I absolutely love staying in hotels, motels, inns — you name it. I'm all about fluffy pillows, freshly made beds, and that travel-y vibe. But whenever I remember how dirty hotels can be, I find myself wanting to check right on out.
If you've ever spotted a long strand of hair in your bed, or schlepped into the shower wearing flip flops, then you know exactly what I mean. While most hotels are perfectly lovely, there's only so much that can be done in rooms where literally hundreds of people sleep, shower, and do... who knows what else.
That's why it's not necessary to panic, or swear off traveling forever. Some surfaces (like the hotel TV remote) may be worse than others. But dirt and germs exist in hotel rooms, just like they do everywhere else. And, just like everywhere else, they can be avoided — if you know what to do.
"If you are an educated traveler and assume the worst of every hotel room, then ... you can arrive prepared with a germ fighting toolkit to bring you peace of mind during your stay," says Jennifer Mclaughlin, editor-in-chief of Los Angeles Travel Magazine, in an email to Bustle. She suggests bringing antibacterial wipes to give everything a once over, and says you should never hesitate to ask for a new room if things are truly bad. (And no, that long hair doesn't count.) Ready to avoid the worst of it? Then read on for a few areas you may want to inspect or wipe down the next time you travel.
1. Carpets Are Way Dirtier Than They Appear
You might think, as far as floors go, that freshly-vacuumed carpets are kind of OK. But ever notice how the flooring in hotels is always dark and patterned? That's an intentional design scheme meant to hide years (and years) of built up grime. In fact, as budget travel bloggers Luci and Alicia Peraza tell me, some hotels don't replace their carpet as often as they should. And that quick once over with the vacuum? Well, it doesn't do much. So from now on, let's all err on the side of caution and remember to pack some slippers.
2. Bed Comforters Aren't Always Changed
Sheets are swapped out, and so are pillow cases. But some hotels don't bother to change their comforters. In fact, those comfy duvets and silky blankets (that everyone and their mother sleeps on) are sometimes only washed twice a year, the Perazas tell me. Yikes.
3. TV Remotes Are Teeming With Germs
The remote control may look fairly benign, but it's another thing that rarely gets disinfected. Same goes for the deadbolt lock, the phone, and the light switches. "These small items rarely get the attention they deserve, even though they are used by almost every guest," travel expert Kari Cruz tells Bustle. "Because they are so frequently used, and not cleaned, just imagine that bad cold the person before you had — it's still all over that remote."
4. Bed Bugs Are A Definite Possibility
When you get to your room, it's always a good idea to check for bed bugs — especially if you're staying in a city. And yes, even if you're staying in an expensive room. As travel writers Matt Walker and Zeneba Bowers tell me, dirt and bed bugs don't necessarily go hand in hand. So even when you drop major dough on an immaculate room, you still can't consider yourself safe. (Dun dun dun...)
5. Glasses Are Hardly Ever Cleaned
Feel like taking a drink with your room's lovely glassware? Don't. "Hotel mugs and glasses are often not cleaned properly," says Kelsey Blodget, senior executive editor at Oyster.com. "Hotel housekeepers often just rinse them in the bathroom sink and dry them with a towel, which may be dirty — or even used to dry other surfaces in the bathroom, like the toilet seat." Ah!
6. Someone May Have Died In There
Of course this isn't "gross," per se. Just maybe kind of creepy? Especially since the room turnover after someone passes away is super quick, according to reporter Becky Pemperton for the Daily Mail. "If a death occurs, once the person is removed, the room is sanitized, cleaned, and made available to the next guest — and that can happen a lot faster than you'd think."
7. Watch Out For The Couch
Think about all the things that can happen on a couch, and then think about all the times you've ever actually washed a couch. Never, right? So it's doubtful the hotel is scrubbing it, either. That's why, as Cruz tells me, it's a good idea to pack an antibacterial spray and give that thing a once over.
8. The Air Is Less Than Quality
Ever feel kinda stuffy when staying overnight in a hotel? It may have something to do with the air quality — and especially that dirty A/C unit. "One often overlooked source of ... germs is the HVAC unit in the room," says former hotel manager Chris Johnston. "If hotel staff fails to clean the filters (or at least clean the top visible portion), simply turning on the unit can cause these particles to fill your room and your lungs."
9. Coffee Pots Are Never Washed
While that little coffee pot looks all sorts of inviting, many are riddled with germs. "An investigation by ABC News revealed that cleaners simply swirled the coffee pots in water without properly cleaning them, which can lead to a build-up of bacteria," Pemperton said. Of course this isn't true for every hotel, but it's definitely worth keeping in mind.
10. The Water Can Be A Bit Untrustworthy
As with any sink, the taps in hotels are connected to municipal water, which can contain impurities such as lead, e.coli, and chlorine, according to Kent Atherton, CEO of Bloc Enterprises, makers of the portable GoPure Pod water purification device. While you shouldn't get too paranoid, it is something to think about when sippin' from the sink in a new city. So either purify it first. Or, you know, hit up the mini fridge.
11. There Are Questionable Stains Everywhere
If you want to ruin your day, go ahead and dive into the thrilling world of black lights and hotel rooms. (Seriously, there have been so many investigations.) One report, by ABC News, found urine stains in every single room they sampled. And yes, this was true regardless of a hotel's price or rating.
Some aspects of hotel life may be kinda gross, but that doesn't mean you should cancel all your flights and never travel again. Just avoid or disinfect the dirtiest of surfaces — comforter, remote, coffee pot — and you should be all set to enjoy your trip.
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