Is your hotel room as clean as it looks?

Most of us think of a hotel stay as a real treat; a night away from washing-up, no laundry to do and a big comfy bed to catch some Z’s on.

In your average hotel room, those crisp white sheets and fluffy towels usually look scrupulously clean. However, according to a study by Clean Safety First in 2013, three quarters of hotel beds failed to meet “acceptable hygiene standards”.

So why might a hotel bed not be as clean as it looks? A number of factors could be to blame.

Bed linens and towels should be always changed in between guests, but items such as bedspreads, decorative cushions and blankets are not generally cleaned as regularly.

Although they may be covered in freshly laundered sheets and pillowcases, the mattress and pillows underneath you may themselves be grubby and stained.

House dust mites

Soft furnishings are often a breeding ground for dust mites. These are tiny arachnids invisible to the human eye. Most people can co-exist happily with dust mites, but for many atopic individuals, asthmatics, and eczema sufferers they can be a symptom trigger. The warm and humid environment of the average hotel room, combined with a regular supply of dead skin cells from previous guests, creates the perfect conditions for these tiny creatures to thrive and breed. You’ll find them in pillows, mattresses, duvets and cushions.

Dust mites don’t bite, but they can trigger allergy symptoms. If you react to the allergen present in their faeces (Der p 1) you can experience a whole host of unwanted symptoms, including sneezing, wheezing, a runny nose, worsened eczema and even asthma attacks.

Bed bugs

When it comes to creepy crawlies the most infamous of all hotel ‘nasties’ has got to be the bed bug.

Why are bed bugs so commonly associated with hotel stays? Travellers often dump their suitcases and backpacks straight on to the bed on arrival, which can contain critters collected on their journey. This is bad news, as bed bugs love to live in mattresses, upholstery and around the outskirts of a bed.

Not only do they deliver severely itchy, troublesome bites, they are also prone to following you home. These tiny hitchhikers are notoriously difficult to eradicate once they’ve started to breed, and they’re not fussy about whether they stay in a budget motel or 5 star resort!

Mould spores

Moulds and fungi can thrive in hotel environments. It is suggested that the average person can sweat around a litre at night. Combine this with a warm environment, poor ventilation, dead skin cells and food debris and you have a recipe for fungal growth on mattresses and soft furnishings. In fact, one popular budget hotel chain was found to have a ripped mattress harbouring mould during an investigation by consumer review site ‘Which?’

What you can do

Not all hotel beds will be plagued by bedbugs, dust mites and mould spores. Hygiene standards in most modern hotels are generally very good and you certainly shouldn’t let concerns about these factors spoil your stay.  However, if you are concerned about poor hygiene in hotel beds or you have allergies, there are a number of things you can do.

1. Bring a cotton dust mite proof sleeping bag with you. This sheet sleeping bag has an incredibly dense weave, providing a protective barrier between yourself and house dust mite allergens, mould spores and bedbugs.

You can sleep inside it on regular hotel bedding or even put it inside your own sleeping bag during camping trips. If your child has dust mite allergy and is going to stay at a friend’s house, this sleeping bag removes the worry of unsuitable bedding causing them problems.

You’ll be able to sleep peacefully, safe in the knowledge that no bugs or nasties can break through the fabric!

Made with 100% natural cotton (OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 so certified to be free from harmful substances), the cotton sheet sleeping bag is generously sized and is washable at 60°c to remove allergens and dirt.

2. Remove bedspreads, blankets and cushions - these can harbour dirt, grease and dust mites as they are not washed as frequently as normal bed linens. Remove them from the bed and stash them in the corner of the room.

3. Request a pet-free, non-smoking room by phoning the hotel in advance.

4. Bring a portable air purifier to remove lurking airborne allergens. Hotel rooms can be poorly ventilated, increasing the concentration of allergens. Fixtures and fittings and cleaning products can leave behind a trail of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which can make people with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) feel unwell. If your allergies threaten to spoil your break, bring a Roomaid portable air purifier that removes allergens and particles. A unit is also available with a VOC filter. You’ll be able to breathe easily, safe in the knowledge that impurities are being trapped in the filter. An ionic wearable air purifier is ideal for travelling.

5. If you have MCS, consider bringing a mask as you cannot guarantee that chemical cleaning products have not been used shortly before your stay.

6. Bring your own toiletries if you have a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis- hotel shampoo and shower gel may not be as gentle as your preferred brand. If your eczema is severe and you react to chlorine, consider bringing a bath or shower filter with you (it may be wise to check with the hotel first before tampering with the shower fittings!)

7. Do an inspection - if you have mould allergy check for damp patches or musty smells and if you find them ask to move rooms. Pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress for bed bugs - these can resemble tiny apple seeds. If you find anything suspect, make sure you ask to move!

8. Choose an allergy-friendly hotel - some hotels have dedicated ‘allergy-friendly’ rooms with features like air purifiers and safe cleaning products. Others offer extras such as anti-allergy bedding. For a list of hotels with allergy-friendly features visit http://www.allergyfriendlyhotels.com/.

9. Use gentle allergy sprays to fight bugs and airborne allergens. This travel allergy pack contains a spray for beds and soft furnishings to deter dust mites, a spray for the air to remove airborne allergens such as pollens, and a picaridin-based insect repellent to deter midges and mosquitos. The 100ml bottles fit easily in your suitcase and are designed with air travel in mind.


Please note: Information included on this site is not intended to be used as a substitute for consultation with a medical practitioner.