"I stay at a lot of hotels, and the ones I like best are clean and not complicated," celebrated chef, restauranteur and hotel owner Nobu Matsuhisa told T Magazine. "You go to bed and say, 'Wow, I feel comfortable.'" We concur. One of the joys of traveling is relaxing in your hotel room on a perfectly made bed, with crisp, clean sheets and freshly fluffed pillows. Whether you're a hotelier or a backpacker, that's what you want to greet you when you arrive — clean being the most important feature of the hotel bed for all of us. But which items on that bed actually get washed before you check in?
According to public health and housing laws across the country, the exact wording regarding hotel beddings may vary, but the gist is the same: Guests are to be provided with clean linens. Nevada Public Health and Safety, Sec. 447.090, states, "Clean sheets and pillow slips shall be supplied for each bed in a hotel as often as the bed is assigned to a different person." In New York, the Department of Health requires that "every guest room shall be provided with an adequate supply of clean towels, sheets, and pillowcases that are changed on a regular schedule, not to exceed one week between changes, except at facilities where housekeeping is the responsibility of the occupant." And California State Housing Law requires that "in every apartment house or hotel ... held out for rent and furnished with a bed and bedding, every part of every bed, including the mattress, sheets, blankets, and bedding shall be kept in a clean, dry, and sanitary condition ... " and that the "bed linen in a hotel shall be changed before a new guest occupies the bed."
Of course, you can see that some laws are more specific than others. And it's really up to the hotel management to ensure their staff abides by these laws. Even the most luxurious of hotels have been caught not changing the sheets before a new guest arrives. To help you find out exactly which items on the bed get laundered and how often, below are questions we suggest asking any hotel you're considering or checking into. We also included one last question that may be of particular interest as you travel during the pandemic.
- Are all items on the bed — pillows, pillowcases, sheets, blanket, duvet/comforter, mattress cover — cleaned after each guest?
- Will housekeeping clean the room every day?
- How frequently will beddings be cleaned during my stay?
- How long are rooms left unoccupied before the next guest?
In the age of COVID-19, hotel cleaning policies — now accessible via prominently displayed links on their websites — are constantly shifting with the goal to not only ensure the safety of their guests but their staff as well. We contacted some hotels to learn about their policies, and we received answers that may surprise you.
- According to Hilton's corporate website and the front desk, freshly laundered linens (sheets, pillows and pillowcases) are placed on the beds after each occupant. Duvets and blankets are only provided by request.
- Housekeeping is generally limited to the second or third day of a guest's stay, at which point linens will be changed. Guests may request new linens at any time and additional housekeeping, if staff is available.
- Rooms are left unoccupied for one to three days in between guests.
- According to a press release, "Rooms [are] disinfected daily with EPA-approved products and will have blacklight inspection by room attendants." Their front desk shared that bed sheets, pillows and pillowcases, duvet and cover, and the mattress topper are replaced after each occupant.
- Daily housekeeping is available and sheets are replaced the third day regardless if guests request this. Linens may be changed daily if requested.
- Rooms are left unoccupied for 24 hours between guests.
- After each occupant, "Everything on the bed is replaced," says front desk, including pillows and mattress topper.
- Housekeeping does not go into the room until guests leave regardless of length of stay. Guests may request new linens at any time that will be left outside the room.
- Rooms are left unoccupied for three days between guests.
- Bed sheets, pillows and pillowcases, and duvet and cover are cleaned and replaced after each occupant.
- Housekeeping is limited to every third day at which point linens are replaced. Guests may request new linens at any time.
- Rooms are left unoccupied for 24 hours between guests.
- Bed sheets, pillows and pillowcases, and comforters are cleaned and replaced after each occupant.
- Housekeeping is not provided during occupancy, but guests may request new linens at any time that will be left outside their room.
- Rooms are left unoccupied for 48 hours between guests.
- Bed sheets, pillowcases, and duvet covers are cleaned and replaced after each occupant. The mattress pad, pillows, duvet, bed frame fabric, and decorative throw, pillow, and case are sanitized by using an electrostatic sprayer with a Peroxide-based solution from Ecolab.
- Daily housekeeping services are on hold to avoid additional contact with guests, but the housekeeping department will provide additional items (linens and more) if requested by tray or parcel outside the room.
- If staying four nights or more, housekeeping will clean on the second night/third day including changing linens. Upon arrival, guests may discuss additional requests and linen exchanges.
- Rooms are left unoccupied for a minimum of 24 hours in between guests.
For more information regarding each hotel's cleaning policies, contact their front desks. Happy and safe travels!
Author and book editor Teena Apeles is a collector of vintage pieces and untold stories. She writes about art, culture, design, activism, and history, and edits books on an even wider range of subjects. One of her favorite projects was the anthology Dear Seller: Real Estate Love Letters from Los Angeles, a unique exploration of the lives and homes of Angelenos, for Narrated Objects.