House and Home

How Clean Is Your Hotel Room?


In an age obsessed with cleanliness, hotels are a prime target for bed bugs, curious odors, stains, germs, bacteria, and other hygienic offenders. Yuck! Not what you want to think about while on vacation.  To help put your mind at-ease, we asked some experts about what you can do to ensure you have a clean stay and what red flags you should look for before getting settled into your hotel room.


  • Research. If the hotel is four or five stars and/or has received good reviews online, there should be no cause for concern. However, “people who should be a bit more concerned are those with health issues, especially the immune compromised,” says Dr. Phyllis Della-Latta, Professor of Clinical Pathology in Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. 
  • What are your first impressions? “Dirty carpets and rugs are a giveaway,” says Dr. Della-Latta. Also, “the appearance of the registration desk and the way you are greeted gives you an idea of the caliber of the hotel in general.” 
  • Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the hotel about their cleaning policies. “The hotel wants you to have a good experience and managers would rather take care of your concerns upon check-in, rather than read about them on a comment card later,” says Taylor L. Cole for


Once you open the door of your hotel room, Cole suggests quickly surveying the area for general cleanliness in the bathroom, bed, and nightstands. If you want to take extra precaution here's what you can do:

  • Avoid placing clothing or suitcases on the bed. If there’s a folding rack or chair, use that instead. 
  • Pull back the bed sheets and check the mattress. Look along the upper and lower seams. If you notice tiny black dots, that could indicate bed bugs. 
  • Sound the alarm. If you see anything questionable, ask housekeeping to spot clean your room while you’re there or request a new room. 
  • Pack hand sanitizer. “Apply a bit to a washcloth or tissue and wipe down the remote control, telephone and areas of the bathroom (if you’re so inclined!). Another option is to use rubbing alcohol,” says Cole. “But if you find yourself doing hefty spring-cleaning in the hotel room, stop and call housekeeping.” 
  • BYO. If you're really concerned, bring your own pillowcase or sheets. "We've heard of hotel guests traveling with toilet seat covers and wearing flip-flops in the shower," says Cole.


“It’s wonderful that people are aware of germs but realistically, you can’t live in a sterile environment," Dr. Della Latta says, while reminding us that we are surrounded by some "good" bacteria that protects us from harmful germs. “Constantly dipping yourself in alcohol can disrupt the balance that keeps us healthy,” she says.