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Heading to a hotel for the holiday? When you should ask for a new room

Hotel staffs do not usually have the proper equipment to clean up biohazards, like the equipment being used by this Aftermath employee.Aftermath, Inc.

Thousands of Americans are traveling for Christmas — and many of them are staying in hotels.

According to Aftermath, Inc., a company that specializes in crime scene cleanup and biohazard remediation, travelers have the right to ask for a new room if they find signs that the hotel has not been cleaned properly.

“Hotels want the room to be up and running as fast as possible. They want to skip out on recommended steps, putting the next person in the room in jeopardy.”

- Andrew Whitmarsh, Aftermath’s operations safety and compliance manager

“Before you settle into a hotel room, do a quick little overview,” Aftermath’s operations safety and compliance manager Andrew Whitmarsh said. “Look for even small or minor things. You’re a paying client. Do a thorough inspection.”

Whitmarsh said hotel staffs typically aren’t trained to remedy biohazard situations. He said they tend to use generic cleaning supplies and do not have the correct personal protective gear and disinfectants for viruses, bacteria and blood-borne pathogens.

“Hotels want the room to be up and running as fast as possible,” Whitmarsh said. “They want to skip out on recommended steps, putting the next person in the room in jeopardy.”

Whitmarsh recommends travelers take these steps upon entering their rooms — no matter what star hotel they’re staying at — to ensure that they are getting cleanliness, safety and quality.

Check out the carpets

“Look for any staining on the carpet and make note of any damp carpeting,” Whitmarsh said.

Hotels should be not cleaning carpets room-by-room, and they do not do so in between each guest’s stay. Carpets cannot just be scrubbed; they’re porous and need to be removed from the room if they are unclean.

“So, if your room is damp, you have to wonder why,” he said. “99.9 percent of hotels are built on concrete slabs, not wooden subfloor. Concrete is extremely porous. The surface may look good on the carpet, but fluids can go into concrete and soak through.”

Introducing water and trying just to clean the carpet can spread contaminants further into the subfloor and make it more unsanitary.

And even if the carpet seems clean, you should always wear sandals when walking on it — whether it is in the hallway or in your room itself, Whitmarsh said.

The room’s smell

Is there a strong chemical smell? If yes, then why?

“Hotel staff is not going into rooms with advanced cleaning agents,” Whitmarsh said. “So, when they clean a room, it should not leave a strong chemical odor.”

Remember to consider what caused the original smell. Is its origin a potential health hazard?

The bathroom

Look for staining on the tile and bathroom fixtures. Check to see if it appears as though someone tried to scrub something off the wall.

If you notice discoloration on or around the toilet, that is a warning that the area — and possibly the entire room — has not been thoroughly cleaned.

Look out for the not-so-obvious

Whitmarsh recommends bringing along a small hotel room inspector light, with tiny black light LED bulbs that allow you to see any type of stain — even if someone has tried to scrub it away. 

So what do you do if you notice unsanitary or dirty conditions?

“Go down and complain to management and tell them something is off about this room,” Whitmarsh said. “Then request a different room.”

And if that doesn’t work?

File a complaint.

“In these situations, hotel staff will know if something happened in the room,” he said. “They’re more than likely to make an accommodation.”