Sooner or later, every traveler will encounter a dirty hotel room that they’ve paid to sleep in that’s just downright G-R-O-S-S.
It might be that the place has otherwise great ratings but fell short in real life, or it might be that you tried to save a few bucks and it backfired.
From long strands of hair in your bedding to blood on the headboards, we’ve seen it all (yes, really!). Sometimes, despite carefully planning and vetting of lodging, things just don’t live up to expectations (or common cleanliness).
If you’re stuck because it’s late at night and/or you can’t afford to get a new place, here’s how to deal with spending a night in a dirty hotel room.
1) Try not to touch anything
This may sound simple, but it’s harder than it seems when faced with TV remotes, door knobs, faucets, light switches… the list goes on and on.
If you have disinfectant wipes, make a sweep around the room, touching all high-touch points: remotes, phone, counters, doorknobs, closet knobs.
While this may seem like an excessive step, just remember that while housekeepers routinely clean things like showers and toilets and change the sheets, many of the smaller items go untouched…except by the hundreds of people who stay in that room and use them.
And don’t, I repeat, do not use the glass cups provided in the room. Whether at a straight-up gross hotel or the Ritz, bring a bottle of water instead and forgo the cups completely.
2) Don’t use the covers
If there’s no other tip you take from this, remember: Pull back the blanket from your bed.
I know it’s tempting to snuggle under blankets, especially in the colder climates, but those top blankets are gross! Bedbugs, and who knows what other kinds of disgusting germs lie amongst the fibers, just waiting for you to come along and pick them up.
In general, sheets are fine as they’re the most laundered. But avoid the comforter if you can.
If you’re worried about bed bugs in a dirty hotel room, pull the sheet back exposing the mattress. Check along the seams for anything that looks like an apple seed. Here’s another post we wrote on how to check for bed bugs.
3) Pack a sleep sheet
Once the cover is out of the way, the next logical question is whether to sleep on or under the sheets.
That’s your call, and you’ll be relieved to know that sheets are probably one of the cleanest items in any hotel or hostel room. When I stayed at the aforementioned hotel from hell, there was no way I was going to touch those sheets more than laying on top of them.
To remedy this, a helpful backpacker tip is to always pack along a sleep sack. A sleep sack is basically two sheets sewn together with an attached cover to put the provided pillow within. You can climb into the sleep sack and have a comfortable (and protected!) night’s sleep with no fear of bedbugs or of touching the bed itself.
You can buy these sleep sacks online, but they’re easy enough to make as well.
If you don’t have a sleep sack, just do what I did: wear long pants and long-sleeved shirt, socks and sleep on top of the sheets, covering the pillow with one of your packed shirts. That’ll do in a pinch!
4) How to stay clean in a dirty shower
When showering in a dirty hotel room, chances are your shower will be icky, too. There’s nothing like feeling dirty in the midst of a nice warm shower to put even the calmest traveler in a bad mood.
College rules apply in this situation: if you have flip flops, wear them.
But what if you have one of those wispy shower curtains that sticks to you?
Well that is a conundrum! Try wetting both the bottom of the curtain as well as the outside of the tub to create a suction effect. Sure, you may end up with a little bit of water on the floor, but at least you will be safe from a touchy-feely curtain.
And you may be helping to clean the floor a little bit in the process!
If you really don’t want to get in the shower, here’s how to stay clean without a shower.
5) Get out quickly
At the end of the day, the best tip of all is to just get yourself out of the dirty hotel room. This is where having extra room in your budget really comes in handy.
Even if it means losing one night’s paid reservation, your sleep and comfort is the most important thing. If you can afford a new place, move. If not, do your best to get out of the room as much as possible.
Go out to a museum, find a great restaurant, meet new people… explore! If you focus on immersing yourself in the local culture, by the end of a packed day you’re sure to be so ready to crash that you just might not care where you do it!