A recent business trip left us in the unfortunate position of having to stay in a dirty hotel room. If you’ve checked into a hotel only to discover that you’ve been given a dirty hotel room, there are things you can do to make your stay better! Perhaps there are some in the hotel industry who hope you’ll be a pushover, but here are five TravelingMom tips to help make your stay as comfortable as possible.


Stuck in a dirty hotel room? Don't stand for it! There are things you can do to get the hotel to clean up its act! TravelingMom has tips for you.

Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

Stuck in a Dirty Hotel

A recent business trip required our group to stay in a dirty hotel. There were no other options in the area and we had to be close enough to walk to our business venue. That meant we had to deal with it. There was peeling plaster, mildew, something unidentifiable in the drain…you get the idea. But I wasn’t going to take it lying down—well, at least not until I’d had a chance to see what I could clean up before doing so!

Now let me point out, I’m not mentioning the name of the dirty hotel. I feel compelled to explain that this particular hotel was undergoing renovations on some floors while we were there. I genuinely felt like they were trying to make improvements and be helpful.  They just aren’t there yet.  That said, I’ve stayed at other hotels through the years in which I wondered whether the “s” had burned out on their outdoor signs. Meaning: it should have said, hostel. Come to think of it, I’ve stayed in hostels that were nicer than some of those hotels.


Here are some things I’ve learned:

First Check: Bedbugs

Stuck in a dirty hotel room? Don't stand for it! There are things you can do to get the hotel to clean up its act! TravelingMom has tips for you.

Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

While it’s tempting to want to check out the view from your room the minute you get in, you should start off checking for bedbugs. Take your luggage directly into the bathroom — where bedbugs are least likely to be found — and do a brief inspection. Pull back bedspreads and sheets and check all around the mattress and headboard for blood stains or small black/brown specks/dots. If you see any, or a bedbug itself (blech), alert the hotel staff immediately. Then find another hotel asap. No other hotel available? Make sure they move you to a different room—preferably in a different building, wing or floor and check things out with hotel supervision before unpacking there as well.

Ask About Renovations

Ok, so you’ve seen enough to know that your room looks like it’s had nothing done to it since 1979. You expect more for what you’re paying. Check in with the front desk manager and ask if the hotel has done any renovating or updating of rooms. If so, are any of the new(er) ones available? Be polite, but express concerns you have with your room. (Crumbling ceilings, moldy bathrooms etc.) Let the staff know you suffer from allergies or have health concerns.  A respectful attitude may just open something up.

Stuck in a dirty hotel room? Don't stand for it! There are things you can do to get the hotel to clean up its act! TravelingMom has tips for you.

Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

Volunteer for Maid Service

As I sat down on the bed at this hotel, I noticed a bunch of toenail clippings on the rug. I’d only been there for a few minutes and hadn’t unpacked my toiletries, so yes, it was pretty safe to assume the toenails weren’t mine. I headed to the bathroom where I found pieces of hair from a weave (no, I don’t wear a weave) as well as a clogged drain. At least there was no blood on the carpet.

I wondered what kind of vacuum was sitting unused in the cleaning closet two doors down. Calling the front desk, I asked to get access to a vacuum cleaner.  I said I was sure that the maids were probably busy cleaning someone else’s room and that I’d be happy to do the vacuuming myself.  I told them what I needed to vacuum. A maid showed up at my door, vacuum in hand, two minutes later. Convincing her to let me do the vacuuming, I assured myself that I’d get to all the spots that grossed me out. I let her tackle the nastiest job—unclogging that drain. (Gagging a bit here remembering the hairball she pulled out.) She noticed the mildew in the shower and scrubbed at that as well. I thanked her for her handiwork.

Before she left, I asked about getting extra fresh towels and went with her to get them. And then I put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign.

Bring Your Own

For many people, sleeping in a bed that’s not their own is the biggest challenge while traveling. Compound that with dirty hotel sheets and it’s a recipe for insomnia. So for added assurance, pack your own sheets. If you don’t have room for a full set, just pack a top sheet or even just a pillow case. You know how they feel and smell—comforting. And if you have sensitive skin you don’t have to worry about the detergents or chemicals used to clean the hotel sheets. Don’t sleep on top of the bedspread as that gets laundered the least—that is unless you’ve brought your own sleeping bag!

Do the Sniff Test

Thankfully most hotels (but not all) are non-smoking these days and charge fines to those who smoke in their rooms. That doesn’t mean you won’t be confronted with a mildew scent, or the scent of chemicals.  There are plenty of products on the market that you can pack and bring to spray around your room to help it smell better. Vanilla, linen, peppermint-whatever does the trick for you. One word of warning: don’t use candles. If you want things to improve, accidentally setting off the fire-alarm will definitely not help in that realm.

Look on the Bright Side

While I didn’t want to hang out in my hotel room longer than needed, I also tried to look at the brighter, cleaner side of things. The hotel staff was as helpful and accommodating as they could be, despite the fact that they couldn’t keep up with the demand. I had managed to clean up a number of things that needed it in my room. With storm clouds looming in the Philadelphia sky, at least I had a roof over my head!  I concentrated on the clouds and not the covered up pool and boarded up patio greeting me from the view out my window.

In the End

 cheap hotel, hotel cleaning

Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

If your hotel is bad enough that you feel compelled to write an online review complaining, be smart enough to wait until AFTER you’ve checked out! (Social media is fast and you never know what “unusual occurrence” could take place if you’re still checked in!) If it’s truly a disaster, call and report the hotel to the health department. Maybe they should be shut down. Help keep another customer from experiencing what you’ve had to go through!