Germ Hot Zone C: You'd Never Think of These Places
Watch out for ice buckets; the leatherette book, which features nearby sites and the restaurant/room service menu; and the bathroom drinking glasses.
The first two are items touched again and again by dozens of hands but never washed. But the third? This one is the creepiest one of all. In undercover operations, Tierno has seen cleaners use the same cloth on the toilet as they do on the cups alongside the sink. He says you should never drink from a glass not sealed in a plastic wrapper. He brings his own cups.
Germ Hot Zone D: The Bed
When you walked into the room, was there a chintz bedspread on your bed or a crisp, white, European-style sheet duvet? If it's the latter, you're in luck, because the hotel likely washes those sheets. If it's the former, take it off immediately and store it for the length of your stay — those are pretty much never cleaned. Upholstered chairs and heavy curtains share this same problem. They are rarely cleaned and good homes for bacteria.
Pull back the sheets and look. If you find hairs of any kind, Tierno recommends changing rooms completely. Plus, he brings his own fitted "impervious sheet, an allergy barrier" that he puts on if the hotel doesn't have its own — though many hotels are now encasing mattresses in these allergy fighters that cover the top or entire mattress.
Old mattresses can be a host to skin cells, pet dander, pet hair, pollen, cosmetic products, sand, dust, perspiration, fungi, spores, bacteria, food particles and more — bacteria and bodily secretions. Norovirus, the so-called stomach-flu, "can survive fairly well in between guests, so it is important that hotels should change sheets," Tierno explains.
Happy hotel stays, explains Tierno, are all about being aware. "Eighty percent of all infectious disease is transmitted by contact — direct and indirect," he says.
"Coughing, sneezing, kissing, talking — that's direct. Indirect is touching a countertop or a phone and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose conduits, or touching a scrape," he says. "So the most important thing you can do after contaminating your hands is wash them for 20 or 30 seconds — that's the amount of time it takes for you to sing ‘Happy Birthday' twice."
And complain if your room is unclean.
"You are entitled to a clean room," Tierno says. "There are now green rooms and allergy-free rooms in some hotels. You can tell the manager, 'Look, I have allergies.' People are afraid to ask for changes. You shouldn't be."