Staying in hotels is very, very difficult for me. In fact, finding the right property can make or break an entire trip. I suspect I’m not the only one who feels that way, though, because hotel reviews are extremely popular across the internet. People like to know what to expect, because we’ve all lived through horror stories. That’s why I’ve written this Ultimate Germaphobe’s Guide to Sanitizing Hotel Rooms.
Over the years, we’ve drawn on personal experience, our time working in the travel insurance industry, guidance from my daughter (a former assistant general manager at a major hotel chain) and research. We’ve learned a lot along the way, so we’re sharing our insight in this post. We hope you’ll find it useful!
Things That Trigger My Travel Anxiety at Hotels
When Josh and I first started traveling together, I hadn’t been completely honest about my obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which led to unnecessary tension. I’d be stressed about something and he wouldn’t have any idea what was going on. OCD is an anxiety disorder and I wasn’t fully comfortable talking about it. Eventually, I opened up about how hotel stays can trigger my anxiety and being able to talk about it made a huge difference.
Now, Josh understands my needs and he’s become incredibly supportive. Here are the things that bother me most about staying in a hotel:
- Well-used rooms
- Remote control and phone
- Door handles and light switches
- Window Coverings
- Upholstered Seats
- Throw Pillows
- The BATHROOM
This is not about being a princess (although, a tiara would look quite nice on me!), it’s about living with a severe anxiety disorder and an intense medical history. The fear of contamination associated with my obsessive compulsive disorder is very real and is heightened by my legitimate health issues. I’m among the “high risk” group, and two of my children are as well.
The Dirty Facts About Hotel Rooms
In some situations, ignorance is bliss. When it comes to the cleanliness of hotel rooms, though, I just can’t agree. You could pick up something that not only ruins your trip but leaves you seriously ill. While these types of things made me swear off hotels in the past, I’ve found that knowledge is power. You can’t prevent every bad thing in life, but knowing facts can help us make informed decisions.
Despite the fact that we pay good money for accommodation, hotels are busy and the cleaning staff may cut corners. When they fail at sanitizing hotel rooms between guests, it can leave you and/or your family at risk.
Here are some things you should know about hotel rooms:
- Hotels rarely change their bedspreads.
- There’s fecal bacteria on 81% of surfaces, especially light switches and TV remotes.
- Flushing the toilet sends contaminants onto the floor and all over the bathroom.
- Drinking glasses and in-room coffee pots are covered in germs.
Honestly, there are so many articles and exposés on this topic that it would be easy to do your own research. If none of this bothers you, great — to each their own! However, if you’re looking for tips on how to feel less uneasy about the potential germs lurking in your hotel room, read on!
Germaphobe Packing List for Hotel Stays
Whether you’ve got OCD or just want to try to avoid bacteria and/or viruses in your room, there are things you can use to make the environment a little more sanitary during your stay.
Related post: 7 Carry-On Essentials for Germaphobes!
We never travel without certain items. If they get left behind, you can believe I make a beeline to the nearest Walmart, Target or even Walgreens to replace them. Here are some things you should pack to be prepared for sanitizing hotel rooms:
- Flip flops
- Disinfectant wipes/spray
- Pillow case
- Hand sanitizer
- Ziploc-style baggie large enough for remote
- Bag for dirty clothes
See? That’s not such an extensive (or expensive) packing list. You probably have most of these items hanging around the house already! Of course, if you want to go bigger, that’s up to you. For this stage in my life, that’s pretty much all that we pack. There was a time when my OCD was so intense that I couldn’t even stay in a hotel, so if this is what I have to do to be more comfortable and live my life, then I’m thrilled!
Sanitizing Hotel Rooms – What To Do
We waste no time getting things cleaned up. Yes, it can be a bit of a chore after traveling for hours, but we’ve got a good routine. Most of the time, it takes no more than 5-10 minutes. Then, our room feels fresh and we can relax a bit easier. If I’m feeling especially stressed, I’ll pull out one of my favorite essential oils for anxiety.
The first thing we do is grab our flip flops. We don’t like to track in grossness or allergens that have collected on our shoes while we’ve made our way from city to city through airports and more. We also don’t want to walk barefoot in a hotel (you never know what’s lurking in the carpet!).
Next, we pull out the disinfectant wipes and spray, such as the pocket-sized Lysol To Go. Both can be used on hard surfaces (be careful spraying electronics – wipe them down instead!), but the spray can also be used on pillowcases and bedspreads (mist gently above fabrics, don’t drench them!). This is what we target first when sanitizing hotel rooms:
- Door handles
- Light switches
- TV remote
- Alarm clock
- Hard surfaces
- Insides of drawers
- Toilet Seat (just spray it down!)
- Window covering wands
- Air conditioning controls
- Mini fridge/microwave
Again, this can take a few minutes, but you’ll become more efficient with time. Typically, we divide and conquer until it’s done. Normally, it’s over before you know it!
As a note, once we’ve cleaned up, we put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door and decline housekeeping services. Not only is this more of a sustainable practice (because reusing towels is much easier on the environment!), but it keeps the housekeepers from reintroducing grossness into our room.
What to Avoid
As we’ve mentioned, certain items in hotel rooms are covered in germs. The investigation found that 11 out of 15 hotels failed to remove glasses from the rooms for cleaning! That is so unacceptable on so many levels. You’re trusting these establishments to provide a clean room — and sometimes they don’t deliver!
While it’s hard to avoid using the toilet or sleeping in the bed, there are other things that you can avoid. The following items aren’t typically necessary to use during a hotel stay, so we recommend steering clear of them. The bacteria-laden offenders include:
- Ice Bucket
- Coffee machine
We try to be environmentally-responsible people, but while we are traveling, we make compromises when needed. If you end up needing glasses on your trip, for example, grab some disposable ones from Target. Just don’t use the glasses in your hotel room! Then, when you’re done you can recycle them.
Also, because we also learned about how contaminants can be spread throughout the bathroom by flushing the toilet, why not put the lid down before you hit the handle? That can keep all of the yucky stuff contained and your environment might stay a little fresher.
Related post: Stay Healthy While Traveling With These Natural Remedies
Also, because throw pillows (along with bedspreads) aren’t cleaned often (or at all!), we remove them and store them in a closet or corner. It’s really not worth cuddling up with these decorative items when the last person handling them could have been very sick. This is especially true for those with furry surfaces (I’m squirming just typing that!).
Keeping Your Hotel Room Clean
You’ve worked hard to make your hotel room more sanitary. Don’t undo your efforts by reintroducing contaminants into your clean space. Here are some tips:
- Don’t put bags or suitcases on your bed. Think about where those have been (the floor of an airport or airplane, for example!).
- Consider changing into fresh clothes before sitting on your bed. If you’ve been out traveling, you don’t want to bring environmental germs into your clean room.
- Wash your hands as soon as you come back to your hotel room and keep hand sanitizer readily available.
- Decline housekeeping unless you really need it. If they touch everything, you’ll have to sanitize all over again.
Some people won’t get the point of this post, but if it helps a few people have a little more peace of mind (and prevents the spread of illness), then it’s worth any eye rolls. Ultimately, your health is your own responsibility, so don’t let anyone make you feel bad for doing what you feel you need to do.
They aren’t going to pay your hospital bills or salary if you have to take time off work, so take any mockery with a grain of salt. We’re all in this together, so if we all do our own small part to keep our environment clean, we’ll all be better off. Happy travels!
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