Sentrim Boulevard Hotel Nairobi
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

7 Tips to Stay Clean in Hotel Rooms

I really dislike when I am in hotel room and I find at least one long black curly hair embedded in what is supposed to be a clean towel; or when there is an unknown stain on the bed sheet.

Sure, chances are that both of those items went through the laundry and were probably clean, as the washing machines simply could not get the hair or the stains out. Then again, the key words are chances are.

7 Tips to Stay Clean in Hotel Rooms

Yes, there are people who are overly adverse to germs; and there are also people who maintain that our bodies need a good dose of bad germs so that our bodies can fight them effectively and be stronger the next time similar germs invade our bodies — and there are the rest of us who are somewhere in between the two extremes.

“If you figure that most hotels generally run at 80-90% occupancy x 40 people per room per month (average 1-2 night stays, some double occupancy) x however many years the hotel has been open, that’s an awful lot of strangers that have slept in the same bed, washed their hair, clipped their toenails in the same room, felt amorous, and…well, you get the picture”, according to this article written by Melinda Danielsen of Magic of Miles, which includes a quick guide from which I will borrow for this article and add some thoughts of my own.

1. Wash Your Hands.

Wash hands
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

I have extolled the virtues and stressed the importance of washing your hands in numerous past articles — such as this article and this article  — which I have written here at The Gate; and I cannot overemphasize them.

Washing your hands thoroughly and diligently is the single most effective and important way to prevent yourself from becoming ill from unwanted invaders such as germs and bacteria.

2. Get Rid of the Bedspread or Runner at the End of the Bed.

The bed, which was more comfortable than it may appear. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Bedspreads and runners do not get washed nearly as often as the sheets — perhaps as few as only four times per year — and sometimes items will be placed on them for your convenience; but who knows where those items have been…

…and I cannot tell you how many times they have wound up on the floor or a different part of the room. I do not want those things touching my skin; but if they do, I will wash myself.

Melinda Danielsen suggests bringing your own pillowcase, “since that way you can make sure you know that the surface your face will come in contact with for 6 hours at night has been washed lovingly in your own home with your own detergent.” I am not sure that a pillowcase in and of itself is enough protection from the actual pillow it encompasses; but I can tell you that my face has slept on countless hotel pillows over the years — and I never became ill. Not once.

You might even want to bring your own pillow. I know people who travel with their own pillows. I have never done that and do not intend to start now.

3. Pop the TV Remote in a Plastic Baggie If You Plan on Using It.

Hampton Inn Chester board on bed
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

You will never have to touch the remote control if you place it in a clear plastic bag prior to using it — but then again, properly washing your hands after handling the remote control can be equally as effective in staying clean.

You could also bring your own remote control — but I would never do that, as it takes up space and adds to the weight — plus, you will need batteries.

4. Pass on the Bath Altogether.

The shower and tub. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

“Biofilm (an almost invisible layer of bacteria) could have been left behind by a previous bather and unless the housekeeper used a stiff brush and plenty of elbow grease you might end up with it in your bath.” This is good advice. I take showers in hotel rooms — not baths.

5. Do Not Use the Drinking Glasses

Grand Hilton Seoul
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

“Skip the drinking glasses too.” Why? Read this article I wrote to find out — if you have the stomach for it — and you will understand why I placed it in its own category.

6. Lay Down the Bath Mat Before Exiting the Shower.

Hilton Garden Inn Tampa North
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

“Even though the tiles might look clean, a bath mat has been provided for a reason”, according to Melinda Danielsen. “Fungus is more likely to be found in moist areas like bathrooms, and if you have an extra towel you might find it even more comfortable to lay it down too in the bathroom to cover more area.”

There is usually a bath mat available which I do use next to the bathtub or shower so that my feet do not touch the floor — I ensure that the inside part of the folded bath mat is facing up which my bare feet will touch; while the outside part faces the bathroom floor — but just beyond that bath mat is a pair of slippers which I place on the floor.

Many hotel properties outside of the United States — especially in Asia — offer slippers wrapped in sealed plastic. What I will do is use the slippers when I am not wearing my sneakers or shoes; and before I leave the room to check out of the hotel, I put the heels of the slippers against each other; slip the pair in the plastic from which it came; and I will pack it in my baggage for use at the next hotel room in which I stay.

Using slippers will also prevent your socks from attracting dirt from the floors and carpets to the bottoms of them. If you do not believe me, spend an evening walking around the hotel room in white socks; and then look at their soles and heels. Light brown is your best case scenario; almost black is close to the other extreme.

7. Don’t Walk Around in Your Birthday Suit.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

“Keeping a layer of protection between you and the bacteria/germs/fungus is helpful when you sit down at the desk, walk across the carpet, or sprawl out on the couch.”

That can qualify as the understatement of the year from Melinda Danielsen.

I typically do not prance around the hotel room naked — try to get that image out of your head, as I do not like it either — simply because I am comfortable in my clothes until I am ready to retire to sleep in bed.

I am rather surprised that Melinda Danielsen did not mention wearing a robe if one happens to be hanging in the closet. Unless you are suspect of whether or not the robe itself is clean, it can be a convenient and comfortable way to prevent your skin from touching questionable surfaces; and it is quite easy to put on and take off — especially before and after showering.

Use Lysol.

antiseptic wipes
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

This tip does not have a number because I respectfully disagree with Melinda Danielsen on this one. Not once have I ever used Lysol — which is a brand name for the most popular disinfectant spray or wipes — in a hotel room…

…and I have lived to tell about it.

For additional details on why I do not use antiseptic wipes while traveling in general, please read this article.

Wash your hands after touching objects in the hotel room. I cannot repeat enough how this is the most effective way to keep yourself clean and protect yourself from unwanted germs and bacteria.


Although you should not eat French fries and lick and suck on your fingers immediately after channel surfing with the aforementioned remote control, you should not be excessively afraid of germs, either. Wash your hands — and other parts of your body in a shower when necessary or desired — for the most effective way as possible of staying clean…

…and keep in mind that things can always be worse pertaining to the cleanliness of hotel rooms

All photographs ©2014, ©2015 and ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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