Hotels are one of those places where you do your damnedest not to come into physical contact with any surface, because God only knows what kinds of germs are lurking on it. And in recent news that will disgust you for days, one expert is warning that boiling your underwear in a tea kettle in an attempt to clean it could have serious repercussions, because apparently there are actually people who do this.
OK, we get it: boiling water, killing bacteria, sterilizing your underwear. And when you're traveling and trying to make do with what you have, you're kind of desperate for clean laundry and skivvies that don't smell. Except here's the problem: some bacteria are resistant to even hot water, meaning that whatever bacteria you leave behind from your panties could stick around in the tea kettle and end up in some poor soul's cup of Earl Grey. "These don't cause sickness if they are consumed, but their presence in certain environments can encourage them to produce a toxin that can be deadly," says Dr. Heather Hendrickson, senior lecturer in molecular biosciences at the Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences at Massey University in Auckland. In other words, a hotel guest minding their own business and just trying to enjoy a cup of chamomile can be in serious trouble because of your g-string. Think about that.
We tend to look out only for ourselves, and we rarely think that our own unmentionables could cause such trouble. But make no mistake about it: your underwear, like everyone else's, is disgusting and full of horrors. According to Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, there's around a tenth of a gram of poop in the average pair of panties. That tenth of a gram might be carrying the hepatitis A virus, E. coli, salmonella, and norovirus. Those bacteria can tolerate the hot water of a tea kettle and will likely be present the next time someone is craving tea and crumpets.
So, to recap: if you previously relied on the tea kettle method for "sanitizing" your underwear (shame), now you know it's really gross for the next person to get thirsty, and it ain't working anyway. You simply boiled your underwear in fecal germ-filled H20 and then wore it again.
And let's not even get started on the whole "I turned my underwear inside out, so it's clean" theory. Your inside-out underwear is still filthy, spreading germs, and not sterilized after a hot tea kettle bath. #Sorry.
Hate to break it to you, but there probably isn't any magic trick to cleaning dirty trousers while you're traveling. Your safest bet is most likely to bring enough pairs with you so that you don't have to re-wear any of them, or buy new ones while you're away. As for the dirty pairs, keep them out of the tea kettle, for crying out loud.