Surviving hotel hygiene

Sunday, March 28, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:12 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Coming from a family with six kids, I can’t remember as we were growing up ever staying in a hotel. Our vacations meant sleeping on the hard ground in a tent. We had a couple of sleeping bags, but they were for those who couldn’t fit in the tent and had to sleep in the VW bus.

It wasn’t until I started looking at colleges that I spent a night as a paid guest. I felt like a princess. The bathroom had shampoo and conditioner in tiny little bottles. There were little bars of soap wrapped in pleated paper with a gold seal. The room even had a Bible in the drawer, although it was the King James version.

Since then, I’ve stayed at hundreds of hotels. I can’t remember when I started loathing them, but I do know it’s one of the reasons my husband and I bought an RV.

Last week was one of those times when traveling in the RV was impractical. My husband had a three-day meeting right in the heart of downtown Kansas City. The nearest RV park was 30 minutes from the convention center.

The day before we left for our short foray into the city, I watched a segment on the Today Show featuring the horrors of staying in a hotel. The guest had written a book about how to protect yourself from horrible ailments resulting from filthy hotel rooms (even four- and five-star hotels.)

The author said the first thing I should do (I felt like he was talking to me personally) when I walked into the room was to strip the bed of its filthy bedspread. He said the bedspread is rarely cleaned, so who knows how many nasty bacteria and fungi were lying in wait. Next, he said to bring an antibacterial wipe to clean the phone receiver, again adding that people before me might have coughed or sneezed while talking, leaving their germs to propagate. Then, I was to go to the bathroom and run hot water into the drinking glasses to make sure that they were actually clean. I missed the part about the ice bucket, but he finished his lecture by saying never walk around the room in bare feet. The carpet, he said, is rarely cleaned — except to be vacuumed — and held a whole host of vermin just waiting to make contact with the bottom of my foot.

Good grief, I thought. I will be paying more than $100 a night to put my health in serious danger. I was ready to call off the trip, but I knew my husband had to attend the meeting. So, I added several alcohol wipes and slippers to my suitcase.

I was so paranoid when we entered the room that I wouldn’t let my husband touch a thing. I yelled at the bellhop when he tried to put the suitcase on the bed, directing him to just leave it on the (filthy) floor. After he left the room, I barked at my husband to remove the bedspread, telling him to carefully grab the underneath side and fold it inside out and put it in the far corner. Then I whipped out my wipes and cleaned the phone, the remote, the tabletops, the bathroom counter and all the little bottles. Since the luggage had touched the (filthy) floor, I put the suitcases on the luggage rack. Then I remembered that I hadn’t wiped it down! The suitcases were contaminated, so after they were emptied, I put them on top of the bedspread in the corner and went to the bathroom to wash my hands. I ran hot water into the seemingly clean glasses for at least 10 minutes. My husband went to the hallway to get ice, carrying only the plastic liner. He put the ice in the sink in the bathroom because I didn’t want it touching the bucket. By this time I really needed a drink.

That night, before turning in, I placed my slippers beside the bed. Hearing nature’s call about 2 a.m., I got up to go to the bathroom but forgot my slippers. I realized my mistake after I had walked three feet. I wet a washcloth with hot water and carried it back to bed with me and washed my feet before I lay back down.

The next morning, I surveyed the shower curtain for any sign of mildew and scoured the tub before taking my shower. I was out the door before 9 a.m. Upon returning late that afternoon, I repeated my ritual of the day before by tossing the bedspread, wiping and running hot water. I think I went a little crazy because thinking back, all of the germs after the first day were ours, but I couldn’t be sure if new ones had been brought in when the maid came to clean each day.

By the time we checked out, I was exhausted and quite frankly, I resented having to pay the bill. My husband can attend next year’s convention without me. Then all I’ll have to do is hose him down when he comes home.

If you have a comment, please e-mail me at But if you are in the hotel business blame the Today Show, not me.

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