests but it is best to give it your own wipe-down. Disinfectant wipes like Lysol are great for this.
They may seem innocuous but switches are touched by everyone who uses the room. From the entrance switch that controls the main lights to the bedside switches that control the reading lights. The bathroom light switch is, by its location, the most contaminated in the room.
These items are often overlooked by the housekeeping staff and should receive a wipe from your own cleaning kit. Use disinfectant wipes to clean them off. Disinfectant wipes these days come in convenient pocket packs that take up little space in your bag.
Obviously, the main door handle is a source of germs, but this fact extends into the room to the knobs on the bedside lockers, dressing table, and wardrobe handles, which are often recessed, making them difficult to clean. Once again, the bathroom is a source of contamination particularly the inner handle and lock. A useful tool to have in your cleaning kit is a compact disinfecting spray perfect for hard to clean spaces.
This area is a minefield and, if it’s not properly cleaned, it can be a serious health hazard. While the parts of the toilet bowl itself are obvious, you should also consider the flushing handle or button and the wall behind it. The countertop around the hand basin is a source of germs, particularly the faucet and the overflow. You should not leave your toothbrush resting on any of the surfaces, especially on the shelf above the basin. This is seldom properly wiped clean and bacteria thrive in a warm humid environment like this.
If there are glass water cups provided in the hotel room then they should be avoided. The reason is simply because all too often glasses are washed using the room cleaning sponge and then dried using a used hand towel to save time. Or they may have been used to hold toothbrushes and the fluid casually wiped away without proper washing. Generally, if the cup is made of plastic and is in a sealed plastic wrapper then it is more favorable and safer.
Unlike other items in hotel bathrooms like the sink or the shower, the hairdryer is overlooked on the cleaning rota, and it turns out that it can host more germs than expected. Don’t use it unless you really have to.
If you’re someone who constantly uses hairdryers, consider to bring a travel hairdryer with you. They are compact and light, designed to take up minimum space in your luggage.
The practice of providing an ice bucket in your room is dying out and it may be just as well. Testing has shown that they can often contain high doses of norovirus, the one that makes you physically sick. It could be because the bucket may have been used by guests as vomit basins. In any case, they should be avoided.
All rooms have a TV and also air conditioning brought into the room either by a ducting system or a wall unit. These appliances are controlled from a handheld unit and are considered to be ‘high touch surfaces’. Hotels will claim that they are thoroughly cleaned but, again, they have been found to harbor traces of E.Coli from guests not washing their hands after using the bathroom.
A solution to the problem is to place the controls in a plastic bag that doesn’t interfere with their use. Another potential problem is that the air units can become clogged with dust, which made up of dead skin cells. They should also be cleaned regularly. Alternatively, once again use a disinfecting spray to zap the bacteria.
For most people, a quick brew of fresh coffee or a nice cup of tea is essential to kick-start their day. Unfortunately, the bedroom coffee maker and the kettle are also problem areas in terms of hygiene.
Coffee machines only receive a quick wipe and a polish to their outer surface. The truth is that they need regular deep cleaning as the inner workings get bunged up and moldy and can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Kettles are not as popular in American hotel rooms as coffee machines and are becoming less so these days since it emerged in reports that some people use the kettle as a gadget to clean their underwear in.
You might think that the bed, your refuge from the world outside, would give you rest and a bit of peace but beware, it is literally a hotbed of potential health hazards. Before you settle in for a night’s sleep, here are some tips to make your sleep fret free.
Remove decoratives from the beds
If the bed is ‘dressed’ with throws or decorative cushions, remove them immediately and stash them away. These items are not on the list for regular laundering and can even remain uncleaned for up to a year in some cases. Soft furnishings can harbor bacteria and even the coronavirus, so hotels are beginning to remove these decorative items from their rooms.
You might find dried stains under that decorative, might be from blood, food, or chemicals. Call and ask for a room change or sheet change if this is the case.
Check the pillows
A quick check will tell you if your pillow is clean. Is it stained or is there an odor from it? A quick call to housekeeping should bring you a clean replacement. It is not feasible to wash pillows in the regular laundry schedule because the filling would quickly become lumpy rendering the pillow useless. Also, the sheer volume of pillows would add to the wear and tear of expensive laundry equipment.
However, hotels do have systems in place to ensure their pillows are as clean as practicable. Zippered pillow covers that are made with antimicrobial fibers are the first layer of protection, followed by a freshly laundered pillowcase. These two should create a sufficient barrier between you and the potentially harmful filling.
To give yourself extra peace of mind you could bring a fabric spray disinfectant such as Lysol. A quick spray across the pillows will do the trick. However, be sure your spray is bleach free so as not to stain the fabric.
Things to be aware of about hotel mattresses
Hotel mattresses can be rather unclean considering the amount of use they get plus the fact that they have an average ‘life’ of three to five years, but fortunately it is unlikely that your health would be jeopardized by one. Once again, hotels have maintenance plans in place to protect and to offer peace of mind to their customers.
Housekeeping staff regularly flip the mattresses so that one side doesn’t receive all the harsh treatment. Some hotels would then sanitize the mattress itself followed by a thorough vacuuming. They would normally fit impermeable washable top covers, again normally made with antimicrobial fibers, as a layer of defense. Freshly laundered quality sheets will offer even more security to the guests.
Upon arrival at your hotel, a quick look around the lobby will be a good indicator of the rest of the hotel’s overall cleanliness or otherwise. If everything looks tidy and clean then that’s a good indicator.
But, conversely, if it’s drab and dirty, you can be positive the rest of the hotel will be just as bad. A quick check of the general restrooms will also tell its own story.
One way to know beforehand is to read reviews on booking sites before you make the booking. If a lot of guests complained about the cleanliness, skip that hotel.
A hotel’s health and safety policies show what standards they aspire to. For helpful tips on hotel safety and security, check out our article on the best hotel floors to stay on.
When the pandemic began, hotels immediately cut back on their housekeeping services, partly to minimize contact between staff and guests, but also to save money. Now that the pandemic has mostly passed, most hotels have rejigged their cleaning policies. It is common now to only have a full clean in an occupied room every 4 to 6 days.
Some major chains will only clean daily on request and others offer ‘light cleaning’ such as fresh towels only every other day. You are now expected to make your own bed and to leave your trash outside your door for collection.
Doing the housekeepers job used to be on the ‘no’ list of things in hotels but apparently not anymore. For other dos and don’ts in hotels, take a look at our article on the things you shouldn’t do in a hotel.
Hotels have a duty of care to their guests to protect them from specific hazards, like bedbug infestations. If a guest reports bed bugs then the hotel should react swiftly by moving the guest to another room and immediately calling in professional help.
Methods used in the destruction of these pests include vacuuming, steam treatments, and insecticides. The costs of these treatments are high, and with hotels averaging seven outbreaks every five years, controlling the problem is essential. Staff should be trained to be on constant alert for a possible infestation.
More about this in our article on how to protect yourself from bed bugs in your hotel room.
Hotels clean the show regularly. They take a lot of pride in presenting a clean and sparkling bathroom. Guests rate the cleanliness of this room as the priority in their decision making. A crystal clean shower cubicle with gleaming glass and polished chrome fittings complete the picture.
This sparkling bathroom can only be achieved through regular cleaning. Glass can become stained and marked from soap scum and limescale build-up if it is in a hard water area. Mold can form in the shower tray corners and around the drain hole. If you see these signs that mean they’re not as thorough in their cleaning procedures.
Without proper maintenance, the hotel’s once pristine bathroom can become dirty and unsightly, which is why proper cleaning is vital.
Note that if you book and check into a hotel very late (like 2 AM late) you might not have time to check all these. In this case, just remove all decorative items from your bed before you sleep on it.