Hotel rooms are notoriously unclean places. One recent study found that 81% of hotel surfaces sampled contained at least some amount of faecal bacteria.
I'm by no means a germaphobe, but I do avoid certain parts of a hotel room. I say goodbye to the throw pillows, forget about sitting on the armchair or ottoman, wipe down the TV remote, and walk around in socks or flip-flops.
As I've traveled over the past year, I've experienced hotels and Airbnbs with varying standards of upkeep, maintenance, and cleanliness, regardless of how many stars it has; a five-star hotel in one country does not necessarily mean the same thing as a five-star hotel in another.
But over those nearly 300 nights I've spent in hotels and Airbnbs, I have found that consistently the best barometer of cleanliness is the coffeemaker or electric kettle. Almost every hotel room has one and it can tell you a lot about how detail-oriented the housekeeping is.
Because coffeemakers and electric kettles constantly have water or moisture in them, they can be a haven for bacteria, rust, and mould. If they aren't cleaned regularly - and I mean with vinegar, not rinsed with hot water - they quickly become gross. As such a small item and a tedious one to clean, I've found that coffeemakers and electric kettles are frequently overlooked by less diligent hotels.
Even if the kettle is cleaned regularly, with frequent use, some amount of rust is unavoidable. But that's frequently a signal that a room or rental needs some sprucing up.
When I get to a new hotel room, I pop open the top to the appliance. If I see mould or rust, which happens often, I ask for a new room or shorten my stay to one night and move on to a different place.
If they're leaving a rusted kettle in the room, it's a signal to me that no one is keeping a close eye on the room's long-term upkeep. If there's mould in the coffeemaker or kettle, what else hasn't gotten a thorough cleaning?
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