Dirty Secrets: What You Need to Know About Your Hotel Room

by AOL Travel Staff Subscribe to AOL Travel Staff's posts Posted Dec 16th 2009 06:18 PM



Dirty Secrets: What You Need to Know About Your Hotel Room

The dirty truth: Just because that hotel room looks clean, doesn't mean that it is.

Just how clean are hotel rooms? At first glance everything may seem to be in order-the bed is neatly made, paper covers rest atop the drinking classes in the bathroom, and the toilet paper is folded to a point-but first impressions can be deceiving.

The simple fact is: You have no idea who slept in that bed, used that bathroom or walked barefoot on that carpet the night before. What's even more disconcerting is that you have no way of knowing how well the staff has cleaned these areas.

Recent investigations into hotel cleanliness by ABC News and Fox News revealed some downright disturbing cleaning practices among major hotel chains like Embassy Suites, Holiday Inn and Sheraton.

There's no need to cancel your next hotel stay, but it certainly doesn't hurt to take a little extra care when bedding down in a room away from home, especially now that it's flu season. Here, we've outlined five of the dirtiest secrets hotels don't want you to know about their cleaning practices (or lack thereof) and what you can do to protect yourself.

Dirty Secrets: What You Need to Know About Your Hotel Room

Tired? Thirsty? Need a drink of water? Well before you take a sip from that glass by the sink, you might want to wash it out. Hotel housekeeping staffs are worked hard, and unfortunately for us, sometimes they take shortcuts. As was frighteningly revealed in a recent Atlanta Fox News expose, some hotel maids don't even bother to use soap when "cleaning" drinking glasses.

At an Atlanta Embassy Suites, a hidden camera showed a maid wiping the room's glasses with a blue glass-cleaner clearly labeled "do not drink." No soap was involved, but some potentially toxic liquid was. Down the road, at a Sheraton Suites, the maid simply rinsed glasses under water and set them back out for the next traveler. Again, no soap was used.

A similar ABC News investigation found that "From Kansas City to Cincinnati to Baltimore, 11 of 15 hotels tested did not take dirty glasses out of the room for cleaning and sanitizing." Meaning they were not cleaned in a dishwasher. Often were just wiped with rags or cleaned with cleaning solution. Yuck.

Protect Yourself: Don't drink from glassware in your hotel room. Instead ask for sealed, plastic glasses at the concierge desk or go with bottled water.

Dirty Secrets: What You Need to Know About Your Hotel Room

Most hotel rooms don't have ample seating, so life revolves around the bed, the largest surface in your average hotel room. Sitting, eating, jumping, and any number of-ahem-intimate activities can take place on top of the bedspread. Some parents even change diapers on the beds. So before you snuggle up to a throw pillow on the bed, beware.

Kris Calhoun, a former hotel manager, told the Associated Press, "Don't believe that hotels wash these bedding items after every checkout. Most [bedspreads] lucky to be washed every couple of weeks, if that."

You also can't be sure the sheets and towels are clean either. According to The Bedbug Registry, since bed bugs are easy to transport and hard to get rid of, they've become a problem for hotels, which have hundreds of potential infestees coming through their doors each day. According to the site, infestations have been reported recently in hotels in San Francisco, Allentown, Pa., Auburn Hills, Mich., Daytona Beach, Atlantic City, Portland and elsewhere. Also don't assume that the bed is the only place you'll find these critters. They can live in any cracks and crevices in headboards, floorboards, carpets and furniture, etc. And bad news for four-star hotels: Bedbugs don't discriminate.

Protect Yourself: Before you book, check reviews for reports of cleanliness on TripAdvisor.com or infestations at BedbugRegistry.com. When you arrive in your room, pull off throw pillows and comforters and set them aside. Then check the room, bed and especially mattress seams for critters and signs of their excrement (small red or brown dots).

Dirty Secrets: What You Need to Know About Your Hotel Room

Unless you travel with a personal assistant or you permanently wear gloves, there's no way to avoid flipping on a light switch. The bad news is that only the most conscientious maids would think to clean the light switch, or the other most-touched elements in a hotel room: the door knob, remote control, alarm clock, lamps and toilet handle. Hopefully they've cleaned the sink faucets, but you can't be sure.

Travelers beware: Dr. J. Owen Hendley, professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia and co-author of a 2006 study on rhinoviruses, told Travel & Leisure that cold-causing germs can live on hard surfaces for a day and are easily transferred from these surfaces to your fingers, then to nose and eyes.

Protect Yourself: Bring disinfecting wipes such as Clorox or Lysol and give the room a once-over. Treat your hotel room as if it's a public bus: Wash your hands frequently.

Dirty Secrets: What You Need to Know About Your Hotel Room

Usually travelers worry about unfiltered water in foreign countries, but there is such a thing as water that has been "too" purified. On December 14th, CBS News reported that three guests of the EPIC hotel in Miami had come down with Legionnaire's disease (one later died from the infection). It turns out the hotel's high powered water purification system was filtering out chlorine from the city water supply, which allowed bacteria to grow. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 8,000 and 18,000 people are infected with the bacterial, Legionnaire's disease each year. It's spread through contaminated water vapors.

Protect Yourself: Don't trust the water supply. Drink bottled water; it's the only way to know exactly what water you're getting.

Dirty Secrets: What You Need to Know About Your Hotel Room

Think twice before you brew coffee or store ice-you never know what the visitor before you did with those common hotel-room amenities. During Calhoun's hotel-manager days, he found all sorts of things, including cigarette butts, vomit and urine, hidden in coffee makers and ice buckets.

"If I have found it, I guarantee room attendants have found it," writes Calhoun in the Associated Press, but "that doesn't mean they do anything more than dump the contents out, rinse the inside of the pot or maker, and move on.

An ABC News investigation found housekeepers treating hotel coffee pots no better than they did drinking glasses. At the Millennium Hotel in Cincinnati, they discovered a housekeeper "cleaning" a coffee pot with a bottle of Lysol mildew remover. At an Embassy Suites in Cincinnati, a maid used a towel to wipe down the dirty bathroom floor; then she used the same towel to clean the coffee pot.

Protect Yourself: If you use the coffee maker be sure to clean the pot and filter portion thoroughly with hot water and soap. The same goes for the ice bucket, and if the hotel offers plastic liners, all the better (but don't make that a substitute for cleaning the bucket itself).

Dirty Secrets: What You Need to Know About Your Hotel Room

Filed Under: Hotel, Tips & Tricks

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Quite the contrary regarding so called upper class patrons or those well to do can be just as nasty as the next person who leave a mess in a hotel room thinking the maids are slaves and it's ok to leave wet towels on the carpets and toss trash all over , or party and spill booze everywere. Generally those who know what an honest days work is will be the patrons who leave the room clean and stack used towels on the counter instead of tossed all over the room place their trash in the containers provided.

August 01 2015 at 1:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hotels are in the business of looking after folks and providing a clean room for their stay, and to do anything short of that would not be acceptable , and they would lose business and get a bad reputation that no hotel wants. But there are two sides to that coin and some guests are pigs , who are of the attitude they paid for the accommodation and figure the maids should clean their filthy rooms when they toss dirty towels all over and miss the garbage with their trash , or damage furniture.

August 01 2015 at 12:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paige Nienaber

I started taking pics...and then people started sending me pics...http://hotelnightmares.com/

August 26 2013 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tiffany Smith

Some of that is complete bullshit, however I work at a resort not some chain hotel, we wash our linens EVERY DAY that's pillow cases, pillow protectors, towels, robes, duvets, sheets, washcloths and hand towels, on another note we have strict inspectors who have been housekeepers before so they are aware of the 'shortcuts' and they miss them, and we could end up doing the whole room over if they suspect we've been skimping on the cleaning. You will know the cleanliness of your hotel as soon as you wipe your hand on either the shower door, or bath tub, if there is a lot of dust and build up, I'd say that you had a shitty housekeeper and a shittier inspector. Just ask to have your room re cleaned as if it were a check out if there are any doubts, stand there and watch the girl/guy as they clean your room.

May 21 2013 at 9:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been working in the hotel industry for over six years now, and well after reading through a lot of these comments, I will make a couple of notations. First about me, I have managed the housekeeping department in my hotel for 5 of the 6 years so I personally know what is expected of housekeepers.
Unfortunately a lot of hotel chains and management companies never really look at what it entailes to clean a hotel so no they do not give their housekeepers enough time to do a thourough job. My hotel on the other hand had the joy of our owner spending a month in housekeeping actually cleaning rooms so he new what was needed. Therefore our housekeepers get ample time to do a good job. Our comforters were replaced with duvets six years ago and are washed daily. (this is very quickly becoming commonplace among all major hotel name brands. Glasses and coffee pots are removed and washed daily as well. Any housekeeper that is cought not changing sheets is asked to leave and not return for the safety of our future guests.
Our engineering department deep cleans the rooms four times a year, this helps to ensure no mold or bugs of any kind are hiding in the rooms.
Someone somewhere down the line mentioned motels. Well there is a very large difference between a hotel and a motel. I personally will never stay in a motel.
I will definitely not say that I have not had a bad hotel stay in the cleaning department which is why I am so picky with my housekeepers and have two inspectresses checking rooms behind the housekeepers daily. Every room is inspected every day,
As for nasty people, lord have I seen my fair share of the stupid things people will to do a hotel room, Pissing in the coffee pot, The dirty underware in the coffee pot, used tampons in the water fill section of the coffee pot, used condoms hidden in the bible, and between the matress and box springs. An assortment of adult toys just stuffed behind the bed, and yet it never seases to amaze me when I find something new.
As for the bed bug thing, unfortunately in the last few years bed bugs are back on the rise and especially hitting hotels very hard. This is due directly to an increase in foreign travel. What a lot of people do not understand about this that they can be eradicated very easily. Is it expensive yes, do you have to through everything out no. They have found that taking the room temperature to 180 degrees farenheit for 12 hours will not only kill the bugs that are on the surface, but also the ones hiding in the extremeties of the room, walls, furniture, electronics ect. You do have to do all rooms around the one that they were found in to make sure that none travel through the wall to get out of the heat.

October 25 2011 at 5:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to nasaceone's comment
Buffy Tatman

I am currently a housekeeper at a super 8 hotel and let me just say this people are just plain rude sometimes and by people i mean the guests that stay n the hotel. TRASHCANS R THERE FOR A REASON........ TO PUT UR TRASH IN. i swear sometimes its like people just throw there trash all ova the plavve on purpose just to be a ass. and if your thinking doing this is ensuring that the room is going to be cleaned good..... your silly as hell... n some cases. i know that i just started housekeeping in the last 4mths....(please note that i am super OCD and anal bout things at my home) and my first day by the end of the day i felt nastier than i have ever felt in my life. i mean i pretty much rolled around in peoples ****, piss, cum, and cooter juice pardon my french. but ur right they dont give you near enought time to clean it the way i would my home actually it has to be better that that because this is public u dont know who was there before you unlike you do at your house. i have found nasty stuff too used condoms in the hallways and rms too and FYI peoople if you have sex toys and stuff at least have the kindness to put them in a dam drawer we dont wanna c that **** but really i do like my job i like being on my own no one looking ova my sholder i just had my first child and my life and household are very hetic it stressfull for the quite time is great plus i have a bouns i have the best boss.....ur great jamie thanks but all in all its really nasty sometime and other time some people are very kind by stripping the sheets and piling all the dirtys together and also leaving us tips as well which is very nice because we dont make that much really thank god were paid by the hour and not the room. i have heard girls telling me that they used to be paid $2.15 a room and all i gotta say about that is...No way in hell...... although when you hear a housekeeper or x housekeep u only hear them bitching about the guests and how messy or whatever they were but there are just as many people who actually clean or at least keep it where it wount take but a few min to clean and even leave u tips and are just all n all nice people...

December 11 2011 at 12:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Buffy Tatman's comment
Tiffany Smith

Honey you work at what I like to call a motel. A lower class of people stay there, go apply at a place that doesn't offer rooms under 100$ a night, then you'll find rarely anyone destroys the place. Big tips too when you work for the wealthy.

May 21 2013 at 9:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

I have been in hotel fields for many years, motel and hotels management spent a lot of money for their business to functions well. I can assure you guys the common practise for any hotels when guest check-out that sheets have change. I worked almost all kind of chain hotel to motel 6, and I have done almost every position there is. What I learned in the old days "quality of work and service" is a plus employees have to train well before they can even start their job. Unfortunately, time change and most housekeepers who work for hotels and motels are come from another country all smiles and does not understand a word of english. There are those foreign hotel and motel owners who cut corners on their supplies, and when you stay in their hotels would not hear any guest complain cause they were here to make money.

American hotels and motels still enforcing the quality of service, It takes a trusted honest employee and a diligent general manager to run a hotel well. I admit housekeeper now clean more room than in the old days...average of 12 to 18 rooms a day a little bit too much to handle.

In the old days when I was housekeeping supervisor, the practise for the glass..is when housekeeper clean room they must remove the old glasses and take them down to the kitchen to be wash. Then the dishwasher will ran through them with sanitizer. Unfortunately , a lazy housekeeper to get their clean supplies thinking can get away with it .. this how the incident get started then other housekeeper think a normal practse. So, my advise for those who has germophobia when you check-in request sealed plastic cups..otherwise bring a bottled water, don't drink the water from the bathroom..I never do just because I was raise not to get drinking water from the bathroom.

Most hotels and motels has room maintenance 3 star hotels and above they take them out of order to clean, repairs, and replace. I don't work for anybody right now, so this is not depending them I am just stating a fact what we do in hotel business. I wish when somebody write up a story like this they should check all the angle first . The write up more like a "gossip" than a would true journalist would write.

September 11 2011 at 9:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Merie h

Trust me Hotel rooms are way nastier than what you believe they are at this moment. I was a housekeeper a years ago at a high rolling casino. I worked 8 hour shifts and had to clean 8 double bed rooms and 10 single king rooms and 1 master suite within 8 hours. You can't possibly clean that much in so little time. We were told to hit HOT SPOT's, spray the tub and wipe no running water in the tub....when it came to changing the bedding most of the housekeepers would "POP" the sheets, meaning they wouldnt change the sheets if they looked clean. It was a horrible job i did it for 2 months and transfered out into another department. Please, please make sure when you go to hotels wear flip flops, bring your OWN cleaning Supplies, and make them give you clean sheet and clean bedding.....We only change the fiiting sheet and regular sheet, the blankets and the top pull blankets are never CHANGED!!!! until 2 months, and even around that time when its time the HOUSEKEEPERS never ever change them out, soooo nasty, ive seen sooo many nasty things..and never lay on the top of the blanket make sure you you lay out a sheet...but if you can bring your on stuff...Once you have been a housekeepers your eyes are really open....and its even the high price hotels that are nasty.....The room were like 400 dollars a night....just because it looks clean does not mean it is.

September 10 2011 at 5:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ellen Stone

There is another hidden secret that my husband and I experienced.....when my husband and I arrived at our hotel in PA, our key card wouldnt work (mind you we were paying over $150.00 a nite), so on my fourth attempt, I was gettin upset. But I noticed the door felt unusually warm, and just then the door OPENED FROM THE INSIDE! To our surprise, housekeeping (Male too) had been sleepin in our bed and the room was set at like 90 with the sliding glass door open. I am sure it was for a quick escape...so from now on, when I make my reservation, I make it very clear, when I chk in, I want fresh clean sheets waiting for me and I WILL MAKE THE BED. And bring cleaning wipes for the phone and toliet seat ect..

September 10 2011 at 8:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm in agreement with Judy........Carry a can of Lysol and use it on every surface.........including the floors. I will go into the room and spray everything........Go have a bite to eat or a cup of coffee, allowing the sanitizer time to work and dry before you take your luggage and family into the room. I also remove the bed spreads.......fold them and put them on the closet shelf or a drawer. I do carry liquid soap but never thought about bring a dish soap to wash the ice bucket and coffeepot .........but will add it to my "Travel Kit" for my next trip ! Thanks for the tip.

August 23 2011 at 12:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sherri's comment

Are you two immunocompromised? If so, I understand your OCD-like germ-free behavior... If you are not, then you are not only dumbing down your immune system, but by using products that kill most germs, you are killing "normal flora" - including the bacteria that is habitually around you and aids in your own health. This habit of spraying everything "just so you feel safe" - are the same actions that are going to continue the resilience of many bacteria and viruses, so that they can actually thrive in these conditions, become more potent and actually hurt more healthy people!

Upon viewing the slideshow, there are certainly some housekeeping errors which result in some horrible outbreaks. But, for the most part, even with some of the worst culprits - (vomit in the coffee maker, YUCK)..... most people have the immune system to deal. Yes, occasionally, even the healthy will come down with an otherwise rare infection (Legionnaires) but they (again, the HEALTHY) will usually overcome it and get healthy again - with the side effect of generally being most apt to handle the same germ/bacteria/virus again.

This slideshow seems to be nothing more than a scare tactic! Again, unless you are IMMUNOCOMPROMISED (elderly, child, cancer-stricken or ill in some other manner) there is NO NEED to bring lysol or antiseptic spray with you! (I understand cleansing wipes, I mean sticky kids and whatnot - but lysol?) With healthy children, NOT exposing them to normal-everyday germs is what ups the risk for asthma, allergies and just downright sickliness!

** DO YOU KNOW - A FACT - THAT WE HAVE UP TO 10 TIMES MORE BACTERIAL CELLS ON/WITHIN OUR BODIES THAN OUR OWN CELLS? ** It is actually a SUPER FACT - look it up anywhere and you will see.

Germaphobes are so much more likely to be sick - and not just b/c of their hypochondria! Its their lack of exposure to the NORMAL elements!

August 27 2011 at 6:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to halogrly's comment

Oh, BTW: I have a Master's in Microbiology and I am currently a Doctoral Candidate in the same field. My research deals with exactly this! How people think they are being more safe when they use products (especially lysol and Triclosan*) and how they are upping the "immune system" albeit primitive but allowing resistance for bacteria while making humans more suseptible b/c when block so many germs from us, our immune system does not know what to do once it runs into a pathogen.

Let kids eat dirt! let them run around! Yes, wash your hands before eating (prevent foodborne illness - e. coli, salmonella) - but these are NOT what you get handling a door knob!

August 27 2011 at 6:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
Sub Sissy

Who cares what you do!!!!

September 19 2011 at 10:26 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down

Always ask to see the room before you rent it; if the staff is happy to show it to you then you are probably ok. Carry a can of aneseptic spray (lysol for me) and before your family goes in spray the door knob (both sides) the light switch (on and off) the bed spreads (then remove them and don't use) the phone, anything and everything in the bathroom and sink area. Always bring pump bottle of hand soap (99c and I leave what is left) who in the world uses bar soap????? bring along paper cups and cooler with cans of pop and juice; bottles of water. When my kids were little I always checked under the beds cause the kids will always put things in their mouths! now days most beds on platforms but still if someone drops a rx pill or discards a condom?????? Told my husband years ago that a premium hotel room lots cheaper than a divorce!

August 15 2011 at 11:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply