A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

13 Ways Your Hotel Room Could Be Making You Sick

You're going to want to bring sanitizing wipes to wipe down every square inch of your hotel room after reading this!

1 / 13
TV remote
sico manzer/Shutterstock

You watch TV

TV remotes get touched a lot. Hand after hand reaches for the device and presses the many small buttons. But unlike at home, the ones in a hotel room are getting touched by a lot of strangers. And the chances of them getting cleaned on a regular basis are slim to none. Hotel Hygiene Exposed, a study by Travelmath, found that Bacillus spp, which according to the researchers could be associated with various infections including respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, was found on the remote control of even three-star hotels. Don’t miss these 22 tips for a healthier hotel room stay.

2 / 13
Morning light on clothes from the night before
Jo Ann Snover/Shutterstock

You toss your things on the floor

You might think that carpets are kept pretty dirt-free by all that vacuuming, but according to a small study of nine hotel rooms presented at the American Society for Microbiology in 2012, carpets contain high levels of fecal and aerobic bacteria, which can lead to gastrointestinal illnesses and more. Think twice before carelessly throwing your wet towel and clothes on the floor.

3 / 13
Lawrence Roberg/Shutterstock

You snuggle up with the comforter

While sheets and pillow cases are swapped out between hotel guests, that’s not always the case for comforters. In fact, according to a CNN investigation, comforters “might only be changed four times a year.” Be sure to request a clean one! Psst…here’s how to spot bed bugs in your hotel room.

4 / 13
Silver make up bag emptying onto white marble counter with eyeshadow and gold make up brushes. White marble copy space.
Michelle Patrick/Shutterstock

You put your makeup, toothbrush, and other toiletries on the bathroom counter

While your first instinct might be to call out the hotel toilet for the likeliest surface to make you sick, the Travelmath study found that the bathroom counter is the most bacteria-laden surface among all spaces in four-star hotels. So those makeup brushes that come in contact with your face and that toothbrush you put in your mouth are picking up all that yuckiness. These are travel secrets that only hotel managers know. 

5 / 13
Phone on a table near a bed.

You use the hotel telephone

Before you dial up room service and hug that phone a little too close to your face, you may want to disinfect it. The Travelmath study found that, in five-star hotels, most of the bacteria present were gram negative, which, according to the study, can cause respiratory and other infections. The phone, in particular, was laden with gram-positive cocci, which can cause skin infections and pneumonia. Make sure you never do these 15 things in your hotel room.

6 / 13
Ceiling Vent
CPCollins Photography/Shutterstock

The air quality is poor

Are you the type of person who gets sick whenever they travel? Stale air in cars, trains, planes, and even in hotel rooms, can wreak havoc on the body. The lack of ventilation is a breeding ground for bacteria, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. As a result, you may experience coughing, wheezing, watery eyes, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and upper respiratory congestion. Try to spend as much time out of the hotel room, and, if possible, crack the window.

7 / 13
Hot water in clear glass in the evening
pattapon bangphai/Shutterstock

You’re drinking out of the glasses and mugs

They’ve got to be washed, so what’s the harm? Well, according to this investigation and this one, maids merely rinse out used glasses without even washing them. And even more disturbing is that they sometimes clean them with a spray that specifically says “do not drink.”

8 / 13
air condition

The AC is poor

While a nice, cool blast of the hotel room air conditioning can make you feel just that more comfortable, it could also take you out of the game later on. According to research, a badly maintained or badly designed AC system can become contaminated and potentially harmful. If turning your hotel room AC on makes for a weird smell, you can bet dirty particles are flying about.

According to Mark Mendell, MD, an epidemiologist with the California Department of Public Health, who studied the health effects of air conditioning systems while with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a contaminated AC unit can worsen asthma symptoms and allergies.

9 / 13
Tap and toothbrush over the clean white sink
Y Photo Studio/Shutterstock

You’re leaving your toothbrush out in the bathroom

This could happen anywhere, since, when you flush the toilet, contaminants can fly into the surrounding area, but one of the investigations revealed maids using the towel they cleaned the toilet with on the bathroom counter and in the sink right after. “The main concern is not with the presence of your own fecal matter on your toothbrush, but rather when a toothbrush is contaminated with fecal matter from someone else, which contains bacteria, viruses or parasites that are not part of your normal flora,” explains a researcher from a study out of Quinnipiac University. Your best bet is to store your toothbrush away between cleanings. These are the things you can (and can’t) steal from a hotel room.

10 / 13
Bathroom interior with white sink and faucet
Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock

You’re getting up close and personal with the sink

Sinks are another prime spot for germs, with the crevices surrounding a faucet difficult to clean, while the moist environment makes a perfect hose for microbes to flourish. Be sure to disinfect the sink yourself, and try to keep your belongings from falling into it.

11 / 13
Cleaning Cart in the station.Cleaning cart with wall background.cleaning cart copy space

The cleaning products are toxic

While you may do your best to keep toxic cleaning products out of your home, hotels may not have the same standards. Whether or not you have chemical sensitivities, heavily scented cleaning products and air-fresheners can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. Don’t miss the 11 other dirtiest spots in every hotel room.

12 / 13
Champagne in bed in a hotel room, ice bucket, glasses and fruits on white linen
Daria Minaeva/Shutterstock

You use the ice bucket

If you’re using ice out of the ice bucket to chill your beverage, you might want to think again! According to Jennifer Stagg, MD, naturopathic physician, hotel ice buckets can contain a host of germs, even potentially norovirus from a previous guest who may have vomited in it.

13 / 13

The built-in cabinetry is toxic

Recent research found some alarming news about built-in cabinetry. While it’s likely the last place you’d think would make you sick in a hotel, if your room has it, they could be emitting harmful compounds called polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), which are unwanted byproducts of sealant breakdown that are considered carcinogenic. Next, read about the things you should never ask the hotel staff.

Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine, and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty, and scientific news. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: alex[email protected], and check out her website: livingbylex.com