Gross Things in Your Hotel Room You Should Avoid

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: William Warby/Flickr

Many of us see vacation as a time to kick back, unwind and maybe enjoy some of the perks of a hotel stay. For those of us who worry about cleanliness, however, a hotel might not be the most relaxing place to sleep.

With so many people passing through a room, some things are bound to get dirty — but you'd at least hope they change the pillowcases, right? Prepare to discover the most germ-laden items in the average hotel room.


When staying at a hotel, not many people think about what they're walking on. That's why the carpet is the dark horse of the dirty objects in your hotel room — but when you think about it, it's not hard to see why.

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Photo Courtesy: Janisa LaSalle/Pexels

How many people have traipsed through in their shoes? Or walked around in their bare feet? Sure, housekeeping servicepeople vacuum after every visit, but rarely if ever does a hotel carpet get a deep clean between guests. If you're concerned about other people's germs, you might want to keep your socks on.


This dirty hotel item is one of the most shocking — and might make you want to swear off of hotels forever. That's right; according to a study by Today, many cleaners don't change pillowcases when re-making beds. Instead, they toss the pillows aside while changing sheets and then put the pillows right back where they were.

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Clearly, pillowcases have the potential to collect more germs than anything, considering they’re where you put your face while you sleep. Let's hope the people before you weren't droolers. To be safe, bring your own pillowcase.

Light Switches

It might not surprise you that light switches tend to be hotspots for bacteria accumulation. After all, everyone needs to turn the lights on, and not everyone washes their hands on a regular basis. In a hotel room, you'll want to be especially wary of the light switches on your bedside lamp.

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Photo Courtesy: pxfuel

The good news is that dirty switches are an easy fix; all you need are some alcohol wipes. Stick these in your luggage and wipe the switches when you first arrive. You're in the clear!


Welcome Cards

Most hotels provide welcome cards or booklets inside their rooms. These can be quite useful, giving you information on everything from the Wi-Fi password to the best pizza place in town. Before you peruse the pamphlet, however, consider cleaning it first.

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Photo Courtesy: Supermac1961/Wikimedia Commons

The welcome book is the first thing most guests reach for upon arrival, and it's not necessarily an item housekeepers wipe down. That means germs can build up pretty quick. If it's a menu book, that's even riskier — people may handle it before and after eating.


The bedspread is one of those gross hotel items that many people know to avoid. Depending on the quality of your hotel, it's not usually something that gets cleaned between stays, so previous patrons' germs can remain in the fabric.

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Photo Courtesy: Comfort Suites Denver Tech Center/Flickr

This isn't the end of the world, however. All you have to do is fold the bedspread back or take it off the bed altogether. Leave it draped over a chair or off the side of the bed, and you can relax. If you get cold, ask reception for extra (clean) blankets.


While bedspreads can be great homes for germs, hard surfaces aren’t immune to germ intrusion. That's why the phone — which lots of different people use — can carry nasty viruses, especially because housekeepers don't always bother to clean it.

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Photo Courtesy: Peakpx

Hopefully, your smartphone eliminates your need to use the hotel phone during your trip. For many, it's simply another piece of decor. If you still can't avoid using it, however, just use a tissue to pick up the receiver. Or, give it a good wipe-down beforehand using your alcohol wipes.


Drinking Glasses

Another item you should probably avoid using in your hotel room is the drinking glass. Undercover studies on hotel cleanliness reveal that drinking glasses are some of the dirtiest things in any hotel room. Cleaners working in a hurry often bypass a thorough cleaning, using a dry sponge or even dirty towels to wipe down the glasses.

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Photo Courtesy: ribeiro76/Pixabay

Considering that you put these in your mouth, there's a good chance you can get sick because of them. Some hotels provide plastic-wrapped paper cups, which are typically safer. When in doubt, clean the glass yourself or go buy some bottled water.


Yes, the idea of taking a hot bath while on vacation is quite tempting. Put on a face mask, throw in a bath bomb and relax, right? Unfortunately, this is the worst thing you can do if you're trying to avoid bacteria.

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Photo Courtesy: ONNE Beauty/Unsplash

In any bathtub, a layer of slime can easily accumulate, and it carries living organisms. Filling the tub with water and slipping inside will only expose you to these potentially harmful bacteria. We know you want to relax, but stick to a long shower instead. You'll have more peace of mind.

Chairs and Sofas

These items aren’t the worst on our list, but they’re worth avoiding if you're worried about cleanliness. You know the padded chair off to the side, the one where you might be tempted to have your morning coffee? Well, it's a spot that usually harbors germs.

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Photo Courtesy: Kunle Atekoja/Unsplash

Upholstered chairs or sofas are harder to clean because of their fabric, and they can absorb any number of things dropped, spilled or left behind by guests. It's not so bad to sit in one. Just be sure you don't wear the same clothes to bed afterward.


Ice Buckets

The hotel ice bucket is the picture of luxuriating: You pad down the hall to fill it and place your bottle of champagne inside. According to Minnesotan health inspectors, however, ice buckets don't legally need to be cleaned between stays, and they can collect bacteria.

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Photo Courtesy: Didriks/Flickr

Well, you just have to be sure to use the plastic liner, right? Sadly, you might want to avoid using ice at all. Unsanitary ice machines are more common in hotels than you think, and you certainly wouldn't want to drop contaminated ice into your drinks.

Remote Controls

When you consider the objects in a hotel room, a remote control probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. They're so common that we don't even realize we're using them — but remember, almost everyone uses one during a hotel stay.

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And guess what? Housekeepers rarely disinfect TV remotes. All those people pressing buttons while eating takeout or blowing their noses leave behind a unique combination of germs, and you don't want to pick them up. The solution? Slip the remote into a plastic baggie before use.

Toilet Handles

The bathroom is a risky place in general when it comes to hotels. Lots of unsanitary stuff goes on there, and some people aren't as hygienic as others. It may not come as a surprise to you, then, that the toilet handle is one of the dirtiest spots in a hotel.

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Photo Courtesy: Steve Ungermann/Unsplash

Scientific American reported in 2012 that the majority of hotel-room surfaces contain traces of fecal matter. This is, of course, appalling, and the toilet handle is (not surprisingly) one of those contaminated surfaces. You might as well clean the whole bathroom yourself!


Bathroom Counters

Moving from the toilet handle to the bathroom sink isn't a big leap, and it's for precisely this reason that you shouldn't leave things all over it. One study found bathroom counters to be the number-one dirtiest areas in hotels, even surpassing the toilets.

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Photo Courtesy: CyprusVillas/Pixabay

Were you planning on laying out your skincare products or the items in your makeup bag? You might want to think again — or at least put down a towel before doing so. Whatever you do, don't leave your toothbrush lying on the counter with the bristles down.


You might think that the hotel desk is one of the cleanest areas in a hotel — its surface looks smooth and spotless, after all. And who even uses the hotel desk, anyway? As it turns out, lots of people use the desk.

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Given that the desk is one of the only tables in a hotel room, it's where many guests eat their food. Surprisingly, it's also the third-dirtiest area in a hotel room, according to Travelmath. To help combat this problem, be proactive and wipe the desk down before and after you use it.

Hot Tubs

Ah, the hotel jacuzzi. It's something you may have excitedly sought out during your stay, only to find it occupied by another group of people. That's because people love hot tubs, but the tubs’ popularity doesn't do anything for their cleanliness.

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Photo Courtesy: Unique Hotels/Flickr

The Infectious Diseases Society of America cites hot tubs as some of the easiest places to contract infections. The hot temperature means your pores open up; this lets germs escape into the water, but it also means you're absorbing everyone else's germs. To avoid this, shower before and after a tubbing session.


Pool Chairs

Pool chairs at a hotel are certainly not cleaned as often as hotel rooms, and they can carry many bacteria. People use them before, during and after swimming, which means they're transferring germs from the pool and hot tub to the chairs. Plus, because the chairs are out in the elements and are usually wet, they can harbor algae.

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Photo Courtesy: godakupryte/Needpix

If a pool chair feels somewhat slimy or has visible discoloration, don't sit there. You're better off spreading a towel down first or even wiping off the chair with alcohol wipes. As long as you're prepared, you should have no problem enjoying some time poolside.


They’re in almost every hotel room, and almost everyone uses them. Drapes keep out the bright sun and help keep the room warm overnight, and you’ll probably want to use them — just be careful with how you handle them.

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Photo Courtesy: StockSnap/Pixabay

Anything that doesn't get cleaned between visits poses a risk to your health, and drapes are something housekeepers rarely touch. After all, washing them is a hassle! Keep this in mind and wipe down the pull rod before use for better germ protection.

Pool Ladders

As you may know, any hard surface that people frequently touch is a spot where bacteria are likely to build up. This even applies to pool ladders. Plenty of people need to hang on as they enter and exit the pool, and that means numerous hands touch the same area.

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Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The good news is that chlorine from the pool may help kill some of this bacteria — but don't count on it. Instead, why not jump into the deep end? Otherwise, grab those wipes.


Pools in General

It turns out that the most dangerous part of the pool (germ-wise) isn't the ladder or the pool chairs — it's the pool itself. Public pools don't have a great reputation when it comes to cleanliness, and they're actually the cause of many illness outbreaks a year.

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Photo Courtesy: photo-graphe/Needpix

According to Mary Ostrowski, the Director of Chlorine Issues at the American Chemistry Council, the more a pool smells of chlorine, the dirtier it is. That smell comes from chlorine mixing with "bacteria, urine and sweat" and means the pool needs to be checked out ASAP.

Door Handles

Another thing that gets a lot of use is door handles. Anyone concerned about germs and bacteria knows to avoid door handles, and hotel rooms are no exception. Surprisingly, though, they might not be as dirty as you think.

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It's common knowledge that door handles get dirty, and because of this, they're something cleaners usually make sure to wipe down. One study even found the bathroom door handle to be the cleanest surface in a hotel — who would've thought? If you're doubtful, however, simply use a towel or your elbow.

Key Cards

Most people are so focused on avoiding the contaminants in their hotel rooms that they don't realize they're exposed to germs before they even set foot inside. Your hotel room key is something that is positively crawling with germs, and these keys are rarely cleaned.

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Photo Courtesy: Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons

If hotel guests return their keys, management keeps reusing them. You never know if the person before you was sick or not, and it's the risk you take when the receptionist hands you that key card. You're exposed from the very beginning of your stay.


Lounge Games

Have you ever been to a hotel that had a cool lounge room or game space? Perhaps it had a pool table and board games — a fun space where guests can come to hang out when they have nothing big going on.

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Photo Courtesy: James L. Miller/Ellsworth Air Force Base

These games are likely to carry a good amount of bacteria from the many guests who use them; your relaxed game of chess could be the reason you get the flu the next day. If this idea worries you, just bring your own games — the hotel's are probably 20 years old and missing some pieces, anyway.


Yes, they're cute, and yes, there’s often nothing wrong with using them. A hotel's complimentary toiletries are one of the perks of your stay, and you might even have a habit of taking them home with you. This is all well and good until a hotel neglects to replace the stash.

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Photo Courtesy: Evan Didier/Flickr

Using body wash that someone else has already opened poses some obvious risks for you — this is a product you rub onto your body, so the possibility for infection is higher than usual. Look for an unbroken seal before use.


If you've ever opened your coffeemaker at home to find some mold starting to grow on old coffee grounds, then you know why it's a risky item in a hotel room. Coffeemakers need regular, thorough cleanings to remain bacteria-free and safe to use.

Photo Courtesy: John/Flickr

Unfortunately, this often doesn't happen in a hotel. It's another appliance that cleaners overlook and guests trust too much. If your coffee machine has any strange smells when you open it, you're better off getting a coffee elsewhere. You'll probably find higher-quality coffee, too.


And Now, the Cleaner Spots: Headboards

Now that you're sufficiently terrified of entering your hotel room, let's take a look at the items and places that are least likely to hold bacteria. Fortunately, not every surface is crawling with germs. Just many of them are. You might be happy to know, however, that your headboard is a pretty clean place.

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Photo Courtesy: Evan Didier/Flickr

This is probably because not many people have a reason to touch the headboard during their stay, so it remains clean. Whether or not you have any reason to touch the headboard is another question — but maybe it gives you peace of mind.

Alarm Clocks

You may be surprised by this clean hotel appliance. But wait! Don't hard surfaces that get touched a lot tend to have high levels of bacteria? They do, but alarm clocks aren’t one of those items. People simply don't use them that much anymore.

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Photo Courtesy: Swaminathan/Flickr

With the invention of smartphones, alarm clocks all but lost their purpose. Guests use apps on their phones to set alarms instead of taking the time to configure the hotels’ clocks. The good news? They're one less thing you need to wipe down if you need to use one.


According to bacteria researchers from the University of Arizona, nightstands have low levels of bacteria, right along with alarm clocks. The researchers took measurements after a regular hotel cleaning took place, and while they warn against using the hotel phone and bathroom counter, the nightstand is pretty decent.

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Why is this? Probably because most guests only use nightstands for storing their phones or books while they sleep; there’s no need to touch these pieces of furniture very much. Expect a nightstand to be refreshingly clean, as long as the person before you wasn't leaving their dirty tissues on top.


Curtain Rods

Like headboards, guests rarely touch curtain rods. Therefore, they earn a spot on the list of cleanest surfaces. The drapes that hang off of them may not be clean, but hey, at least the rods are! This ranking comes from a study done by Purdue University, where researchers tested many hotel surfaces.

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Photo Courtesy: Nieuw~commonswiki/Wikimedia Commons

Just because the rods are clean, however, doesn't mean they don't get dusty. If no one has reason to reach up that high, then why would housekeeping bother cleaning them? Either way, they stay mostly bacteria-free.


Sheets are typically some of the cleaner items in a hotel room, and for good reason. In some states, it’s the law that housekeepers have to change the sheets between each guest’s stay in a room. Cleaners and professional laundering services typically use heavy-duty detergents to wash these linens, too.

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If you’re worried about dirty sheets because of dirty bedspreads, pull the outer covers and flat sheet back and do a brief inspection. If you see any crumbs or small brown dots that might indicate the presence of bedbugs, it’s time to book a room at a different facility.


In addition to clean sheets, every decent hotel gives its guests clean towels. Even if the tub is grimy and the bathroom counter is crawling with bacteria, at least you can dry yourself off with confidence. They may bleach the heck out of the towels, but as long as they're clean, who cares?

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Photo Courtesy: russellstreet/Flickr

The good thing is that it's easy to notice when your towels aren't clean — it's hard to fake a nicely folded, unwrinkled and freshly dried towel. This is one hotel object that you can enjoy without fearing for your health.