Ridiculous or not? Hotels don’t always change sheets between guests


Glenn Robins is grossed out. As a frequent traveler, he assumed the sheets on his hotel bed are changed between guests.

But a new TV ad by the Hampton Inn chain calls that assumption into question. It shows housekeepers changing sheets in hazmat suits, at what appears to be a competing hotel chain.

“The implication was obviously that other hotels do not change the sheets for every new guest,” he says.

Robins is troubled by that.

“It’s a disgusting enough thought that the sheets were not changed,” he told me. “It gets even more disgusting when one considers the previous tenant’s possible activity.”

A confession: I changed the last part of Robins’ quote to spare you some graphic detail. Use your imagination.

Room hygiene is a hot topic among travelers. Always is. Last week, the discovery that a budget hotel hadn’t changed its sheets and failed to clean a shower between guest visits sparked a spirited discussion on my site about whether the guest deserved a refund from the property.

This topic is already well-covered – sorry about the pun – by the travel press. Sheets are usually changed between guests, and sometimes state law requires it, but there’s no guarantee that they will be.


As for bedspreads, forget it. As countless hidden-camera investigative TV programs have confirmed, they aren’t washed regularly.

Yuck.

But I digress. Is the Hampton ad right? Kinda.

It’s probably safe to say that all major hotel chains, including Hampton, instruct their housekeepers to change sheets between guests. Yes, you’ll always find some no-tell motel out in the sticks that tries to skip a guest or two, but as a general rule, the sheets are swapped out.

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But here’s a situation where the rules may allow a housekeeper to skip it: What if a guest checks in for one night and it appears the bed was unused? Is it OK to just tidy up, or should you strip it down to the mattress and replace the sheets?

I would have said “yes” — just tidy up.

But wait. What if the previous guest is actually just really neat, and makes the bed like a pro? The housekeeper might assume the guest never used the bed. But that would be wrong.

Point is, it’s possible for you to end up sleeping on someone else’s sheets. But if you’re staying at a major hotel chain, it’s highly unlikely.

Still, should there be a law – perhaps at the federal level – that hotels meet a certain level of hygiene? What do you think?

(Photo: Mo ckney Rebel/Flickr Creative Commons)


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • Tom

    We live in a pretty unsanitized world — and somehow the human race has survived for tens of thousands of years. In India, which can be pretty dirty, the population is growing at 18 million people each year and they already have well over a billion. Humans do not need to live in a Purell world. Everyday you touch hundreds of objects that have been touched by others, or sat in or layed on. Lots of people in their own homes don’t change sheets between guests or when children switch beds. I recall my mom saying, this isn’t a hotel.

  • Kevin

    This shouldn’t even be a question. Hotels are in the business of hospitality and providing a clean, safe environment for their guests. Clean in appearance and clean from other things (guests). And safe from what other guests may have done in those rooms.

    I recently found blood on a pillow when I was at a hotel in Philadelphia…they immediately took care of the situation and myself as a guest. The hotel chain went above and beyond to make sure I was okay and I received several calls from higher ups at both the hotel and their corporate offices that the situation would be addressed immediately.

    I wouldnt mind if the hotels started putting cards on the bed or something to reassure me that the sheets/comforter were changed.

  • BillC

    Pretty simple. Change the sheets and the towels and the soap. I am usually willing to cut these businesses some slack but not when it comes to hygiene.

  • MikeZ

    The difference here is that a guest is paying a business for a clean room that they will not get sick in or catch some virus from the last guest.

  • Monica

    I recently stayed at Disney by myself, but was given a room with two queen beds. I doubt the bed I didn’t use was ever given clean sheets. The housekeeping knew I was in there alone and the second bed remained untouched. I wonder if she cleaned both beds after I left?

    But like others, after a guest checks out, the bedsheets should be changed, shower cleaned, carpet vacuumed, and new soap/shampoo put in the bathroom. That is all I ever need at a hotel, even though I consider myself a little bit of a hotel snob.

  • Phil

    I would think that this would come under the regualtions required by the city/county/state health code, they should be able to enforce the changing of sheets after each stay by a guest.

  • Crissy

    The difference is that if I’m switching beds with a family member or friend I probably know if they’re the type to have showered or if they’re sick. At a hotel god only knows who slept in the bed last, and I’ve seen some pretty gross people in the world.

    I pay for a hotel room, I’m paying for a clean set of sheets. If hotels don’t know that and need a federal law for it, then I might need to stop staying in hotels.

  • Cosmos Human

    Sleeping on used sheets in a hotel/motel is pretty gross and can be a health hazard.

  • Thomas

    Fortunately here in Florida there is a law requiring this. FL Statute 509.221 Section 6:

    (6) Each transient establishment shall provide each bed, bunk, cot, or other sleeping place for the use of guests with clean pillowslips and under and top sheets. Sheets and pillowslips shall be laundered before they are used by another guest, a clean set being furnished each succeeding guest. All bedding, including mattresses, quilts, blankets, pillows, sheets, and comforters, shall be thoroughly aired, disinfected, and kept clean. Bedding, including mattresses, quilts, blankets, pillows, sheets, or comforters, may not be used if they are worn out or unfit for further use.

  • Billgoco

    It may seem ridiculous that regulations would be required for this situation, however, businesses have shown time and time again that they are incapable and/or unwilling to have established standards of their own making. Anything that they can do to cut a corner to improve the bottom line you can be sure that they will do regardless of the potential harm.

    I agree with Tom that we have a tendency to go overboard on sanity requirements. However, I don’t think a clean hotel room and clean sheets between guests is going overboard.

  • Psbgsa

    I am surprised to see 10% say no. I think if you surveyed 1000 people all would expect to get a change of sheets as part of the price. If one chose to select a hotel maybe for a discounted price no clean sheets should carry a disclaimer.

  • Sylviaguarino

    yikes, i would never imagine this happening at home let alone in a place where you pay for the room. as a vacation rental owner and user, my minimum bottom line is squeaky clean, and that includes fresh sheets and towels. i voted with the majority.

  • Anonyn

    When I stayed in a hotel in Los Angeles a couple of years ago I was SEVERELY sick – I’d never been so sick in my life. If those sheets hadn’t been changed then I dread to think of the poor sod who picked up my disease.

  • Oregoncycle

    911 how can I help you?
    I just checked in to Disney’s Grand Poobah hotel and well the sheets are dirty. I know there is a federal law that guarantees clean sheets can you please send an officer right away.

  • Atlmom

    I voted no, we certainly don’t need federal regulations. jeez. but of course, a hotel should change sheets between guests, it’s what you pay for. but again, it’s not necessarily something that needs another law. i mean, come on.

  • arcu

    All hail to Mr and Ms Clean

  • sue

    I think hotels should change their sheets, but I don’t think that the government needs to pass a law about it. If there is any situation that I think is solvable in the free market, this would be it. If you stay somewhere and find out the sheets weren’t changed, you’ll never stay there again and tell everyone in the cyberworld. Hotels have all kinds of motivation to change their sheets without getting the government involved.

  • Michael K

    I assume I’m not the only one who’s had their room cleaned and sheets changed early in the morning on checkout day (before I actually checked out)?

    I always wondered how the hotel can ensure the next guest has clean sheets without a more rigourous process. I’m skeptical that they would change the sheets AGAIN a couple of hours later after I checked out.

    I actually asked this very question at the reception desk once while I was checking out, and I got an evasive and unsatisfactory response.

  • ShamWow

    I worked for a major hotel chain for over 10 years in various levels of responsibility, and have to say that it really comes down to the integrity of the housekeeper assigned to clean the room, and the supervisor who is supposed to come behind that housekeeper and inspect that everything was done to the standards of the hotel chain. Some housekeepers do take shortcuts when there is a full house and they have many rooms to clean (not saying that’s right to do), but it’s also up to the supervisor inspecting the cleaned rooms to sign off on the work done. Many times, it’s not the hotel chain or its policies governing this situation – it’s the quality of employees available in any given geographical area, and the Executive Housekeeper’s ability to follow up and weed out bad employees.

  • ohtravelgal

    I checked into a high end hotel in Dallas last month, and found that the shower hadn’t been cleaned – I knew because the used soap and shampoo bottles were still in the shower. Luckily this room had a separate tub and shower, so didn’t have to use that shower. Then I found makeup on the hanging hand towel. After finding those things, I had very little faith that the room had been cleaned properly. When I found makeup on the pillowcase I was completely grossed out. Had I found that makeup on pillowcase on it’s own, I may have chalked it up to a stain. But add the other issues, I believe that the sheets were not changed. Luckily the hotel sent up the housekeeping manager who was extremely apologetic and quickly changed my sheets and towels. The next day the room was again not cleaned to par, my towels were taken but not replaced, and the shower stall STILL wasn’t cleaned (though the used stuff was gone.) This seemed to be a case of a lazy housekeeper and not a hotel policy.

    I think even if there are laws, it doesn’t mean that the people doing the work are going to actually do it. What’s to stop the housekeeper from making an “Executive decision” that the sheets don’t look dirty and saving some work?

  • The law of “reviews” will put any hotel out of business in a very short time if it is known this happens (most times it’s pretty obvious). But what about the times it’s not obvious. I think I’m going to be sick. Too bad we need a law for a business to do the right thing.

  • Cliffordpwoodrick

    Two years ago while touring Quebec Canada, Claire and I picked up Scabies at one of three MAJOR chain Hotels. Our Doctor determined a time frame when we picked up these mites. It could have been the end days of the first hotel, the second hotel or the beginning of the third hotel stay. We don’t know and all three hotels ignored my letter informing them of our problem. We did not ask for anything, just letting them know.

    So yes – I feel that the hotel must change the bedding (all of it) after each guest. I suspect that most do as we have travelled many place since that time in Canada and elsewhere in the world without any more problems.

    Have a wonderful day – Cliff

  • Zod

    My dad is one of those neat freaks who *ALWAYS* makes his bed in military fashion every morning. He said that if a quarter doesn’t bounce off of the sheet high enough to catch it, the bed needs to be remade! Needless to say, as an adult, I never make my bed! What’s the point really?
    But for a hotel? Yes, clean sheets between each and every guest…I don’t know if we need to make it a law (there are already too many laws) but there needs to be some kind of health inspection situation here.

  • Zod

    Hotels usually have a check-in time of after 4pm. When I’ve arrived early and asked if I can get into my room, I’m invariably told that housekeeping needs to service the room before I can get into it…I would like to think that if I have to wait for housekeeping to service the room, that I would be getting a clean room and not some nasty filth of the previous occupant!

  • pietro

    The problem with the free market solution here is that there’s really no way to know if the sheets have been changed or not. The only way you would know is if the sheets were obviously soiled, and I’m sure that in that case they would have been changed.

  • Global Traveller

    YES! This is a basic health and welfare issue. This really is a milder case of using the same needle for multiple patients; sheets can make me sick!

  • Kpierz

    Laws are written when self regulation fails. Perhaps a different law would appeal to your sensibilities, one that states that the hotel must inform you if the sheets were changed on your bed after the last guest. No regulation forcing them to do so, just to let you know so that you can make an informed choice….
    If told that your sheets were not clean would you chose to to sleep on them?

  • Carrie Phillips Charney

    I voted and my vote was replaced with “Bad Request” in big bold letters…

  • The polling software is being upgraded. That’s what might be going on. It should be fixed soon. Sorry about the trouble.

  • I’ve reset the comments to display the oldest first, which will allow you to read them in chronological order.

  • Jack

    The 73 people who oppose such a regulation should be forced to spend a night wallowing in someone else’s filth (in dirty sheets)!

  • O Gross!! I’m sticking with five star luxury Vacation rentals! lol I know its drastic but I like clean and fluffy sheets. I have to go to a brand that I can trust! lol

  • sue

    Even if there’s a law, there’s no way to know. Even if there’s a law, do you really think the police (or any other regulator) can monitor every hotel maid in every hotel room? I’m all for government regulation where its appropriate, but its unnecessary and unenforceable in this particular case.

  • Traveluv

    I just clicked through to your other site about tipping the housekeeper, and the question was asked where do you leave it, which in this case I have an answer for that addresses this dirty sheet issue as well, http://www.elliott.org/blog/tip-your-hotel-housekeeper-or-else.
    I usually leave the tip under the pillow, because I’ve heard about bellboys and others ripping off the housekeepers before they get to the room. So, it turns out, if they don’t bother to change the sheets or at least plump the pillows, the new guest gets the tip and should also get suspicious. One more nasty thing to worry about as we travel. Fortunately, I’ve never experienced this suspicion about the sheets, though I have about bedspreads that are overdue for a washing and sometimes towels.

    http://www.travelswithcarole.blogspot.com

  • Grossed Out

    I can’t believe anyone would say NO to this? It’s insane.

  • Vince A.

    Just what we need, survey suggests more goverment involvement in our daily lives. If you suspect a hotel is not changing their sheets, ask for a refund and don’t patronize them ever again. period.

  • Tinajlopez

    I’ve worked in two motels in the past ten years and we always changed the sheets but we rarley changed the top bedding and we only replaced the pillows when they completley fell apart. I absolutley hate staying in motels because i know that theyre not as clean as they should be so whenever i do have to stay in one, i always toss the top blanket to the side and i just sleep on the top of the sheets and never get under them cuz it makes me feel icki!! Ive also done some really kinky, freaky sh*t in motel beds before (and when your in the moment you usually dont remember to toss the top blanket) and i always feel a bit guilty for the people who get the room after me cuz i know it probably wont get washed:( 

  • kban584

    I work at a hotel, and yes there are many housekeepers that do that to cut corners..But what the hampton commercial was really implying is that those thin comforters most hotels use actually are not washable for everyday so yes, without a doubt…if you are staying at a hotel that uses comforters they will be dirty the only bedding that is actually replaced are sheets and pillow cases, I myself suggest avoiding those hotels entirely (trust me, i’m a housekeeper) Hamptons on the other hand use duvets and duvet covers, making it easy to provide the guest with fresh bedding everytime. Although the duvet inserts are not washed after every use, it is the cleanest solution in the hotel industry.

  • Spent a night in a motel that didn’t clean their sheets this week. I only noticed at first because my pillow was covered in hair. When looking at other pillows I even saw a drool stain… I also noticed a ‘liquid’ spot with a hair on it too. I’m lucky I had an extra blanket in my car — We used that and clothes as pillows. When I told the front desk he looked at me like _I_ was crazy to want clean sheets. This SHOULD be law. 

  • E_Woman

    Littering is against the law but you don’t call 911 when someone tosses a tissue out the window.

  • redtails .

    Well.. you can say “clean”, but what does that even mean?

    If you’re going to wash the sheets at 30°C, the sheets may appear clean, but the microbiology hasn’t changed. So if you’re afraid of catching someone else’s disease, that’s not going to change even if you “clean” the sheets.

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