The risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 in a hotel room is quite low if it’s properly cleaned, according to health experts. However, according to the CDC, people infected with COVID-19 can spread the virus through high-touch and “prolonged contact” items such as light switches, sheets and pillowcases.
Hotels all over the world say they have upgraded their cleaning practices and are paying more attention than ever to the cleaning and disinfecting of hotel areas. But are they really? Before you make yourself comfortable on that big, comfy bed, you might want to know a thing or two about the gross things hotels are still doing to save money, despite the global pandemic.
It’s always more than meets the eye
Hotels are often visited and transited by a great number of guests and not all of them have time to clean and sanitize things the way they should between stays. As a matter of fact, according to a 2012 study, around 81 percent of hotel surfaces sampled held at least some fecal bacteria.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, everyone has had to abide by stricter hygiene rules, including hotels. Or so they say, because, in reality, the situation’s a bit different. Health experts might say that hotels have to be squeaky clean, regularly sanitized and disinfected but this requires more money and it’s something that some hotels are simply not willing to pay for. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but surfaces in hotel rooms are not the only things you should be wary of. That being said, here are the disgusting things that hotels are still doing to save money, despite the pandemic.
They’re reusing the sheets
This was quite a common practice before the coronavirus pandemic. According to Philip Biton, the cofounder of NDOband, if the sheets didn’t have any visible stains, they were not constantly cleaned between visits. As gross as it may sound, three out of nine hotels secretly tested during a 2016 investigation conducted by Inside Edition, didn’t change sheets. Fast forward four years later, and a similar investigation by Inside Edition revealed that at least three hotels in New York City, namely the Hyatt Place in Times Square, the Hampton Inn Times Square Central, and Trump International, didn’t change the linens or clean regularly between guests, despite the strict hygiene measures that hotels should be taking amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Imagine all the bodily fluids, hair, skin and other bacteria from practical strangers that could be lurking in that hotel room. To make sure you don’t develop some serious health issues, ask the hotel to change the sheets after you’ve checked in, even if they say they’ve already changed them. Here are another 12 Things You Should Consider Before Booking a Hotel.
They’re allowing sick employees to come to work
There’s a great deal at stake when it comes to COVID-19, but for some hotels, money is more important than the health of their employees, and ultimately, their guests. Here’s one example: When a Holiday Inn LAX employee notified her manager that she had a headache and body aches, she was allowed to take a day off work to get tested for COVID-19. So far so good. The only problem was that she was asked to continue working until she received her results, which, by the way, were positive.
How was that possible, you ask? Well, according to Jon Jarosh, a spokesman for Destination Door County in Wisconsin, businesses are having a hard time finding and keeping their employees due to the current travel restrictions. They can’t afford to lose an employee, not to mention the money that employees would still be entitled to receive.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, see also 10 Things Coronavirus Changed From Rude to Normal.
They may allow COVID-19-positive guests
Let’s say the hotel is thoroughly cleaning the rooms, sanitizing the surfaces and regularly changing the linens. But there’s something that they can’t sanitize: their guests, who might be lurking behind closed doors. We’re not only talking about people who don’t notify the hotel management that they have COVID-19 or those who don’t know that they are positive. We are talking about COVID-19-positive guests who are allowed to stay in certain hotels.
According to the Santa Clara County Public Health Emergency Operations Center, hotels and other types of accommodation facilities in California are allowed to provide rooms for guests infected with the novel coronavirus, conditioned that they don’t leave an isolation area of at least 5 percent of the hotel’s total available rooms. In the case of smaller hotels, at least one room must be prepared for possible COVID-19 guests. The room(s) should be adjacent to one another and, wherever possible, the isolation area should have direct entrances and exits to the outdoors. Those suspected to have COVID-19 should stay in their designated rooms, but you never know when they might feel like wondering the hotel hallways.
They may still not sanitize the glasses thoroughly
These unprecedented times require unprecedented measures. This means places frequented by a lot of people, like restaurants and hotels, need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected now more than ever, with the coronavirus lingering from several hours to two or three days on certain surfaces.
Unfortunately, when it comes to hotels, there are no clearly defined cleanliness standards, despite the global pandemic. This means it’s up to hotels to keep things, like glasses, clean. Things are even easier when it comes to making glasses look clean: rinse them with water and wipe them with a dishtowel. It’s not the way to sanitize a glass but it’s the way most hotel employees clean these items, especially if they have little time to clean the rooms between guests.
As a matter of fact, a 2009 undercover investigation carried out by ABC News revealed that 75 percent of the sampled hotel glasses had just been wiped down and rinsed out. More than that, further scrutiny revealed that the cleaning personnel used dirty cloths and unsuitable sprays.
They don’t always wash the coffeepots
Coffeepots are among the most used items in a hotel but also one of the most neglected ones in terms of regular washing and cleaning. When was the last time you washed yours? If you can’t remember what happens in your own kitchen, imagine the chaos in a hotel. In fact, ABC News exposed several hotels for not using soap or other cleaners to disinfect their coffeepots. Furthermore, according to a study conducted by the University of Valencia which sampled nine hotel Nespresso machines, all collected bacteria in less than a year of use.
The solution? Just bring your own mini French Press or disinfect the items on your own before using them, at least until this pesky virus recedes; and who knows? Maybe hotels will decide on their own to stop providing in-room coffeepots.
They don’t change their mattresses often
It’s no secret that mattresses don’t come cheap. That’s one of the reasons premium hotels change their mattresses every three to five years, according to Traveller.com. When it comes to cheaper hotels, the time frame is even longer, namely every eight to ten years. If you think hotels are changing their mattresses now, when there are even fewer guests and fewer profits, just because there’s a global pandemic going on, think again. Most hotels just hide the fact that a mattress is torn or stained, either by flipping it on the other side or cleaning the stain, if possible. It would simply cost too much to replace a mattress every time there’s a problem with it.
They don’t change towels as often as they should
“They utilize the apathy of guests by stating that only towels left in the bath and shower will be changed,” says Jeremy Scott Foster, CEO of TravelFreak. “This can save hotels so much money on labor, detergent, and electricity.” In the past, towels that were taken by guests from the towel rails had to be washed.
The silver lining is that this cost-cutting measure is good for the environment, given the fact that more than 16 percent of a hotel’s water is used for laundry. By washing fewer towels, the hotels can save on water, sewer, labor, and energy costs, informs National Geographic. So, as long as we are the only ones in the room using ad reusing the towels, I guess we can live with that for the greater good of the environment. Speaking of environment, discover The 10 Countries Doing their Best to Protect the Environment.
They choose colorful carpets on purpose
Speaking of hiding things, there’s something else that hotels do to hide stains: use colorful carpets. Any stain you can think of can be embedded in a plushy, colorful carpet without you ever noticing it. Tiles may be easy to clean but they also need to be cleaned more often, as stains are more visible, according to the website Hotel Management. So why not use some colorful carpets with a double role? Brighten up a room and keep all tracks under wraps.
If the hotel you’re staying in has carpets with non-directional designs and heavy layers of texture, that’s should be your red flag that a hotel is using colorful carpets to hide a cleaning problem.
They don’t clean the light switch regularly
Light switches are high-touch surfaces, just like doorknobs, handrails and elevator buttons. They are touched multiple times a day but rarely if ever, cleaned, according to researchers from the University of Houston. According to their findings, light switches, especially those of bedside lamps, are loaded with germs and bacteria.
One of the reasons why light switches are so full of germs is that the cleaning staff has only thirty minutes at their disposal to clean and sanitize each room, which leaves them little time to wipe everything thoroughly. More than that, housekeepers usually use the same sponge and mop to clean various rooms, carrying the germs and bacteria with them. So much that bacteria in hotel rooms has been found to be between two and ten times higher than the levels accepted in hospitals!
They overlook the pillowcases
As comfortable as a bed full of pillows may look like, you’re actually using only one or two (okay, three, if you’re a pillow hugger). The problem is others might have used the same pillows before you. “When you put your head on a pillow it would blow your mind to think about how many other heads have been on that pillow,” says hospitality expert Jacob Tomsky. “Whatever people do in their rooms, pillows are always there. They’re either directly involved or very nearby,” adds Tomsky.
In fact, according to a 2014 Today Show investigation, housekeepers in various hotel chains in the United States placed the pillows on a chair next to the bed while they replaced the bed linens. After that, they fluffed the pillows and put them back on the bed. This practice is really troublesome, especially in light of a new study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. According to the study, asymptomatic patients can spread COVID-19 through the pillows they use.