We all like to think that our hotel rooms are pristine havens of germ-free cleanliness. Desperately clinging to that fantasy is the only way most of us can get a good night’s sleep when we’re away from home. After all, if we think too hard about it, we remember that hundreds, if not thousands of people, possessing various levels of cleanliness, have slept—and done who-knows-what—in those beds. What are the odds that the underpaid housekeeping staff in your hotel is dutifully removing all the grime, germs, and various body fluids (and hairs!) from the room? Pretty low if you ask me.
Question-and-answer website Quora recently asked an even more worrisome question: “What are some things hotel staffs won’t tell you?”
Readers weighed in with some answers that should give us all pause next time we check into a hotel:
7. The reason throw pillows are called “throw pillows”
Because you throw them.
And they aren’t washed in between guests.
But they are put back on the bed. On your pillow.
Where your face is.
Schue added, “There is no purpose for throw pillows in a hotel other than moving dirt and grime from the floor onto my pillow.”
The first things that hit the floor when I walk into a hotel room are the throw pillow. Every day the poor housekeeping staff members dutifully pick them up, arranging them artfully on the bed—and every time I arrive back to my room the pillows go right back on the floor. There’s no telling what people have been doing with those little pillows.
6. Almost everyone who has been a manager in a hotel has encountered a dead body
Susan Deluszain Berry gives several examples.
The first is a major hotel that had jacuzzi suites. One suite had to be renovated after “a woman had too much to drink, slipped into her Jacuzzi, and literally BOILED to death.”
In another example, which she witnessed, Berry said a man checked into a small hotel planning to commit suicide. “He brought vodka and pills, and he trashed all the furniture in the room, ultimately piling all the sticks in front of the door,” she wrote. “His suicide attempt failed, and he was taken to jail for destruction of property.”
Finally, she cites the story of a woman she knows who was working at a “fancy hotel in Dallas.” The hotel worker received a call around 11 p.m. that a body had landed on the sidewalk outside the hotel. “A jumper,” Berry says. “After interacting with the police and press for several hours, she called security and wryly said, ‘Don’t wake me unless someone gets shot.'” At 6 a.m. she received a call saying that someone had been shot in guest room. “Two bodies in one night is two too many, IMHO.”
Jenelly Brest agrees that dead bodies are a closely guarded secret amongst hotel personnel. He shared a story about a guest who hanged himself and was found in the room by a cleaner.
“The police arrived with the appropriate people, took away the body, without any guest having the faintest idea what was going on. It never even appeared in local news.”
“Hotels keep this information tightly controlled to both prevent bad publicity and ‘dark tourism,'” Brest said.
5. There’s a lack of security in hotel rooms
Cara Woods writes that people should be concerned about their safety when they’re in a hotel room.
“One of the biggest things that consistently surprises people who stay at hotels is the lack of security a hotel room has,” she writes. “Hotel staff can easily walk in at anytime, and those key cards are really easy to hack.” She adds. “For hotels in spring break cities, security is a really big concern, what with so many kids hopped up on things running around, being careless (or doing the burgling).”
4. Third party bookings are risky
Third party bookings, where you make your reservation with an online travel site (i.e. Travelocity or Expedia) come with some risks that travelers need to be aware of.
An anonymous contributor posted, “Not only are you the first guests we’ll turn away if we overbook, you’re often paying more than you would if you had booked directly.” He added, “I’ve seen several customers bring in printed confirmations with the amount they paid on it. Sometimes the cost was higher than our BAR/RACK rate. In addition, I’ve seen these companies charge for all sorts of fees (pet fees, TV fees, etc.) that the hotel never sees a penny of. Sometimes guests are even charged for services we don’t offer or that are complementary.”
Stacy Jean added that problems can arise when the site doesn’t get the booking right. “If the website/agent booked the wrong room for you the hotel may be able to change it. However, there’s always a chance (especially on busy holidays/popular destinations) that the type of room you actually wanted will sell out .. leaving you with whatever it was the site/agent booked for you on accident!” She offered a protip: “One way to try and counter this is to call the hotel directly a week or two before the reservation to make sure that you were booked for the correct type of room.”
Katherine Schutte confirmed that third party bookings can be problematic. She said hotels “assign the lesser quality rooms (the ones with the worst view, the worst location) to guests who book with online search engines (like Travelocity and Orbitz) while saving the best rooms for clients who book with travel agents.”
3. And then there are the bedbugs
Travel with a large plastic trash bag to slip your luggage inside until you check the hotel room. Check for bed bugs yourself while leaving your luggage on a hard surface just inside the room if you can. Untuck the bedding from the corners and lift it all away down to the mattress then quickly use a light app on your phone or flip on the bright overhead light and peer at the seams. You can sometimes see little blood stains from bed bugs biting previous guests as well.
You can check for nasty mattress stains while the bedding is raised. The best time to ask for a new room is before you unpack.
Even if the bed is clear, store your suitcase inside the bag in the closet as bed bugs can hide in baseboards for a long time then hitch a ride on your luggage. Cedar oil in a small spray bottle was recommended to me to take on travel to spray around the bed frame, in the closet and all over my luggage.
2. Rooms might look very clean, but … they’re not
Peter Mayer contends that in some hotels sheets are not changed daily.
“It is not only true for unused beds,” he says. “Shady and cheap hotel/motel managers and owners encourage staff to check if the sheets look clean. If they do, they tell housekeepers to just tighten it up from the corners.” And some “lazy housekeepers” just don’t bother to change sheets, even if it means violating hotel policy, he said.
Also, this disgusting gem: “Blankets and bedspreads are almost never washed.”
“When a housekeeper has 30 minutes to clean a room, there is not really time to run down to the laundry room and exchange the blanket or the bedspread,” said Mayer. “Moreover, many hotels do not even have extra bedspreads that are kept clean and could be used as an exchange.”
Other things that are never washed? Curtains and blinds.
And an anonymous poster says the bathrooms aren’t as clean as they look. “The drinking glasses in the rooms are not cleaned with any cleaning products. [They’re] just rinsed with water and dried with a towel. Housekeeping staff want to clean as [many] rooms as they can, so the faster you do it, the better. No time to thoroughly wash these things.” He continued, “Only the shower, bathtub, sink and toilet [are] cleaned with cleaning products. They are most likely wiped with whatever towel is lying around (i.e.: the previous guests’ used towels).
All that’s pretty nasty, but this one might make you want to stay home in your own bed: “When someone urinates on a bed, sometimes the mattress is just left standing to vent out and dry overnight, and then put back upside down,” said Mayer. “Yes, it is disgusting.”
Ya know, a little Febreze might help that…
1. And finally, watch out for dresser drawers…
This is probably the last thing you’d ever think about when staying at a hotel, but you should start thinking about it RIGHT NOW!
“Dresser drawers are not on the maid’s cleaning list,” says Peri Collins. “So if a traveler threw dirty underwear in a drawer all week you will be contaminating your clothing by using any drawers without cleaning/disinfecting them first.”
Just ewww. Let’s be honest. We all know he didn’t wash those skid mark-covered whitie tighties before he tossed them in the drawer, and now your pretty lingerie is coming into contact with all that grossness.
He also warns about something else that’s disgusting in your hotel room. “TV remotes have more germs than many toilet exteriors,” he said. “Toilets get at least a cursory wipe while remotes do not. Once you see all of the pornography offerings on most hotel TV menus and think about it, you will want to wipe remotes more carefully. Laminated channel guides are dirty as well and not cleaned by staff.”
Yes, people are doing THAT, and then touching all the things in your hotel room.
At this point, the best we can do is recommend either a HazMat suit or perhaps some Ambien and a blindfold during your next hotel stay.