How to Sanitize Everything You Touch When You Travel

Ditch that bedspread, for starters.

Getting sick when you’re away from home is the worst. But even in upscale hotels where everything looks spotless, germs can lurk in the bathroom, the carpet, and even on that innocent-looking TV remote. You can’t travel in a sterile bubble, but there are some things you can do to kill or reduce germs and stay healthy. Here's how:


Hand Sanitizer Wipes

EO Products

Wash Your Hands

Washing your hands with soap and water should always be your first option, says Susan Griffin-Black, co-founder and co-CEO of sustainable cleaning and personal care products company EO Products. If that’s not possible, she recommends a packable product to stay clean and fresh. “Stash a pack of hand sanitizing wipes in your bag. Not only are they great for cleaning hands, they can also be used to wipe down airplane tray tables and arm rests, hotel door knobs and remotes, and cell phones, too.”

Sanitizing Spray

EO Products

Black also suggests carrying hand sanitizer or gel in your backpack or purse. "It’ll come in handy after using public transportation (and) can double as a room spray to freshen up rental cars or hotel rooms.” Or clean your hands with it after you've punched the buttons on an ATM or elevator. To use the gel, just squeeze the recommended amount into your palm and rub your hands together, making sure you spread the gel between your fingers and on the backs of your hands. The gel or spray will quickly air-dry.

"Keep a package of deodorant wipes on hand," Black adds. You can use them to remove the dirt after a day of hiking or to wipe off sandy hands and feet at the beach.

Just be aware that hand sanitizers may not get rid of all kinds of germs, or eliminate some harmful chemicals you might encounter, such as garden pesticides. Read the label on your product for more information.

Disinfect Surfaces

Ugh—studies have shown that some 81 percent of hotel room surfaces contain fecal bacteria. Other things, like airplane seat covers and the tray tables in the coach section, may not get daily cleanings. Disinfecting wipes can be used to clean door handles, bathroom countertops, sink and shower faucets, toilet flushers and more, killing 99.9 percent of germs that can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, and 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria. Just don't use them for personal cleaning; they're not meant to use on your skin.

Wash Glassware

Here's a dirty little secret: investigators have found some hotels don't wash the glasses every time their rooms change hands; they just wipe them off. Don't drink from glasses unless you first wash them in hot, soapy water and dry them thoroughly. Another option: bring your own plastic or paper cups from home.

Clean Bathrooms

Public and hotel bathrooms, as you’d expect, are typically the worst places for germs. Even if a bathroom looks spick-and-span, it’s smart to lift the toilet seat with some tissue--don't touch anything with your hands--and spray it on both sides with a travel-size can of disinfectant.

Then go beyond the bathroom and use disinfectant or alcohol wipes on other things you're likely to touch in your hotel room. These include the clock radio, phone, doorknobs and countertops in in-room kitchens. Don't wipe the TV remote with anything damp. Just drop it into a plastic bag and press the buttons through the bag to change channels.

Wear Your Shoes

Obviously, you can't disinfect the hotel carpet, although it probably needs it. Just don't walk on it barefoot. Bring slippers to pad about your room, and flip flops or water shoes to wear in the shower.

Banish The Bedspread

Back to that hotel bedspread: since spreads and other large bed covers aren’t cleaned frequently, just fold them and put them aside. While you're at it, check the sheets and mattress for stains or signs of bedbugs. You can't clean those either, but you can opt to bring your own travel sheets. Some are available as "cocoons" that you can slip into, on top of the bedding that's already there. But even your own fresh sheets won't protect you from bedbugs and other pests. You'll need to switch rooms or even hotels if they're present.

Want more cleaning tips? Check out our sister blog I Heart HGTV and their Clean Freak Week for even more advice.

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