As travelers begin to adjust to the new normal during the coronavirus pandemic, health, safety—and cleanliness—are more important than ever, especially when staying in a hotel. In order to protect the safety of guests and staff, some hotel companies have put new protocols in place, from removing minibars to eliminating extra pillows in the room. And yet, not every hotel has been on their best behavior. A recent investigation by the TV show Inside Edition discovered that several major hotel brands were neglecting to change bedding or wipe down surfaces between guests.
In order to shed light on how to travel safely and securely, the team at UpgradedPoints recently did a survey analyzing the bacteria present on communal features at a range of hotels, from two-star up to five-star properties—and the results were staggering. “Even if you don’t keep an immaculate house, hotel objects are likely much dirtier than those in your home,” says Alex Miller, founder and CEO of the website UpgradedPoints.
UpgradedPoints compared some of the most touched objects in hotels to common household items. Here’s what they found:
- Overall, the average hotel elevator button has 1,477 times more germs than the average household bathroom door handle and 737 times more germs than a household toilet seat.
- The average hotel door handle has 918 times more germs than a household toilet seat.
UpgradedPoints also discovered that the cost of your hotel doesn’t guarantee a cleaner stay. In fact, the study revealed that elevator buttons and door handles at mid-level three-star hotels are by far the cleanest among all hotel tiers. The authors of the study also discovered that five-star hotel elevator buttons have nearly seven times more germs than that of the average four-star hotel and nearly 1,000 times that of the average three-star hotel.
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The reason? “In some cases, nicer hotels had dirtier surfaces, which may have something to do with the number of guests coming and going,” says Miller. “Luxury hotels typically operate with higher occupancy rates, meaning more people travel in their elevators and touch their door handles.”
Miller also points out that while cleanliness and housekeeping may receive higher ratings in upscale hotels, the number of people they have to clean up after may undo some of the cleaning staff’s hard work. His advice: “Even in five-star hotels, don’t let your guard down: Maintain the same high standards for your personal hygiene.”
Besides elevator buttons and door handles, there are plenty of other dirty areas to avoid in hotels—especially room items like the remote control, which is a big germ catcher (think E-Coli, MSRA and staph). Here are some other surprisingly dirty things to beware of when you’re staying at a hotel:
- The chair in your room: According to a doctor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, chairs usually aren’t cleaned like sheets and towels, so they can harbor germs “that are not noticeable to the eye.”
- The desk: Respiratory viruses can linger on a desk for up to four days, warns Jennifer Stagg, a naturopathic physician.
- Curtains: Don’t assume that the drapes in your room are clean. Consider the fact that it takes work to pull them down, clean them and put them back up.
- The ice bucket: An ice bucket can retain many germs, even norovirus, since this humble receptacle is often used by guests to capture vomit (gross but true).
But don’t despair completely. A recent J.D. Power study showed that some hotels are doing well when it comes to cleanliness and that guest satisfaction with the cleanliness of their room has increased for a fifth consecutive year, reaching an all-time high rating of 8.53 (on a 10-point scale) in 2020. According to J.D. Power, the following hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction, so if you want to stay in a room that’s clean, consider this your little cheat sheet:
- Luxury: The Luxury Collection
- Upper Upscale: Wyndham Grand Hotels
- Upscale: Hyatt House
- Upper Midscale: Drury Hotels (for a 15th consecutive year)
- Midscale: Tru by Hilton
- Economy: SureStay Hotel by Best Western
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