Video: Hygiene Horrors at Top Hotels

You might want to think twice before making a cuppa or drinking from the glassware in your hotel room.

Bernard O’Riordan

If you’ve ever seen Gordon Ramsay get the CSI-style blue light out on his reality TV show “Hotel Hell”, you’ll know just how filthy and unhygienic hotel rooms can be.

From sheets and duvets stained by bodily fluids, to dirty drinking glasses and hidden nasties lurking on the remote control, hotel rooms can be some of the unhealthiest environments there are for travellers.

An eye-popping study by researchers at the University of Houston found major surfaces in hotel rooms are among the most contaminated you’ll find.

A  similar study by Oyster, a hotel website, found mugs and glasses, light switches and remote controls are breeding grounds for bacteria like E.coli.

While most hotels always clean between guests, there is a difference between routine cleaning and a thorough deep clean that includes disinfecting. The lighting and poor air circulation in some rooms also make for an unhealthy environment.

But it also seems as though hotel maids are so poorly paid and so over-worked in many countries, that they’re conciously breaching hygiene standards.

Gotcha!

Take a look at the shocking undercover video below that shows room attendants deliberately flouting the rules at a string of luxury hotels in north-eastern China.

The clip – which has gone viral with more than 30 million views on social media – shows a maid at one five-star hotel using a filthy toilet brush to clean drinking glasses, cups and basins.

At another hotel, a room attendant uses the same rag to clean toilets and cups while another uses the same sponge on glasses and sinks.

The Marriott, Shangri-La, Ritz Carlton, Hilton and Waldorf Astoria are among several luxury hotels that have responded to the alarming footage and issued apologies, according to Bloomberg.

Over-worked, Under-paid

It’s well known in the industry that hotel staff don’t usually get much time to clean a room from top to toe, with 14 to 16 rooms to clean in an eight hour shift. They usually spend around 30 minutes, on average, or less during a busy season.  

Quite simply, they are over-worked and under-paid.

At a three-star hotel I stayed at in midtown New York in 2014, where there only ever seemed to be a handful of employees on duty, room cleaning was irregular to say the least.

Most surfaces were laden with dust for the duration of my two-week stay, and the room was only vacuumed twice in that time. Sometimes the bin wasn’t even emptied.

Stay Vigilant 

The good news is, not all bacteria or viruses will make you sick. We come into contact with thousands of germs every day, and only a small percentage of germs found in hotel rooms are ever dangerous.

But it still pays to remain vigilant when checking into a hotel room, no matter whether it’s a bed and breakfast or a luxury five-star resort.

The most important measure you can take when travelling is to wash your hands regularly, particularly if you want to avoid severe stomach bugs and the travellers curse, norovirus.

But if you’re extra cautious, you might also want to think twice before touching or using some of these high-risk, in-room objects.

Ditch the glassware

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At most, glasses and mugs are rinsed with hot water and wiped down with a semi-clean towel before being put back onto the table for you to use. Ugh. Your safest bet is to use individual wrapped paper cups or use a drinking straw to avoid direct contact. It’s worth buying bottled water for the bedside table.

Steer clear of the kettle

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I would never have thought to avoid using the in-room kettle, until I read horror stories like these. And there’s lots of them. If these stories are true, it seems modern travellers like to use the kettle to boil their underwear, a useful way to kill bacteria and ensure they have clean underwear the next day. I'll stick to coffee from the local Starbucks, thanks all the same.

Bin the ice bucket

Screenshot at Aug 31 11-55-42You can never be sure what the ice bucket might have been used for by previous guests. There are stories of ice buckets being used for everything from rubbish bins to vomit buckets, so don't risk it. If you want ice from the vending machine, fill a plastic bag. But be warned, even hotel ice machines have been linked to bugs that cause listeria, diarrhoea and the common cold. You just can't win.

Wipe down the TV remote

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Disinfectant wipes are one of the best things any traveller can carry, and they’re ideal for wiping down high-use hotel items like the TV remote control, the telephone and even the light switches and door knobs. It might seem extreme, but I’ve heard of people who put the remote control inside a see-through sandwich bag to avoid direct contact. It’s not such a crazy idea: you can still see the buttons, but you don’t have to touch them.

Beware the hairdryer

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Along with the TV remote, wall-mounted hairdryers are said to be among the most germ-riddled objects in a hotel room, usually because they’re not obvious items that housekeepers would bother cleaning. I've even heard of people who've used the hairdryer to reheat food. Give it a wipe down before use, or better still, bring your own.

Protect your toothbrush

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Most of us blindly trust that when we leave things out in our hotel room, they’ll be safe and secure when we return. But you can never truly be sure that’s the case. Even with something as simple as a toothbrush, would you ever know if it met with foul play while you were out? What if housekeeping accidentally knocked your toothbrush into the toilet. How would you know? Do yourself a favour and put your toothbrush away, out of sight, once you’ve used it. In fact, anything that goes in your mouth should not be left out on potentially germ-riddled surfaces.

Remove the duvet

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The most alarming part of the hotel room is also the one place that is meant to be the most comforting – the bed. You can only imagine what happen on that bed before you arrived, and it might not be a pretty picture. Evidence of pubic hair, stains or bodily fluids would send most guests clammering for the exits. While most hotels change bed linen between guests - although this alarming image suggests otherwise - they are far less likely to change the duvet or bedspread. A lot of people recommend folding the bedspread back away from your face and arms if it worries you, but you might consider not using it all.

This blog was update on November 17, 2018

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