How to Sanitize a Hotel Room

Maybe you have seen the news reports and undercover investigations where the investigator shines a black light around a supposedly clean hotel room and discovers germs, bacteria and sometimes even worse lingering inside it. This has happened even at some of the most upscale hotel chains. In order to avoid a hotel room nightmare – or at least a preventable illness – follow the steps below.

Inspect your room before unpacking.

Remember, no one should have to spend the night in a room that has obviously, whether intentionally or not, been overlooked by housekeeping services. If your room is found to be unsatisfactory, you are well within your right to ask for a new one. So, as soon as you enter your room, take about ten minutes to have a look around.

Check the floor, bedding and furniture for any stains, hairs, crumbs and debris. Take notice of any insects or any food or waste that could attract them. Then check the bathroom for the same thing, as well as for mold, mildew or leaking water. Check the toilet and bathtub or shower for cleanliness and make sure all toiletry items – soaps, shampoos, shower caps – are sealed and not left over from a previous guest.

Lastly, look at the air conditioner and heat vents as well as the access panel to the bathroom fan. Make sure there are no strange smells or dust and debris around the ducts that could aggravate any allergies or otherwise inhibit your breathing. This could make for a very uncomfortable stay.

If you asked for a nonsmoking room, check for any smoking paraphernalia, such as an ash tray.

Also note if there is a stale cigarette smell in the room. IT is possible that you have been given a smoking room by mistake or that the previous guest decided to smoke in the room anyway.

If you find anything that alarms you, alert the front desk to your concerns immediately and offer to point out the issues in person. Most likely the attendant will be more than willing to work with you to remedy the problem. If not, request to speak to a manager. If this still gets you nowhere, consider staying at a different hotel and writing a stern letter to the president of the company when you get home.

Sanitize and Sterilize!

Even if your hotel room passes the initial inspection, or perhaps your second room in your hotel does, you have no reason to believe that this hotel room is completely sterilized and spotless. Thus, you should still take the following advice into accord to protect your health.

Be wary of small but commonly used items.

Things such as the phone, television remote control, light switch, door and drawer handles and telephone are small enough that they can be missed by hotel cleaning staff, yet touched enough by guests that they can be teeming with germs. Best to bring along a travel-sized pack of antibacterial wipes and clean the surfaces of these items before you use them. Or, alternately, you can cover each device with a clean, resealable plastic bag that you bring from home. Well, with the possible exception of the light switch.

Ditch the bedspread:

Unlike the sheets, the bedspread in your hotel room may not be washed after every guest, mainly because it is a bulky and a pain for the staff members to carry in and out of the room and it takes up a lot of space in the washing machine. If your hotel bed has a comforter or bedspread on it, you may want to toss it aside and place it on the floor or in a chair. Then either cover up with the sheets alone or use your own blanket that you have brought from home.

*If the comforter has a removable cover on it, chances are that it is washed regularly. Removable covers are considerably less obtrusive and are fairly easy to throw in the washing machine.

Don’t use refillable water glasses

Many new reports have shown that these water glasses are not properly cleaned and sterilized in between guests. Sometimes they are just given a quick scrub in the bathroom sink and then placed back on the counter as if they were new. There is no way to tell if this is the case at your hotel, short of shadowing the housekeeping staff. Instead of taking your chances, bring your own glass that you know is clean or use a disposable plastic cup.

Keep your hands germ free

Whenever you touch a surface in your room that may be of questionable cleanliness either wash your hands with hot water and soap or use a bottle of hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is available in travel sizes at most grocery stores and drug stores so it is no big deal to throw a bottle or two in your handbag or suitcase.

Make sure your feet stay off the floor

Sure, you may want to make yourself at home, by never walk around your hotel room barefoot. It is doubtful that the cleaning staff shampoos and sterilizes the carpet between guests. Instead, wear socks or slippers at all times. And consider wearing flip flops or shower shoes in the bathroom for similar reasons.

Voice your opinion

Odds are that you are more likely to have cleanliness issues if you stay at a lower-class hotel than a higher class one. However, no matter where you are staying, you are entitled to a certain standard of health and sanitation. Don’t be afraid to speak up if there is a problem. Better to be known as a nagging guest than to later wind up sick or even hospitalized.


  1. Deborah says:

    My husband and I carry a small can of Lysol disinfectant with us and spray EVERYTHING our hands will touch.

  2. Sally says:

    I witnessed a maid in a major four star hotel, clean the drinking glasses squeaky clean and highly shined. The problem was that she used a filthy grayed rag that she used for the bathroom countertop and the surfaces in the bedroom. The same rag she used in how many rooms before mine.

  3. Sheesh! says:

    Calm down people! Articles like this encourage undue fear of germs. It may be shocking to some of you, but hotel rooms are not as sterile as operating rooms. Yes, you should look for things that are obviously not clean and complain about them… but much more than that is going overboard. If you had this attitude about everything in life, you wouldn’t be able to leave the house. No shopping for groceries, no going out to eat, don’t touch A SINGLE DOORKNOB, etc. A healthy human body can handle germs (it does so all the time, in fact) without much problem. It’s even beneficial to be exposed to germs on a regular basis, and there are even classic cases where you want to get an active infection sooner rather than later — for instance, a child that gets chicken pox will hopefully prevent getting the much more serious shingles later in life. Anyway, calm down and just live your life without freaking out about every little thing. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom and make sure you cook your food thoroughly, but chill out and just enjoy the air-conditioned hotel you’re staying at while on vacation.

  4. Greg says:

    Another way to deal with hotel rooms is to carry along an aqueous ozone system. I constantly get headaches from the chemicals used to clean hotel rooms. All I have to do is charge up a 20 oz. spray bottle with my coffee maker-sized machine, and poof! Instant sanitizer. Then, I spray everything from the countertops to behind the drapes to take care of odors, bacteria, and chemical residue. I guess it helps that I sell these systems to hotels for chemical-free sanitation of rooms, but what the heck…

  5. S.Y.R. says:

    As a 31-year airline pilot, I spent all those years in motel rooms and never had a problem, but all these tips are excellent! I just couldn’t carry all this cleaning stuff with me as a large portion of my time was staying in motel/hotel rooms. “SHEESH” has a good prospective/out-look on this: Just enjoy your time, and you’ll be fine!

    ……………………………Capt. SYR……………………………

  6. Robert says:

    All of this over-the-top fear-mongering is creating paranoia and chemical toxicity overkill. Makers of pesticides, solvents and disinfectants thrive on our ridiculous fear of bugs and germs. Don’t get me wrong; cleanliness and sterilization are a constant we must adhere to. However, is anyone stopping to think about the toxic assault of all of these chemicals and pesticides? In our fears of bedbugs, cockroaches and microbes we are poisoning ourselves. These chemicals are bad news, and are layered and persistent. We breathe the off-gassing and the dust of these chemicals in our hotel rooms for the 10 or more hours a day we spend in them. If you travel a lot you are wreaking havoc on your central nervous system, immune system, and liver. How many of us have maids come to our homes every day, brandishing an arsenal of chemicals to appease our pandered fear of bugs. Some sanity please! Chemical toxins are bad for us too.

  7. Mary says:

    While I agree with most of the posters above that this article is overkill, ‘Sheesh!’ is incorrect to say that chicken pox will prevent someone from ‘getting’ shingles – in fact, it’s not possible to develop shingles without first having had chicken pox. Once a person infected with chicken pox begins to recover, the virus will travel down the nerves and lay dormant in the nerve cells – in other words, once a person’s had the virus, it’ll stay with them forever. If the person’s immune system is weakened (by other illnesses, say, or by age, which is why shingles is mainly seen in elderly people), the virus can reactivate, travel back along those same nerves to the skin, and basically cause a localized form of chicken pox, which is limited to the area surrounding those nerves.

    It therefore follows that the only way of preventing someone getting shingles is to prevent them getting chicken pox, but as this virus is so widespread in the population, that’s practically impossible, and as chicken pox is far more serious (possibly fatal) if someone catches it as an adult, it’s better to get it out of the way as a child, even though it does mean that the person has a chance of developing shingles later in life. The good news is that for most people, shingles, although often painful, is generally not a serious illness, but if someone does suspect they have shingles, they should not come into contact with anyone who hasn’t had chicken pox, or any woman who is or may be pregnant.

  8. Country says:

    I do agree about inspecting the hotel room that you are staying in. My husband and I went to a Holiday Inn for a weekend get-away, and when I pulled the covers back, there were stains all over the bedsheets. Needless to say, I lost it with the Hotel Manager and demanded my money back and we left. So, I do inspect the rooms and I clean the bathrooms and clean the room when we arrive. I also will take my own sheets, pillows and bedspreads. I would rather seem a little over board than to expose my family to filthy rooms.

  9. Housekeeping says:

    I worked as a housekeeper for a year. I know that a hotel room has germs and bacteria that can harm you, but the truth is, the chemicals I used to kill those germs can be very toxic and harmful to our bodies. The germs living inside the hotel room can definitely harm you and make you sick if you have weak immune system. But nowadays, especially in America, not many people get sick because of germs. When I worked at the hotel, I used several different chemicals to clean, and sometimes I had to mix two chemicals (and as you know, mixing chemicals can cause chemical reactions). My housekeeper supervisor asks me to spread chemicals a lot, just to look clean and good. Honestly, especially when I cleaned the bathrooms, I had to spread the chemicals all over the places (mirrors, toilet, bathroom floor, bathtub, all over the place). Those chemicals always made my head ache, and my hands and arms sometimes would get itchy and red. I heard that some of those chemical are even cancerous. So, if you stay at a hotel, make sure to open the window. If you have a baby, it would be better to ask the housekeeper to clean the room without using chemicals.

  10. Lucy says:

    Do you also bring your own duvet and duvet cover? I don’t get how someone brings their own sheets, but not the above. Does not make sense if someone fears germs. And what about the toilet seat? Do you bring your own? Wake up people; there are germs everywhere and they are not going to kill you.

  11. Beth says:

    I travel 40 or more weeks per year and I live in a hotel. Being a drama queen/king about everything is going to make for a long, paranoid, and annoying life. The best thing to do is just bring a can of Lysol and some wipes and you’ll be fine. Also, stick with three-star or better, recently renovated, or new hotels. In the few instances that there were stains on sheets, etc., I either asked for them to be changed and watched them change them or when I checked in after housekeeping had left, I asked to manager for some quarters to clean them myself. The manager gave me money to clean the sheets and free detergent and I headed down the laundry and just washed them in hot water. Voila! Clean sheets and comforter. The next day I was upgraded to suite for my inconvenience and all this good fortune came about because I didn’t have a hissy-fit and went with the flow. It’s not as if there was a poisonous bug in my bed like there was in S.E.A. So just chill!

    Washing your hands in very hot water with soap for 20 seconds is the key to staying healthy. I have traveled the world and that has been the reason I haven’t been sick. Being exposed to a lot of germs actually helps you develop immunity to a lot of things.

    Trust me; you may think you are a neat freak, but there is always someone even more psychotic about germs than you are.

  12. Groty says:

    As a nurse, I have to disagree with the perspective that a person is “paranoid” or “fear mongering” for being wary of a hotel room. Yes, we need to be exposed to microbes to maintain functioning immune systems, and yes, cleaning chemicals can be dangerous, but there’s a difference here. The issue is not so much the microorganisms that undoubtedly exist in hotels, but rather, the bodily fluids, pests, and other gross things that just aren’t cleaned up! Is it REALLY being paranoid to use a disposable cup, rather than a drinking glass that was “washed” with a toilet-and-counter cleaning rag + glass cleaner? Is it really paranoid to avoid using an UNWASHED bedspread that someone else has slept under, had sex on, and done who-knows-what-else with? Is it REALLY paranoid to check for bed bugs and cockroaches before opening up that suitcase you’re going to bring back to your own home? No, it’s just plain common sense, unless you’re deliberately trying to be extreme about your view of “germs” as your little hotel room friends. You don’t need to use any big scary cleaning chemicals to tidy up – you can use basic alcohol wipes, antibacterial hand wipes, or even just soap and hot water on a clean washcloth to physically remove bodily fluids and most microorganisms from hotel surfaces. If you’re really worried about using some Lysol, there are plenty of natural disinfectant brands too.

  13. Veemac says:

    I don’t think one needs to go overboard, but when we travel cross-country with our small children, I take toilet cleaner with bleach, Lysol, and antibacterial wipes. I wipe down all of the “touch” surfaces–doorknobs, light switches, handle of toilet, phone, remote, etc., and I clean the toilet and spray the beds and hard surfaces. We usually stay at places with kitchens, so I run all of the glasses through the dishwasher. Norovirus has been going around this year, and people are contagious for up to 2 weeks after they feel better, and the virus sheds in feces, so I’m just being cautious. Who wants the entire family to come down with that on a month-long road trip? I just fold the bedspread down and don’t let it touch my face, and we follow good hand-washing procedures, always. And to comment on Sheesh!’s comment, as another commenter said, you can only get shingles if you’ve previously had chicken pox. Either you get varicella vaccine to prevent chicken pox as a kid or you get the shingles vaccine if you had chicken pox, once you become an adult. The virus stays in your system, just like Herpes, which is why people who get cold sores get them again and again. It’s very similar. Our immune systems can handle a lot, and I am not a freak about germs, but I do take extra precautions in hotel rooms. I’ve read too many articles by former housekeepers at hotels saying they skipped things lots of times for me to feel secure in their practices.

  14. Paulo B says:

    Isn’t this paranoia? There are germs everywhere and up to a large point, we are immune to them. If we start thinking like that, we’ll end up living in an aseptic bubble…

  15. Shell says:

    I’m not overly paranoid about germs, but I do wipe down the TV remote, door handles and phone in every room I stay in. And if I’m traveling with my kids, who prefer baths to showers, I have recleaned the tub. Nothing wrong with being a little cautious.

  16. Joe says:

    As I read all these posts, I would’ve agreed with most of you about relaxing and don’t freak out when staying at a hotel until about seven weeks ago. I am unfortunately writing this post while recovering from attracting scabies from a higher end hotel chain 3+ stars. I was always relaxed while staying; I even joked about how weird a co-worker was about bringing their own sheets. I was on a three night stay work trip where on the last night I crashed on the covers of the bed, the room was clean and newly remodeled so I didn’t think much of it. It took three weeks for me to be diagnosed; I didn’t even know what scabies was. In that time, I stayed in two other hotels, itching and apparently spreading it unbeknownst to me. It also spread to my wife and child and my family who came to my house before my diagnosis. It’s been a nightmare! The most popular place to get infected is hotel bed linens/spreads! I found this site because I’m a little nervous now and wanted to find out how to better protect myself. I am a clean person and feel awful that I could’ve possibly passed it to someone else. Don’t be fooled; take precautions! Even though the odds are in your favor, and this is the first time anything like this has happened to me when I stay 70-80 nights a year. It can happen; don’t let this nightmare happen to you and your family.

  17. Tuna says:

    When I check in to a hotel room, I wash the glasses with soap and hot water because one day my housekeeper at the Marriott in NYC was cleaning the bathroom and she used the johnny mop to clean the toilet, then proceeded to use the same johnny mop to clean the drinking glasses out. I’ll wait for you to go to the bathroom to hurl.

    She didn’t really habla so well. Maybe that’s what they do in the third world county she came from. In America, cleaning drinking glasses with toilet bowl johnny mop = Bad!

  18. Ian says:

    Although there is probably a lot of truth in the view that an over-dependence on alcohol gel and anti-bac wipes can lead to a loss of resistance to germs, it is more the psychological angle that drives me to clean hotel rooms as soon as I arrive.

    People, men in particular, will lie on the bed with their hands down their pants or up their noses or scratching some part of their body while watching TV and using the remote. I personally don’t want to handle a remote control after someone else with the disgusting habits most of us have in private has been using it and will always clean the thing (though unaccountably I clean it before I leave as well…)

    Same with headboards; greasy, dirty, dandruff ridden scalps have been leaning against the headboard so they always get cleaned before I rest my bonce against it.

    Likewise at holiday resorts, the plastic chairs on balconies have had countless sweaty arse cracks sliding up and down them. This is not paranoia or over-reacting, it is just avoiding the revolting!

    Each to their own, but I will continue to clean doorknobs, toilets, toilet roll holders, TV remotes, light switches etc. It takes 10 minutes. I don’t walk barefoot on carpets, don’t sit on soft furnishings unless I take my own throws to cover them, don’t use the glasses in the bathroom. The result is I may not be less at risk of infection, but I feel a whole lot better about my stay!

  19. Ronny says:

    I use to work for a hotel for one summer back about 10 years. I personally cleaned the rooms, so I know they were cleaned well. One day, the hotel owner’s wife went before me as usual and opened all the doors to rooms that needed to be cleaned. Well, there had been a regular business man that stayed the night before I came to work. Well, he stayed in the big, more expensive room. It was evident that he only slept on one side of the bed, which was a king size bed. The owner’s wife decided that she would take the fitted sheet and turn it, so the part he slept on would be on the opposite side of the bed. I happened to be walking by and saw her and questioned her. Oh boy; she snatched off the sheet and covers, stormed out the room cursing and got mad at me. She said he only slept on this side of the bed, it’s perfectly ok to turn the sheets…Oh, that was the beginning of my awakening of the how things happen at motel/hotels. I quit at the end of the day. So, yes, be careful when you stay at any hotel/motel. Please protect yourself because we are living in a world that people have different convictions about personal hygiene. Better safe than sorry…

  20. A Caring Husband says:

    I also have a nightmare story (told short) that I would like to share:

    Last year, during our our vacation, we stayed at a well-known hotel. Though I used to be on the same side with the people here declaring, “Germs, bah!”, my feelings changed after my two-year-old contracted SARS! This was a nightmare that I would never like to relive!!!

    The question is; Did my child contract it from the hotel, or from the airplane seats? I and the doctors are not sure. Though, I know for a fact that I will from now on travel with cleaning supplies to wipe down our plane seats, and clean the room we are staying… not like a paranoid person, but the handles, etc. which your hands will normally touch in a room.

Leave a Comment