7 Danger Zones in Hotels You Need to Avoid, According to Experts
These hotel hotspots are crawling with germs—here are the areas to avoid once you check in.
There are a few areas in hotels that have been questionable from the get-go. But now, with coronavirus in the mix, we're swearing off these gross corners for good. After all, who knows what kind of bacteria is lurking in the lounges, let alone your hotel room that was occupied by another guest mere hours before you arrived? To get some answers, we talked with experts to find all the dirty hotel spots that now pose a more significant threat as a result of the coronavirus. Read on to learn about which germy places you should avoid the next time you check in. And for more ways your next hotel stay will change, here are the 8 Things You May Never See in Hotel Rooms Ever Again.
Continental breakfast buffets may be one of the hotel perks travelers love most, but they're not the most sanitary.
"The most concerning issues are anything food-related. Who is cooking breakfast? How long have the items been sitting in the buffet?" says Sudeep Shah, CEO of Travel King International. Shah explains that his hotel partners are already planning to remove self-service hot items to prevent the spread of germs.
"Higher-end hotels will have to shift [to a breakfast menu] type of model. To try and preserve expeditious service, hotels may give guests a menu the evening before and a time that they should report to breakfast," Shah says. "Hotels that typically offer a continental breakfast will likely remove items that are not boxed or wrapped from their offerings."
You may want to think twice the next time you step into an elevator. Travel analyst website Upgraded Points conducted a study of two common hotel touch points—elevator buttons and stairwell door handles—to gauge what kind of bacteria might be hiding on their surfaces. They found that "the average hotel elevator button has 1,477 times more germs than a household bathroom door handle and 737 times more germs than a household toilet seat." Yuck!
To avoid picking up any bacteria, make sure to wear gloves when you press the elevator button for your floor. And for more reasons to take the stairs, Here's Why You Shouldn't Ride an Elevator Right Now.
The study done by Upgraded Points also tested for bacteria on stairwell door handles in hotels. According to the research, these doorknobs have an average of 186,168 colony-forming bacterial units (CFUs) per square inch, which is 918 times more germs than a household toilet seat.
Even more frightening: 4-star hotels had the largest concentration of CFUs (604,116) on their stairwell door handles, compared to 2-star hotels (12,978 CFU), 3-star hotels (183 CFU), and 5-star hotels (22,908 CFU). So don't think you're safe from germs just because you're staying at a fancier resort.
Fitness centers and spas
Sorry, fitness junkies, but you may want to pause your workout routine when you're on vacation. As it turns out, gyms, saunas, and jacuzzis are some of the dirtiest spots in hotels.
"Wellness and spa centers might be the most dangerous places to visit the next time you're at a resort or hotel," says Lina Velikova, MD. "Any area that is hot, damp, and has a lot of people is the perfect breeding ground for coronavirus contamination." And for more shocking facts about hotels, check out the 17 Horrifying Myths About Hotel Rooms That Are 100 Percent True.
Air conditioning units
When you look at hotel amenities, we're sure the last thing you'd check is the air conditioning. But indoor air quality is perhaps one of the most essential things to consider during the pandemic.
"Hotel HVAC systems can be a transporter of viruses, germs, bacteria, mold, and other contaminants," says Tony Abate, Vice President of Operations at AtmosAir Solutions. "The problem becomes even greater in hotels where windows can't open and poor, contaminated indoor air can't escape."
However, Abate says there is a solution. "Many hotels have added, or are in the process of installing, bipolar ionization IAQ devices to their HVAC systems," explains Abate. "These devices attack and neutralize coronavirus and other contaminants in the air and on surfaces throughout hotels."
TV remotes and phones
Consider how many times you pick up the remote or the phone during your stay. We'd bet it's quite often. So, it's no surprise that these items on your nightstand attract the most germs—especially the phones, which are held directly to guests' mouths. While we hope these objects are being disinfected properly rather than just quickly cleaned in-between visits, it's still a risky assumption in the time of COVID-19. Just to be sure that they are spotless, wipe them down before each use.
Vending machines are sure to satisfy those late-night cravings, but have you ever wondered how many other grimey fingers have pressed their buttons? Though housekeeping cleans hotel rooms daily, we doubt that they disinfect vending machines (and ice machines, for that matter) nearly as often. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same hygiene habits, so touching these machines could put you at risk. And for more tips on how to stay healthy on the road, check out the 30 Smart Ways to Avoid Getting Sick When You Travel.