Is Your Hotel Clean ? Are You Sure ?

After doing research into the cleaning standards of the major hotel chains in North America, here is what I have found, nothing, absolutely nothing. Oh sure there are points rewards and clubs, health spas and free breakfasts, sustainability and "green" programs and mission statements up the wazoo, but I could not find one chain that published anything about cleaning, laundering and sanitizing their rooms.

You would think that a clean room, being the raison d'etre of a hotel, would merit some standards, but cleaning standards don't exist in the hospitality business. Each hotel chain has their own standards. There is no universally accepted guideline or standard when it comes to such things as permissible levels of bacteria or detergent residues, suggested time intervals for bedspread and pillow laundering or replacement, and no list of safe cleaning agents.

I am not suggesting there is no data or criteria on the subject of housekeeping in the hospitality industry, There is an interesting report written by Michael C. Sturman for the Cornel University School of Hotel Administration, funded by JohnsonDiversey Inc. a subsidiary of Johnson Wax Professional, which addresses the measuring of housekeeping performance. While this report focuses more on the efficiency of housekeeping rather than the effectiveness, it does provide a window into the way the industry thinks about cleaning and the cost of cleaning.

The CDC ( Centers for Disease Control ) publishes guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care facilities. which encompasses surface cleaning as well as bedding. There is no reason why we would hold the hotel industry up to the same standards as a hospital but there are a few constants when dealing with bedding. The need for water temperatures to exceed 70 degrees celsius, the use of chlorine bleach, required high heat drying and or pressing, the need to monitor cleaning agent residues.

While the CDC states that, " Although contaminated textiles and fabrics in health-care facilities can be a source of substantial numbers of pathogenic microorganisms, reports of health-care–associated diseases linked to contaminated fabrics are so few in number that the overall risk of disease transmission during the laundry process likely is negligible." there are no guidelines for the hotel or hospitality industry on the CDC website.

There are plenty of companies that train and certify workers as housekeepers, and other companies that certify the hotel, I have never seen any certification presented on any website or in the lobby of any hotel I have ever stayed at. Not enough hotel chains adhere or advertise that they adhere to any certification at all. It seems like hygiene is a taboo subject, the unwritten law, don't talk about how clean , talk about how soft.

The more I researched this topic, the more I realized that we, as the traveling public, look upon the Hospitality industry as just that, an industry, run by professionals to corporate standards. But in actuality, the way your room is cleaned is a more a function of how efficient, knowledgeable and conscientious the person who cleans it is and the chemicals utilized. When the odd room is inspected by management, what is the criteria, a visual inspection, a sniff of the air, swab tests ? The cleaning agents used by each hotel, are they safe, is enough used to complete the task or is too much used causing residues over the healthy limits.

I realize that it's just a hotel room, not a bio facility. That's true but, who would have thought 20 years ago that staph ( MRSA ) bacteria would transmit infection through gym towels. When you were a kid, your mom didn't ask you if the bleach residue in your underwear was causing you discomfort. Allergies were hay fever, maybe peanuts or cats, but not " chemical sensitivities ". The times, they ARE a changin'. In a study published by the University of Virginia Health System, residual rhinovirus was found on 35% of items handled by people who were asked to spend a day and night in a hotel room while they had colds.

Is it any wonder that so many protective products like anti allergy travel sheets, hand and ultra violet light sanitizers, and portable air filters are marketed towards the traveling public ? Every few weeks a new article or television news spot highlights the ongoing bedbug problems in hotels or how clean the drinking glasses are in hotel bathrooms. Why aren’t these public health matters addressed by the hospitality industry or the government ? Possibly because the problem is too big, too wide spread and too hard to police.

With all the maladies and allergies and sensitivities, the bed bugs and lice, wouldn't you rather read how your room is prepared and, with what chemicals, than what junk food in the guise of a free breakfast is offered. I would want to know my room is free of germs and pests and cleaned according to researched and proven standards, If most large hotel chains train their staff then there are standards, some one buys the cleaning agents so there are names of chemicals used. Why not just make some of this info available. You know the urban myth, "you never see a baby pigeon" well here's mine, " you never know how often the bedspread is cleaned."

Chemical Sensitivities And How To Avoid Them

Many people are sensitive to a variety of chemicals present in every day detergents and cosmetics. Some are affected by inhalation of scents or residues and some have contact sensitivities.

It is very difficult to isolate or determine which type of transmission affects specific people. It is a matter of trial and error, eliminating all possible causes and reintroducing each one, to determine sensitivity.

Inhaled sensitivities are the most difficult to solve. Some chemicals or pollutants don’t even have a scent or are undetectable. In some cases it’s the exterior environmental air that is the cause. Environmental pollutants are impossible to remove and some sufferers have to actually relocate to other geographical areas devoid of many air pollutants.

Contact sensitivities are easier to diagnose. Many times, it’s as simple as changing laundry detergent or cosmetics. Many household cleaning products can aggravate or cause reactions that mimic allergies. Using too much bleach or detergent, or simply not rinsing well enough, can be the cause of itchy dry skin or rashes.

Topical cosmetics like hand creams, perfumes and soaps can cause symptoms and are easily tested by process of elimination and reintroduction.Sometimes, just changing you laundry detergent or deodorant can solve the problem.

Sensitivities can be experience when a change in surroundings occurs. Many people report reactions to new environments, such as traveling or staying in different hotels or staying at a friends place. These types of contact sensitivities can be solved easily by utilizing a travel sheet to act as a physical barrier between you and the bedding.

Which ever type of sensitivity you suffer from, simple methods of elimination and reintroduction, before resorting to medication, are the easiest and safest way to determine if and what you are sensitive to.

Allergies Or Bedbug bite ? How To Tell The Difference

A common complaint of travelers who have allergies relates to the question of why they are experiencing reactions after spending a week away or returning home. A traveler may not suffer from, what they think , is an allergic reaction while on the trip, but in a few days,or as many as ten days, after being bitten , present with a welt or lesion.

Studies show that reactions to bedbug bites increase as exposure is increased. A person's first time being bitten may not cause immediate reactions, but can take up to ten days to present as a skin reaction. Repeat exposure to bedbug bites can increase the reaction time from ten days to mere seconds. This is important in determining, if, and when you have been bitten by bedbugs, whether you think it was at the hotel you stayed at, or your home, and if you are seeking compensation or considering litigation.

Bedbug bites are commonly mistaken for a variety of skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and scabies.

How can you tell the difference between an allergic reaction, like seasonal allergies or dust mite allergies, and a bedbug bite? People with a hypersensitivity to insect bites, and a bedbug is an insect, who are bitten by bedbugs, typically present with symmetrical lesions on their face,neck, arms or legs. Particularly characteristic of bedbug bites are the patterns or groupings of the lesions, which are similar to flea bites. These patterns of bites are usually either linear or triangular in shape and each bite will resemble a bull's-eye, which is typical for insect-bite reactions.

An estimated 80% of the population are sensitive to bedbug bites. In one clinical trial, 18 of 19 persons showed skin reactions after bedbug exposure, mostly, only after, repeated exposure.

While it is generally thought that bedbugs do not transmit disease, and there is no proof that they are capable of disease transmission, conversely, there is no proof that they are not capable of transmission. The concern with bedbug bites is associated with the intense itching caused by the bites. The itching usually leads to scratching which, if severe enough, can cause breaks in the skin, scratches or excoriations, which can become infected. Scarring and/or changes in skin pigmentation, particularly in dark skinned people, can occur.

It is important to note that although most insect bites that cause lesions or eruptions on skin called papular urticaria, bee and wasp stings are painful, mosquitos do not bite in clusters as with bedbugs or fleas. Bedbug bites usually affect hypersensitive people, which may explain why one person , after being bitten, exhibits lesions and itching, while a bedmate might not experience any discomfort.

Bedbug exposure while traveling has become a more common occurrence in the past few years. The causes of of more frequent infestations run from the banning of pesticides like DDT, to the theory that bedbug infestations are cyclical in nature, occurring when factors favor bedbugs. Whatever the cause, there is no doubt that being bitten can ruin a vacation. While home infestations are difficult to predict and even more difficult to eradicate, travel related exposure can easily be prevented.

Wherever you plan to sleep make sure you thoroughly check the bed and surrounding area for bedbugs hiding in cracks and crevices, Be sure to notice any reddish brown stains or spots on sheets or mattresses, this is an indicator of bedbugs. Many travel-related products containing pesticides are available but this course of action is heavy handed and most likely unhealthy. Barrier methods, like an Allersac travel sheet can be a very effective tool in mitigating exposure but cannot guarantee 100% effectiveness as they don't encase the head. With proper inspection and an Allersac, the incidence of bedbug bites, while traveling, can be lessened.