Yes, the hardworking housekeeping staff has cleaned your hotel room, Airbnb or beach house. And most places have upped their disinfecting game in the wake of the coronavirus and Covid-19. But don’t trust that they adequately disinfected it. Or that they got all of the spots that might have been contaminated by a previous guest. If you plan to stay somewhere else overnight, here’s what to clean in a hotel room to protect yourself and your family.
Years ago a TV reporter in Chicago investigated the disgusting nature of some hotel’s bedspread. I don’t remember the name of the hotel, but I do remember the “ewwww” feeling got as I watched it. Most hotels I stay in these days put sheets around the duvet which (I hope) housekeeping washes between visitors. But budget hotels still have those heavy bedspreads. Don’t sleep under them if you can avoid it. Bring your own blanket.
A few years later, I checked into a guest room and found the TV remote encased in a cardboard sleeve. When I pulled it out, it was smooth — no individual raised buttons, no germ-trapping crevices. The idea was that the smooth front made it possible to actually disinfect the remote.
That brought on another “ewww” moment as I thought about all of the times I had cavalierly picked up the TV remote, without giving a thought to the microscopic creepy crawlies lurking there. It turns out there is good reason to say “ewww” about that remote. Scientific American reported in 2012 that it is the germiest spot in the hotel room.
Travel Can be a Dirty Business
I’m not a germophobe normally, but I do realize that travel can be a dirty business. Whether it’s a ride on public transit, a flight on a plane, the bathroom at the highway rest stop or a stay in a hotel room, the germs are hiding everywhere.
For years, I have cleaned the germiest spots on an airplane before settling in for a flight. I also clean my hotel room, even when it appears to be perfectly clean when I arrive.
Most hotel companies and beach house and Airbnb rentals have upped their cleaning game in the wake of the coronavirus. Check the hotel’s website for details and, if you need more information, call the hotel directly.
How to Sanitize a Hotel Room
Since coronavirus, I’m stepping up my game, too, and being much more diligent about how I clean a hotel room.
To do that right, bring your own Clorox wipes or CDC approved cleaning supplies. I recommend tossing them in the trunk of the car if you’re on a family road trip. You may not be able to buy them when you arrive.
Alternatively, you can make your own bleach solution by mixing 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of room temperature water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of room temperature water. Spray it on the hard surfaces, wait a few minutes for the germ-killing to happen and then wipe the surfaces clean.
Here are the germiest spots in a hotel room, Airbnb or beach house that get wiped down with Clorox wipes before I unpack.
For a few years after I encountered that smooth-faced TV remote, I used my Clorox wipes to clean the regular TV remote. Then I read a Real Simple article that said I likely wasn’t being completely effective. It suggests packing a gallon-size Ziploc bag. Simply slip the remote into the Ziploc, and zip it up. Then wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. It’s just one more great use for Ziploc bags for traveling.
You can still use the remote, but you won’t be touching the same buttons that hundreds of others have touched.
Wipe the toilet flush handle, the sink and shower faucet handles and anything else you might touch. Consider spraying the toilet seat and bathroom sink area with a disinfectant such as Lysol.
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Treat that shower like the gross boys’ locker room at your kid’s high school. Consider wearing flip flops or shower shoes, especially if you have a cut on your foot. And if there’s a tub, forego the idea of soaking in the hot water.
And if the hotel offers actual glass glasses and coffee cups rather than wrapped plastic throw-away cups, run them under very hot water for a few minutes before using them. It should kill most germs on glasses that weren’t properly washed.
Light Switches, Door Handles and More
Anything you touch as you enter the room should be wiped down with Clorox wipes. Use a new wipe on each surface to avoid spreading any germs around. This list should include: door handles and locks, light switches, bedside tables, the coffee pot, mini fridge and all flat surfaces where you might lay something down — the book you’re reaching, your glasses, etc.
And thanks to reader Linda Frasco for this one: Wipe down the drapery rods. I never thought of that! I’ve been touching those for years. And you know the housekeeping service has never cleaned them.
Then toss the wipes and wash your hands in the newly disinfected bathroom sink.
There’s no need to bring carpet cleaner with you. Bring your slippers instead. Or keep on your socks.
As long as you don’t have a cut on your feet, you aren’t likely to pick up anything dangerous, but that the carpet is another big source of germiness. Avoid skin-to-carpet contact.
I usually throw a towel over the chair before I sit down. It’s impossible to know who else sat there and what they were (or weren’t) wearing at the time.
I know. Ick.