You arrive at your hotel after a long flight, pleased to learn your room is ready. You head to the room and collapse, exhausted, on the bed, only to sense a strong antiseptic smell. You hope the scent goes away soon, but you wonder: How safe for your health are the products used to clean your guestroom and bathroom?
Hotel housekeepers have 30 minutes or less to clean and disinfect a guestroom and bathroom, and they employ all sorts of products to do the job. While high levels of bacteria are found on the bathroom sinks and floor, the dirtiest locations are often the light switches and TV remote control, containing colony-forming bacteria. Light switches have the highest levels of fecal matter. It is recommended you clean these areas with hand sanitizer wipes or bring a large zip-lock bag to encase the TV remote control in case these areas were not cleaned. To complicate matters, the cleaning products used can cause health problems; in late June the FDA announced it will investigate whether sanitizers are harmful to pregnant women and children.
All sorts of workers — janitors, hotel housekeepers and maintenance staff, office workers and hospital employees — use cleaning products every day to clean, disinfect and control dust and mold on surfaces. Some people who use these cleansers or work in areas where cleansers are used develop breathing problems. Many times these products are too strong or mixed incorrectly, and the people mixing them suffer respiratory conditions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports indoor air pollution is one of the nation’s most pressing health issues. Twenty toxic compounds have been linked to cancer and birth defects. Used in the confines of a hotel room, some of these carcinogens can have a stronger presence and increase your risk.
The chemicals in cleaning products used in many hotels can make you sick during routine exposure and, for travelers on a long stay, can be life-threatening. Exposure to the carcinogens in cleaning products can increase cancer risk, while endocrine disruptors found in many pesticides, detergents and disinfectants can confuse body hormones and cause fertility problems and even miscarriages.
Cleaning products can cause asthma or make existing asthma worse for hotel workers. If this can affect them, it can also affect guests, especially if the room and bathroom are not properly ventilated during and after cleaning. Watch for warning signs of asthma: wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. If you experience these symptoms while in your hotel room or bathroom, call 911 in the United States; if in another country, call the hotel concierge and request to be transported to the nearest hospital, since these breathing problems are not normal. Later, demand to be moved to another hotel room immediately. You can wait in the lobby until the room is ready if you are breathing normally.
Recent research shows exposure to cleaning products or air fresheners containing a volatile organic compound called 1,4-dichlorobenzene (1,4 DCB) can reduce lung function by 4 percent. Another study finds the use of spray household cleaners such as window and furniture cleaners, air fresheners and bathroom cleaners increases the risk of developing asthma by nearly 50 percent. A University of Washington study reports the fumes from air fresheners and fragrances contain hazardous toxins, none of which are listed on product labels since the federal government does not require companies to disclose the ingredients in these products.
Cleaning products should always be used in well-ventilated areas to avoid inhaling the fumes. Staff should wear masks, goggles and gloves while cleaning. If you are cleaning at home, wear the same protective equipment. Whenever possible, clean windows with them open. Ask for unscented cleaners and laundry detergents to be used whenever possible. Ironically, a chemical marketed to reduce allergens when you sprinkle it on your carpets acts as a significant irritant to people with asthma. Hotel owners should be aware of recent advances in safe cleaning practices and the availability of modern cleaning equipment that minimizes the use of chemicals.
Cleaning workers can also be exposed to different types of biological agents such as microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and molds) and their byproducts such as fungal secretions and bacterial endotoxins present in the dust, dirt and mold as well as aerosols created during vacuum cleaning. The exposure is the same as for chemical hazards — mainly inhalation and dermal uptake (absorption) and occasionally accidental ingestion.
Eco-friendly hotel initiatives are growing increasingly popular, and many hotels are recognized for their efforts by organizations such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Do not be afraid to ask hotel staff about the cleaning products they use or research the topic yourself. LEED-certified hotels use chemical-free cleaning products and other impressive green practices.
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Read This Next
FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.
Diego Rivera’s America Presents the Most In-Depth Look at Artist’s Work in More than 20 Years
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in Bentonville, Arkansas, presents Diego Rivera’s America, the first major exhibition focused solely on the Mexican artist in more than 20 years, on view until July 31. Crystal Bridges is the second and final stop for the exhibition, the only remaining opportunity for visitors to experience Rivera's expansive vision of America.
Put Yourself First in Arizona
Putting yourself first has never been easier.
San Antonio, Texas, Preserves Architectural Beauty for Future Generations
In San Antonio, Texas, old buildings are seldom destroyed. When they fall into disrepair, they are instead repurposed and restored to maintain the city’s history and traditions for future generations to appreciate. Whether it’s a former brewery or bank transforming into a chic hotel or a candy factory evolving into stylish lofts, this Texas city embraces both history and sustainability.
Here’s How to Arrive in Style to the World’s Most Unforgettable Hotels
Make a grand entrance to these equally grand hotels:
Business or Leisure? With TAP Air Portugal, You Can Have Both!
Are you looking to enhance your business trip with a little leisure? Look no further than Portugal, a country renowned for its captivating blend of history, culture and natural beauty. And with TAP Air Portugal, you can effortlessly transform your business trip into an unforgettable bleisure adventure. Discover why Portugal and TAP Air Portugal are the perfect combination for an enriching and rejuvenating experience.
SponsoredJun 1, 2023
Protected: MORE TO TRAVEL
There’s more to travel than just getting there.
Protected: MORE TO TRAVEL
SponsoredJun 1, 2023
Park Hyatt Tokyo Prepares for Its New Look
London Concours Displays Golden Age Coupes
DailyMay 31, 2023
Pick These Resorts and Destinations for a Day of Self Care on Global Wellness Day
Celebrate Global Wellness Day on June 10 with a visit to one of these resorts or destinations.
Plan Your Escape to Arizona
Indulgent escapes are made even more enjoyable by fast, easy access — and that’s what Arizona offers. Quick, non-stop and direct flights to one of two international airports put all the luxury of The Grand Canyon State within easy reach.
eFlyer ReviewsMay 31, 2023
Homer and Janet by Homer Review
The Marais District, covering swaths of Paris’ 3rd and 4th arrondissments, has a distinctively gritty glamour that reveals it to be one of the city’s great incubators for new French food, fashion and lifestyle trends. It is here Moïse Sfez took on the challenge of creating street food establishments Homer in 2017 and Janet by Homer in 2022, doing it in such a way they both transcend the novelty of being regional American comfort food offered at stylized lunch counters matching up with New England lobster shacks and New York delis. Overwhelming local response and Sfez winning the 2018 Lobster Roll World’s Championship title in Portland, Maine, solidified him as a Paris restaurateur and one of France’s hottest culinary stars.