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Room Inspection

This photo shows a young couple inspecting the sofa bed mattress of a hotel room before accepting the reservation.

Always give the room a quick look before accepting it.

Got any health issues? Here’s some expert tips on how to inspect a hotel room for cleanliness.

The first thing you need to do, is open the door and take a deep breath through your nose. The air should smell fresh, or neutral, with no scent at all. If you smell bleach, or cleansers, the room may have been recently cleaned, or improperly rinsed.

There shouldn’t be any whiff of smoking, mold or mildew. If you smell air freshener, or heavy perfumes, they might be trying to hide something. 

You always want to enter a bright, sunny room, with its curtains open. That’s because daylight, especially in the ultra violet spectrum is a great sanitizer. It’s why hospitals and airports use it to help sterilize hard surfaces.

Be suspicious of a dark room that has the curtains drawn. It may have black mold on the back of the curtain. If it is dark when you arrive, immediately open the curtains and windows, to let fresh air and sunlight in.

If the windows don’t open and they rely solely on air conditioning, there’s a good chance that the air is stale and full of germs. Check behind the curtains and around the windows for any sign of black mold. Since the windows don’t open, all the humidity is trapped inside and the bad air keeps getting recycled.

Pull back the blankets, to make sure there are no hairs visible on the pillowcases, or sheets. Pull back the bottom sheet and check the mattress and headboard for any signs of bugs. Look at the edge of the mattress for any blood spots, or dark spots, or any visible sign that could indicate bed bugs.

(If you really want to be picky like me, carry a portable black light or ultra violet flashlight. Turn off the lights in the hotel room and close the curtain to make it dark. Then turn on the UV light to reveal all the human and animal “organic matter” on the carpets, bed, chairs, light switches, toilet, etc.)

In one example, there was a place – which I won’t name – that had a noticeable mildew odor when we walked in the room. The windows didn’t open and there was black mold around the window frame. There was also a very noticeable second smell.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered that some bonehead maintenance person, trying to hide the mold smell, used black electrical tape, to attach restroom urinal deodorizes (aka pucks), to the side of the air conditioner. The whole place smelled like the mens toilet at the community center.

We went to the front desk to complain and they were very aware of the problem. The apologized and said all the rooms have mold problems.

Since I’m easily susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections, I used my medical condition to refuse the room. We left the place looking for a new hotel.

It’s just not worth risking your health for a one night stand. If you find any health concerns don’t take the room. Go back to the front desk immediately and ask for another room. If they don’t have one, or if the whole place is disgusting, you may need to find another hotel.

If the room passes your quick health inspection, there’s no need to go back to the front desk immediately. Take two minutes to have a look around and note any deficiencies, or damage.

The first thing is turn on the air conditioning. It should fire up without banging, or the fan clacking, and blow cool air within a minute.

Next turn on the bar fridge if it’s not on already. It should click on immediately and only take a minute before the back wall starts to get cool.

Check behind the doors and look for holes in the wall. Turn on all the lights to be sure all the light bulbs and fixtures are working.

Move the chairs and look for any noticeable carpet stains. Scan the walls for holes, stains, or ripped wall paper.

Flush the toilet to be sure it isn’t plugged. Turn on the water in the sinks and shower to confirm that the drains and the shower head aren’t plugged.

Turn on the TV. Make sure there are batteries in the remote control. Switch a few channels to be sure the cable is connected.

Take out your smartphone to see if you get an internet signal. You might not be able to access the internet without a room number and password, but that’s ok. At this point you just want to make sure you have a strong wifi signal in the room. 

Boot up the computer in the room if they have one. Turn on the clock radio. Make sure everything works.

At this point I like to take photos on my cell phone. If I decide NOT to keep the room, I can show the front desk person why. It’s hard to argue with photographic proof. If I do decide to stay, I have photos showing the condition of the room as it was rented to me.

Now head back to the front desk with any concerns. You might want to sanitize your hands with sterilizing wipes, or hand sanitizer on the walk back, because you touched a whole bunch of dirty stuff in the room.

Remember that you want to report all problems and deficiencies to the front desk, immediately upon arrival, before you unpack any bags, or sanitize the room. Do the inspection first, then decide if you want to stay there or not.

If it’s just minor issues, the front desk can send housekeeping, or maintenance around to fix it. If you run into black mold, or health concerns, ask for another room, or cancel the reservation.

Usually they won’t put up any kind of fuss, if you have legitimate concerns. After all, you’re the customer and the hotel is in the business of pleasing you. Without you, nice photos and good public reviews, they wouldn’t have a business to be in.

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