Checking out: How to avoid germs during your hotel stay

Whether you’re on vacation¬†at a tropical¬†resort or¬†away on business, your hotel room is supposed to be your home-away-from-home.¬†Unfortunately, that¬†“home”¬†was used by hundreds of strangers before you arrived – and¬†they may have left more than just a pair of dirty socks behind. A recent investigation by CBC’s Marketplace found¬†alarming¬†levels of¬†bacterial contamination on “high-touch” spots in hotel rooms across the country. The tests,¬†conducted by University of Guelph microbiologist Keith Warriner in 54 rooms at six hotel chains, found that many commonly used¬†surfaces and items failed to meet¬†basic sanitation standards, and in some cases contained dangerously high levels of bacteria. And if you¬†think you can avoid the problem by opting for a luxury suite, think again;¬†Warriner’s¬†test found that rooms at¬†high-end hotels like¬†Fairmont and Sheraton were no¬†cleaner, on average, than rooms at¬†budget hotels like Super 8 and EconoLodge. So, if you’re planning a special getaway¬†this February,¬†follow these simple tips to keep your hotel stay as sanitary as possible. Disinfect “high-touch” spots. The Marketplace investigation found that bathroom faucets and TV remotes were¬†among the¬†dirtiest¬†items in most hotel rooms. Use an alcohol-based sanitizing wipe to clean¬†these “high-touch” items, as well as¬†the phone, door knobs, toilet handle and¬†ice bucket. Set aside the comforter.¬†It’s the¬†dirty secrets of most hotels –¬†they don’t clean the comforter¬†for every new¬†guest. It’s no wonder¬†it was one of the filthiest areas¬†uncoverd by Marketplace‘s investigation.¬†¬†If you’re concerned about clean¬†bedding, call and ask your hotel how often they launder their comforters, or just bring your own blanket. Give your¬†glassware a quick cleaning. Most hotels require cleaning staff to wash all glasses in a dishwasher between stays – but the staff may have other ideas. Marketplace used hidden cameras to¬†record housekeepers skirting the rules of basic cleanliness, including one cleaner¬†at a high-end Toronto hotel¬†who washed glasses with a touch of hand soap. To be safe, run all glassware (including your coffee pot) under hot water for at least¬†minute before using. Stay away from the bathroom counter.¬†Personal hygene products and¬†bathroom germs don’t mix. Keep your¬†toothbrush, razor and dental floss in travel containers and off the bathroom counter, where bacteria is likely to propagate. Don’t let the bed bugs bite. Bed bug infestations¬†have risen sharply across¬†North America in the past decade, according to Health Canada. Hotels are a prime breeding ground for the¬†tiny blood suckers, who can then travel home with you and¬†make your life very, very¬†uncomfortable. To inspect for bed bugs, lift the mattress and look for reddish-brown spots on the mattress or other parts of the bed (that’s bed bug excrement). Don’t expect to¬†see any live insects; though visible to the naked eye, bed bugs are¬†adept at hiding in small cracks and crevasses.¬†You should also¬†check for bed bug poop¬†between couch cushions¬†and in¬†the space between the carpet and the wall. Bed bugs feed at night, leaving behind¬†itchy red bumps on the skin, similar to mosquito bites.¬†If you discover any signs of a bed bug infestation, inform the front desk immediately and request a new room. Never leave luggage, clothes or purses on the bed or floor of your hotel room, where¬†bed bugs can easily climb aboard. Instead, put these items in the bath tub or on the luggage rack.