May 12, 2010 -- Hotels, with their daily housekeeping, might seem like a haven from the dust, grime and filth of home. But be warned: germs can lurk in even the cleanest-appearing rooms. And you would be shocked where.
Just think about how many past guests have hit that alarm clock with their dirty, sweaty hands?
And then there is the TV remote control, probably the most touched item in the room. Not everybody is great about washing their hands and how thorough of a cleaning do you really think the remote gets?
"There definitely can be hidden dangers in any hotel room, so you want to be smart," said Anne Banas, executive editor of travel Web site SmarterTravel.
For the TV remote, she said, "put it in a plastic baggie and then use it. Then you don't have to worry about it and you're good to go."
Want a nice cold glass of water before calling it a night? Think twice about that, too.
"One of the ones that's really, really bad that people wouldn't even think about is the hotel glasses," Banas said. "A lot of times the cleaning crews will clean those glasses with the very same chemicals they're using to clean your toilet."
Other times they might have their gloves on from cleaning the bathroom and not take off the gloves before touching the glasses, he said. There have even been examples of luxury hotels where the staff has used Windex to clean the glassware.
"My advice is to never use the hotel glasses or to wash them yourself," Banas said. "I just tend to avoid them entirely."
Brooke Ferencsik, of user-generated review site TripAdvisor, also avoids the glassware.
"If it is not in a plastic wrap, I am not using," he said.
Staying Healthy on Vacation
When Ferencsik checks into a hotel room he takes an antibacterial wipe and cleans all the high traffic areas in his room: the remote, alarm clock, telephone, door knobs and handles on the dresser.
"If you find something that you don't like, you can always ask for another room. If it's particularly bad, you might want to change hotels," Ferencsik said.
Of course, checking reviews can give travelers some respite from the really atrocious hotels. But even high-end properties can hide germs.
"There's no faster way to ruin a trip than to check in that dirty hotel room," Ferencsik said.
And then there is the bed.
"As soon as you get to your hotel room, a lot of people want to just plop down on the bed," Banas said. "Before you do that, just take off that comforter and throw it on the floor. It's not laundered regularly and you don't want to expose yourself to whatever might be on there."
Ferencsik said he always removes the duvet cover.
"Always. It doesn't matter how clean it looks to me," he said. "Just remove it. I would rather be safe than sorry."
If that wasn't enough, consider this: It might not just be germs lurking in your room. It could be infested with bedbugs. The problem is that you really can't see them and they don't just hide in the bed.
Banas suggest looking at your sheets for small little blood stains that indicates that bed bugs have bitten other guests.
Ferencsik said to check the mattress around the headboard and the seams. If there are black specs or red specs, beware. It's a sign of bed bug feces.
Finally, bed bugs don't just live in the bed. Don't let your suitcase rest on the bed or the floor. If the room has a luggage rack, use it. Otherwise put it high up on the furniture.