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The First Thing to Do When You Stay in a Hotel Room

Microbiologist Philip Tierno, when he has to stay in hotels, travels with an impervious mattress and pillow cover. Lurking in every hotel mattress are skin cells, human hair, bodily secretions, fungi, bacteria, dust, dust mites, lint, insect parts, pollen, and cosmetics.

Tierno encourages everyone to use the impervious covers developed for allergy sufferers. And he also advises that you definitely get rid of the bedspread. The first thing he does is remove the comforter and store it in the closet. CNN reports:

"It's certainly true that bedspreads, or the quilts inside duvet covers, don't get thrown in with the sheets for a daily wash. Germs. tend to congregate in places touched multiple times by multiple people that may not be cleaned thoroughly, if at all".

While it is impossible to live in a germ-free environment, using toxic chemicals to achieve this is fraught with dangers and is not at all recommended. However it is best to pay attention to some well documented sources of pathogens that can easily be avoided with simple non-chemical measures.

Travel is one area that you can make some dramatic improvements.

Cleaning a hotel room is not a glamorous or high paying job, and my guess is the hardworking people laboring away at this task are at best just applying the minimum standard of care in their daily grind. Just making the beds is hard enough!

I don't expect them to wash every bedspread, nor do I expect management to pay for such an expense on a daily basis. This is made clear by microbiologist Philip Tierno, quoted in the article above:

"In hotel rooms that aren't properly disinfected, some of the germiest areas tend to be the faucet and sink areas, the flusher of the toilet, the underside of the toilet seat and the shower floor."

"Improper cleaning techniques, such as using the same rag in the bathroom and on the remote control, can spread germs around. Cleaning in a 'cavalier manner' doesn't happen only in lower-end hotels.

"[But at the same time] there's no raging problem of communicable diseases contracted in hotels. Exposure to germs in hotel rooms is generally nothing some timely and thorough hand washing can't fix, and of the 60,000 types of germs people might encounter over the course of their lives, only one percent or two percent are capable of causing disease."

So although hotel rooms may be germy, they really can't be considered dangerous. There are also some sensible precautions you can take yourself when you find yourself in a hotel room.

Sensible Precautions when Traveling

Some simple and easy sensible things to do when you find yourself in a hotel room include:

  • Turn down

    the top comforter or duvet cover (depending on which you encounter) and pull it to the end of the bed, avoid coming into contact with it as much as you can.

  • Wipe down the sink faucets, bathroom countertop, toilet handle and shower faucets with a damp towel.
  • Wipe down all door handles and knobs including the entryway and bathroom, phone, TV remote, and refrigerator if applicable.

Aside from the potential infectious agents on the duvet cover, a more likely important consideration would be dust mites as large number of people have dust allergies.

According to the microbiologist quoted in the CNN article above, you could also bring your own mattress /pillow allergen covers to protect yourself from this hazard lurking deep in your hotel bedding, but this may be a bit extreme for most unless you had severe allergies.

Beware of the Glasses in Your Hotel Room

There was also a recent investigation that showed that many hotel chains do not at all clean the glasses. So it would be safe to assume that they are dirty and have merely been wiped to look clean and could easily have been used by previous guests.

You can view the video below for more information.

The Chemical Hazards of Disinfection

Unfortunately, cleansers and air fresheners are both primary sources of indoor air pollution, and arguably just as dangerous to your health as the germs lurking on that crusty looking bedspread.

Therefore, while disinfection might go a little farther in freeing your room of germs, your lungs will suffer having to breathe in all those toxic chemicals…

Besides, you're not really going to carry a bottle of household cleaner with you when you travel, are you?

So What's the Solution?

Even though the odds are greatly against you coming into contact with the one or two percent of germs that will actually cause a disease, it's still prudent to practice good hand washing hygiene when you are touching surfaces that have been touched by a lot of other people.

To make sure you're actually removing the germs when you wash your hands, follow this three-step hand-washing technique:

  • Use warm water
  • Work up a good lather all the way up to your wrists for at least 10 or 15 seconds
  • Remember to get all surfaces including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and an area often overlooked -- your fingernails

The Germiest Places You'll Ever Visit

According to "Queen of Clean" Linda Cobb's website. the other "germiest places" you are likely to encounter on your daily travels, which you may not think of as germ havens, include:

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