Hotel Indoor Air Quality: What to Know Before You Go
Be Informed Before Your Next Trip
By Becky Dotson
12 min read
You packed your favorite outfit and your swimsuit, booked your flight and car rental, and have a hotel room to stay in – but have you checked on the air quality inside your hotel? Probably not. Like most of us, it’s probably never even entered your mind. We often trust that the hotel we’ve chosen is doing everything it can to keep us as safe as possible, air quality included.
But if you are prone to respiratory issues, have asthma, are a lung cancer fighter or survivor, or consider air quality a top priority – then there are some things to consider before you book your next stay.
In This Article
In This Article
Check the Website
Many hotels are moving to more green initiatives, and that means improving air quality in the hotel. Often the information will be prominently located and displayed on the hotel website, so check there to see if improving air quality and other green initiatives are of concern and priority to the hotel you’re staying at.
Ask About the HVAC System
For safety reasons, most hotels won’t allow you to open up the windows. So, it’s hard to get fresh air flowing inside your room by yourself. You end up having to rely on the hotel’s HVAC system. The air quality in your room will be insufficient if the system isn’t blowing clean, fresh air. So, consider asking at the front desk or when you check in when the last time the HVAC system has been serviced, cleaned, and had the filters changed out.
Ask About Dehumidifiers
Some HVAC systems have built-in dehumidifiers that will help cut down the moisture in the hotel and your room in particular. Less moisture means less chance for mold. Mold can cause all types of allergy and respiratory issues. You can check out common symptoms of mold exposure here. So, check and see if the hotel’s HVAC system includes dehumidifiers.
Ask About Air Purifiers
Air purifiers improve air quality by pulling the bad stuff out of the air and pushing cleaner air back out. Several hotels are starting to implement air purifiers throughout the common areas, and some are putting them inside the rooms. Ask what the hotel’s policy is on air purifiers. You can always bring along your own. We also have a few recommendations for the best traveling air purifiers you can read about here.
Ask About the Cleaning Procedure
You’re going to be spending time and sleeping in this room, it may be uncomfortable at first, but there’s nothing wrong with asking the hotel managers or staff about their cleaning process and procedure. Some questions to consider:
- How thoroughly are the sheets, linens, pillows, blankets, and comforters cleaned?
- What is the cleaning process for bed linens?
- Do your laundry services use hot water or bleach?
- What’s the cleaning process for the furniture, curtains, and carpet?
- Hopefully, you will get answers that meet your satisfaction; if not, you can always change your mind and stay elsewhere.
Ask About Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide has no color, odor, or taste, and that’s why it’s known as a silent killer. The CDC says more than 10,000 people have to have medical treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning, and more than 400 people die from it every year.
Carbon monoxide poisoning has three primary sources at a hotel – a problem with the pool heater, a problem with the furnace inside a guest room, or a problem with the hot water boilers that provide hot water guest rooms and laundry services. General wear and tear will cause equipment to malfunction and have problems. Still, if hotels install carbon monoxide detectors throughout the hotel and in every room, it could drastically reduce the number of issues.
Only 14 states in the U.S. require carbon monoxide detectors in hotels and motels – California, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Be sure and ask if the hotel you’re staying at has carbon monoxide detectors installed.
Give Your Room a Good Whiff
Sometimes, you can smell the remnants of the last guest the minute you open the door. Whether it’s a pleasant smell or not, you don’t want a reminder someone was sleeping in that bed before you. Just go to the front desk, explain the issue and ask for a new room. You’ll get a fresher, better smelling space, and it will help alert the hotel staff that their cleaning protocols may need to be examined or changed.
Make Sure Your Room is Smoke-free
Some hotels still offer smoking rooms. Make sure when you book the space and check-in, your room is a non-smoking room. If the hotel has a no smoking policy in all their rooms, but you happen to smell cigarette smoke on your floor, report it to the front desk. They will investigate and take care of the problem. Chances are you aren’t the only guest who doesn’t want to endure the secondhand smoke and the person violating the policy will never know it’s you.
Make Sure Your Room is Pet-free
Many people like to travel with their pets these days, and many hotels have rooms that will allow your four-legged family member to stay. If you have an allergy to pet dander or don’t like the idea of someone else’s dog being all over the furniture you’re about to use, make sure you ask for a room where pets aren’t allowed.
Ask if the Hotel is Undergoing Renovations
Asbestos is naturally occurring, found in rocks and soils. Because it’s flexible and resistant to chemicals, heat, and electricity, they have widely used it in construction materials for years. The EPA allows it in vinyl floor tiles and cement pipes. Over time, breathing in asbestos fibers can increase your chances of developing lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
If a hotel is remodeling and not following proper guidelines for removal and disposal, it can send asbestos into the air. A simple Google search will turn up several lawsuits filed against hotels for knowingly exposing their employees to asbestos during renovations. So, be sure and ask if the hotel will be undergoing any renovations during your stay.
Even if the hotel is following proper renovation procedures, you may not want to endure the noise and hassle of reconstruction during your stay.
We all want to breathe better, cleaner air. So, don’t feel like you’re alone if you choose to ask questions about air quality at the hotel where you’re going to be staying. Carbon Lighthouse, a green energy supplier, based in California, actually conducted a study in 2020 to see if Americans were concerned about the indoor air quality inside hotel rooms. The study found that 52 percent of the people surveyed would pay more to stay somewhere with good indoor air quality. And 76 percent said that hotels need a rating system like restaurants that indicated what the quality of the air inside was.
The Covid pandemic forced many companies to consider air quality like never before, and the hotel industry is no different. There aren’t industry-wide rules or regulations for air quality, but individual companies are slowly making changes to make their hotels better places.
The bottom line is, the more we band together and push for change, the better our chances for improving the air we share and breathe.