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How to Tell if Your Hotel Room is Clean

A man enters a hotel room
Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock.com

There’s been a lot of talk about how dirty hotels are recently. While some establishments hold themselves to the highest cleaning standards, others seem to do the bare minimum in between guests. It’s not unreasonable to want a clean and relatively germ-free room while spending the night, so we put together a guide to help you determine whether or not your hotel room is really clean, plus what to do if it isn’t.

Smell Around

A woman in a hotel room
Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock.com

One of the first things you can do to assess the cleanliness of your hotel room is to pay attention to the smells around you. Keep your nose ready for musty or moldy odors, which may indicate poor ventilation or water damage. Odd smells from the fridge or microwave are also an indication that those areas have not been properly cleaned.

What to Do: If you notice a mild musty smell, try opening a window. Your hotel room maybe just needs some ventilation.

Febreze Small Spaces Air Freshener

These can make your hotel room smell fresh and clean.

If that doesn’t help, or if the odor is strong enough that it bothers you, bring it to the attention of the hotel staff and request a room change. Moldy or musty smells could indicate mold growth somewhere in the room, which can be hazardous to your health.

When requesting a room change, head to the front desk and politely explain the issue. As long as you are respectful, they will do their best to help you.

If the hotel is completely booked and there are no available rooms for you to move to, you can discuss the possibility of a refund if you feel that the cleanliness issue is bad enough that you need to find another hotel for the night. Again, as long as you are polite and respectful, the hotel staff will do their best to make sure that you are satisfied with your experience, regardless of where you end up staying.

Check the Bathroom

A woman in a hotel bathroom

The bathroom is an area that should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between each stay. Take a closer look to spot any potential cleanliness issues. Check for hair stuck around the drain plug, soap scum on the shower curtain, or stains at the base of the toilet.

What to Do: If you are not satisfied with the cleanliness of the bathroom, you can call the front desk and request an additional cleaning. You will likely need to leave the room during this, so it may not be the most convenient option, but it is probably the most doable for the staff.

If the bathroom is disgusting, there’s a good chance the rest of the room wasn’t cleaned well either. This is sufficient cause to request another room. You may want to take pictures of the specific areas of concern to show the front desk when asking for another room.

BAGSMART Toiletry Bag Travel Bag

If you have to stay in a dirty bathroom, this bag will keep your toiletries away from grimy surfaces.

Look Around the Beds

A hotel bed
Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock.com

Inspecting the area around the beds can provide valuable insights into the overall cleanliness of the room. If one side of the bed is close to the wall, check the space in between. Vacuuming in tight areas can be challenging, so if that part of the floor is clean, it’s a good indication that the rest of the room will likely be clean too.

What to Do: If the space around the beds, or any tough-to-vacuum spot, is not clean, you should contact the front desk to request another cleaning. Depending on the level of uncleanliness, you may be satisfied with another cleaning or you may want to request another room altogether.

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If you really want to see what's hiding in your hotel room.

Move Things Around

A hotel room
zhu difeng/Shutterstock.com

To further assess the level of cleanliness in your hotel room, try moving objects in the room. For example, shift the television a few inches off center or pick up the phone, lamp, or clock radio. Look for any tell-tale lines of dust that may indicate a quick swipe with a rag rather than a thorough cleaning.

What to Do: While finding minor imperfections doesn’t warrant another cleaning or a room change, it does signal the need for extra precautions, like keeping your toiletries in your bag or wearing socks inside.

If you’ve noticed some minor cleanliness issues but don’t want to go through the hassle of notifying the hotel staff, you can clean a few things yourself. Pick up some sanitizing wipes and use them to wipe down the counters, telephones, and desks. You can also purchase a laundry-safe sanitizing spray to spray down beds and couches to give yourself a little peace of mind.

Lysol Fabric Disinfectant Spray

Sanitize your bed sheets and pillows.

What to Avoid in Every Room

A hotel room

Realistically, it’s impossible to expect every inch of a hotel room to be flawlessly clean unless you’re staying at a five-star resort. However, there are certain items you should avoid to minimize potential risks.

  • Coffee Makers: Most coffee makers are not cleaned regularly, if at all. Frequent travelers recommend avoiding this appliance and buying your coffee elsewhere.
  • Bedspreads: There is evidence to suggest that bedspreads are changed as little as four times a year in some hotels. Remove the bedspread and turn up the heat to stay comfortable.
  • Glasses: Those glasses that come set up next to your sink? Don’t drink out of them before washing them yourself. Most aren’t sanitized between stays.
  • Pillowcases: Unfortunately, pillowcases also seem to be neglected during most room cleanings. Pack your own or request freshly laundered ones from the hotel staff.

Jersey Knit Pillow Cases Set of 2

It's easy to pack your own pillowcase and ensure you have a clean place to rest your head at night.

What to Clean Yourself

A woman cleans a counter
New Africa/Shutterstock.com

Even if your hotel room appears to be adequately clean, it’s always a good idea to take additional steps to sanitize high-touch areas yourself. Use disinfecting wipes or spray to clean door handles, light switches, remote controls, and other frequently touched surfaces.

This process should only take a few minutes and will leave you feeling much more comfortable in your room. It may even help you get sick by killing germs and bacteria that might have been lingering.

The Honest Company Sanitizing Alcohol Wipes

You should always pack sanitizing wipes on every trip.

Ensuring the cleanliness of your hotel room is crucial for a comfortable and worry-free stay. Here’s what to look out for in a hotel room, what to avoid, and what to clean yourself.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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