I Have Questions About Hotel Bedding…

Filed Under: Hotels

As a selective germaphobe I’ll probably regret asking this, because what you don’t know can’t hurt you (well, at least pre-coronavirus…ish). But I’ll do so anyway, because I’m convinced that collectively OMAAT readers know everything.

We all know that hotel bedding is washed between every stay. At least that’s how it’s supposed to be, though some undercover investigations over the years have revealed that’s not always the case. But what bedding items are washed, specifically?

Are duvets washed, or just the covers?

There’s a huge variance in terms of the quality of hotel beds. Some are downright heavenly, while others… aren’t. I’m not an expert on bedding terms, but one thing I really like is when a hotel bed’s duvet is fully enclosed between sheets. In other words, some hotel duvets are wrapped in sheets so that there’s a zipper or buttons fully enclosing it.

Other hotels simply have the duvet and then two sheets around it, but then they easily come apart, meaning you may often find yourself in direct contact with the duvet.

I’m not sure if I’m explaining that well, so below is a picture of what that looks like, with that checkered thing in the middle being the duvet.

And below is a close-up of the duvet specifically (if that’s even the right term).

That leads me to the question — is the actual duvet washed after every stay, or just the sheets? My assumption has always been that just the sheets are washed, and that you’re potentially drooling on the same duvet as everyone else. But I recently had a conversation with someone who thought that hotels washed the duvets between every stay, which I simply don’t believe.

For that matter, am I the only one who has a strong preference for hotel beds that have the duvet fully enclosed in the sheets (via a zipper or buttons), rather than just sandwiched between them, where it easily comes apart?

What about other decorative bedding?

While the above is my biggest question about hotel bedding, I might as well ask a couple more questions. When hotels put decorative throws or blankets on beds, are those washed between stays? I assume not, but I’d sure love to be wrong. Assuming it’s not after every stay, does anyone know approximately how often they’re washed?

And I don’t even ask about decorative hotel pillows, because ugh…

Bottom line

Even taking coronavirus out of the equation, I tend to think that you’re better off just not knowing certain things when it comes to hotel cleanliness. So I’m not sure why I’m asking, but…

Anyone have any insights? And anyone have any other hotel bedding questions that someone else might be able to answer?

  1. I’ve always assumed by default that all decorative bedding is *not* washed between guests, and they all go to the floor first thing when I get into a room.

  2. Officially housekeeping has told me duvets are washed per stay but I’m dubious.
    As for the decorative stuff that I remove immediately.

    You know better than to ask…

  3. I doubt there’s one answer. Different hotels have different approaches, I’d suspect. My own response to this is “who cares?”, but I know enought germophobes to know that one can’t persuade them. Sadly, I can’t be persuaded not to try.

    Perhaps one can demand fresh everything, and then with a UV light and testing kit one can check if they complied. Or one could wear PPE, strip the bed completely and store it in giant ziplok bags, bring one’s own bedding in 3 suitcases and remake the bed.

    Another option is to admit that it’s not a thing. Beds aren’t health threats. Bedbugs are a thing, but so rare in luxe hotels that let’s face it, the numbers don’t justify wasting precious time thinking about it.

    If one’s concern can genuinely be labeled with a word ending in “phobe” then the sensible answer is “Next Topic”. Get Over It. Call Your Mother. Walk Your Dog. (caps cuz these are Rules)

  4. I prefer a proper duvet cover. Here is something to think about though @ben. What all the chairs in rooms??? Do you think they are ever cleaned??? I have a friend who covers all chairs in towels.

  5. I once had a series of terrible hotel customer service failures at a hotel in New York City, including being sent to a room that had yet to be cleaned and told to stay in it. I was then present for the cleaning of the room, so I could see precisely what housekeeping was taking away for washing and what was being left behind. The duvet and sheets were taken, but the (rather large) decorative cover towards the bottom of the bed was not. As DenB mentioned, I doubt there’s is universal consistency in this.

  6. First thing I do when I get to a hotel room: I remove ALL decorative bedding into a sofa or chair in the room. I never use them since I know for sure they are not washed. It is not practical to wash them as well as they usually have bright colors that will fade as they are washed. BTW, you are asking about the duvets but the one piece of the bed that is very disgusting and I can assure you it is never washed is the pillow. They replace the pillow case but there is no way to avoid sweat to get into the pillow itself. And you put your head and face on that while you sleep. 🙁

  7. I got an inside scoop from a hotel insider at a certain 5 Star asian hotel one time that JLo brings her own mattresses, sheets and towels and everything is set up ahead of her arrival. So, you can always have that option if you feel the need.

    Imagine the number of kits she must have to constantly be sending ahead to the next property when she is touring so as she goes from place to place, they are always ready.

  8. @santastico friends of mine just moved back to Australia. This meant 2 weeks in hotel quarantine. They bought cheap pillows and used them for 2 weeks. She was convinced the hotel pillows were not cleaned.

    Btw. Most disgusting thing I have found in a hotel room was a USED condom.

  9. I have worked in the hotel industry in the past. And stay +300 days a year in hotels when working as a tour leader. And it’s mostly only the covers that are washed. Not that I am too bothered about that though. Not even in these covid-19 times.

  10. @MDA. Thats just the human excrement you can FIND. Just imagine all the excrement that wasn’t contained 🙂

  11. Same here MDA! Happened in Las Vegas. Condom was on the floor by the huge wall to wall window and had matching handprints on the window. Ick!

    Of course, I was in my 20’s at the time so I thought it was pretty funny how trashed the room was as it hadn’t been cleaned prior to us being able to drop off bags. Now I’d probably not find it so funny……

  12. When backpacking and not knowing how clean the next hostel would be, I’d travel with a sleeping bag liner, which is then like having your own sheet. If concerned about a duvet, how about wearing pyjamas? 😉

    I’ve never given it much more thought than that and as you say, probably best not to know too much of what goes on behind the scenes. Just as you rarely know what’s going on in the kitchen of a restaurant.

  13. I suspect we all know the answer and choose to ignore it. Just imagine the dried drool and who knows what else on the pillows from the last hundred guests. My last pre-covid stay at a very nice (& very pricey hotel), I found a used condom stuck to the middle of the TV screen. How housekeeping missed that is beyond me.

  14. Don’t duvets and pillows take a long time to dry? For that reason, I doubt they are washed weekly. Imagine the number of duplicates. Plus you rarely see duvets and pillows on the housekeeper’s cart.

  15. I was working in 5 start hotel in London (city of London) and as far as I remember only duvet cover and pillow covers were washed after each guest, duvets and pillows are just replaced when they are damaged or too dirty.

  16. Amazon sell UV Blacklight torches so you can inspect your hotel room like Gordon Ramsay on Hotel Nightmares and highlight all the bodily fluids present, it might exasperate your germaphobe position though!

  17. I regularly see housekeeping throw the pillows on the floor when changing the bed. If I’m driving I bring my own pillows. Otherwise my own zipped hypoallergenic pillowcases. I have always removed all the covers as soon as I arrive. During the Plague I have even brought my own sheets & pillows. I’m high risk so take every precaution.

  18. As a housekeeping manager I can tell you a few things:

    Duvets are barely washed, only 1 time per year if you are lucky. However they usually are steam cleaned if a guest spills coffee/wine/etc over it.

    Bed throws is something the hotels only wash in low season, so once per year.

    Decorative pillows are the worst, unless they are stained they can go years without washing. However sometimes they are done during a hotels spring cleaning.

    I’m hoping this helps!


  19. I agree that it’s gross that duvets and pillows aren’t washed. But on the other hand when there is a sofa in the room I’m pretty sure most people don’t expect that to be fully disinfected and we’re fine with that.

  20. @james that’s gross! I was on a business trip. No more rooms in the hotel and no rooms in the city (there was an event on). The duty manager personally cleaned the room. I found out later the cleaners were sacked. Apparently this was one of many issues. I certainly did not request it.

  21. Duvet between sheets is American thing and I hate it. I avoid touching actual duvet, blanket or top cover.

    I assume that only sheets are washed. I don’t sit on sofa or chairs undressed. I always put towel on them. Wouldn’t won’t to touch dirty chair directly with my body.

    I’m not germaphobe, just common sense. Not related to Covid either.

  22. 1. You should know better. This is impossible to answer. The answer varies greatly between hotels, branded and independents, to say nothing of mom-and-pop roadside motels, bed-and-breakfast inns, or Airbnb rentals. Even within the big chains there is no universal answer because companies like Hilton and Marriott International do NOT operate the vast majority of their hotels. So while Marriott will claim to have standards actual day-to-day management and standards are left up to the franchises or the franchise’s third-party management company. Some of these third-party management companies are huge operators. For example, don’t believe anything the big chains are saying about new coronavirus cleaning protocols. Sure, the maid may be spraying surfaces more than before but housekeepers often only have 20-25 minutes to clean a room. There’s no way they can do everything that is supposed to be done in just 20-25 minutes.

    2. As someone who routinely takes shampoo, conditioner and the like from unattended housekeeper carts in room corridors I can tell you that I’ve never seen a duvet on the cart. I do see sheets and pillow covers, but not carts.

    3. What about extended-stay hotels that have kitchens? I always re-wash EVERYTHING in the kitchen that I might use because I presume housekeepers do not wash all the utensils, glasses, bowls, plates and so forth in-between every guest.

  23. Bet you most hotel bedding and furniture is washed/cleaned more frequently than that in most of our homes.

  24. i have noticed that hotels now have taken away any decorative pillows and other non-essential items! Making it easier to clean and maybe safer with less stuff lying around,,,,

  25. I worked at a Hyatty Regency. Sheets and pillow covers. Anything else only if it looked damaged. I think we cleaned more at the Quality Inn I worked at years ago.

    Never assume the more expensive hotels do more cleaning – in fact, they do less.

  26. I’ve travelled for years all over the world for work and pleasure and this is always something in the back of my mind.
    I try to focus on the fact that most bacteria and viruses do not survive well on surfaces and materials. If there’s a clean barrier (sheet on top and under a duvet, clean pillow case) then there’s some additional shielding. I think more reputable hotels generally (not always) do a better job because I think people who pay more would tend to complain faster.
    I find I have the most comfort in Japanese hotels because of the pride staff take in their work from guest services to housekeeping.

  27. Cleanliness issues aside (for the moment), I prefer that the duvet be separate from the sheets for comfort reasons. Sometimes the combination of duvet and two sheets is just too warm for the sleeping conditions.

  28. For some reason, my friends and family all call decorative hotel bedding “the clapper” because you can get the clap from sitting on it. Like “could you please throw the clapper on that chair before you get in bed” or “I’m cold, stop stealing the clapper.”

  29. I have a friend that takes his own sheets with him to hotels. He strips the bed and then makes up the bed with his sheets and blanket. He has also taken his own towels. When we would have cookouts at work, he would re-wash any serving pieces because it wasn’t clean enough. I am sure there are bigger germaphobes than him.

  30. I don’t think this stuff presents a health risk. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about bedding being clean. You probably won’t get sick eating with dirty utensils, but would anyone want to?

    So I always think about hotel rooms as public places — not too different from, say, an airline lounge or a rental car. You might assume most of the surfaces have been vacuumed or dusted, but that’s a far cry from totally sanitized. I do assume that sheets/pillowcases have been laundered, but all other bedding (duvet covers, decorative pillows) have not. So I make sure not to touch those other surfaces directly. I have a little habit of taking the sheet and making sure it is folded over whatever duvet/comforter is on the bed so my face and neck only contact the sheet.

    Another area that I think we should all treat with suspicion is the toilet flush handle and the faucet handles in the bathroom sink. Maybe a housekeeper wiped them down, but they are often oddly shaped and I assume they probably didn’t get every nook and cranny. And previous guests likely touched those surfaces right after… well, when their hands weren’t totally clean, if you know what I mean. So I usually grab a square of toilet paper in my hand and use that to flush the toilet, and similar with the sink faucet.

    As far as all the furniture in the room… I just assume that many people have probably sat naked on just about every surface in there. So if you’re not comfortable sitting down on such a surface, lay down a towel or something else as a barrier.

    Once you take these preventative measures, they really start to feel routine and you get used to them. And they give me peace of mind, so I think the little extra effort is totally worth it.

  31. As a European who LOVES the US (apart from your healthcare system 😉 ) and spend a lot of time in US hotels, I must say that my one gripe is the separate sheet ”system”. Can’t wrap my head around it. I tend to move a lot in my sleep and I almost always wake up touching some part of the duvet (that I assume are not washed between guests), which grosses me out. So nasty. I don’t think that I’ve encountered it in Europe or Asia, and I don’t even think that you can buy it in a single store where I live in Sweden. Never seen it. I have heard a lot of comments from coworkers and friends encountering separate sheets on their first US visits – never positive.

  32. If you are concerned about specific deposits, you can purchase a black light flashlight and check for your self. I do not recommend as the results can be quite disturbing. Bodily fluids glow in the dark.

  33. @Franz Christian has the right idea. Different hotels have different procedures but you can always tell by looking at the housekeeping cart. No duvet = changing duvet is not SOP. Whatever they carry on the cart, they are probably required to change as SOP.

    Japanese hotels are often the only hotels I trust to be reasonably clean. Some of them have 4 housekeeping staff just to do a room, and the average Japanese tend to care whether they did a good job a lot more.

  34. I believe you have German citizenship but it’s quite evident from your description of bedding that you never lived in Germany long enough to purchase bedding or even discuss the topic. Had you, you would know full well what a Bettbezug is (comforter cover or duvet cover). Please return your EU Pass to the nearest Konsulat.

  35. I’m pretty sure in Japan (and some other Asian countries) the housekeeping manager would commit seppuku if the room was dirty or the duvet wasn’t changed.

  36. @Franz Christian
    I have spent many visits to extended stay chains. One thing you can count on is the laziness factor in housekeeping employees. They load any kitchen items in the in room dishwasher and run the cycle. I have entered rooms and ound one single item just washed in the dishwasher.

  37. Hi Ben, as far as I know from FS and Rosewood – duvets are washed when dirty, or at least every six months. Decorative pillows are only dust off, they’re for decoration and should not be used as pillows.

  38. After nearly a decade working in hotel operations at full-service and luxury hotels and then corporate roles for a large hotel company (that I’ll keep anonymous, for obvious reasons), I’ll say the industry standard is:

    • Cotton linens changed between guests (bottom sheet, top sheet, duvet cover (if used), white cotton pillowcases and shams).

    • Duvet inserts, blankets, mattress pads, and bedskirts are washed on a normal cycle (think once per quarter…in a 12 floor hotel, that means one floor of those items is getting washed every week).

    Decorative pillows, “bed runners” … never washed once, with few exceptions. First thing I do when I check into a hotel room (whether one of our hotels or another) is tuck them away on the top shelf of a closet, along with any linens they touched/contaminated.

    I too prefer actual duvet covers with the pocket or button closure but if you’ve ever used one at home, you surely know they are a time-consuming PITA. Most good asset managers have eliminated them in place of the “sandwiched approach” putting the duvet between two flat sheets. Makes it much quicker to turn rooms, especially DDs. And housekeepers are happier to see them gone, so it’s win-win as long as it doesn’t become a GSS issue which it never really has. You’ll hear an occasional complaint but that’s it.

  39. My neighbor works for an international hotel chain, I just asked him about duvets. His answer: washed twice a year and being replaced every second year. He said they sew in a tiny label indicating when the duvet was bought.

  40. I dunno but I’m currently in a hotel room with two double beds. Gonna hedge my bets and spend the last 2 nights on another bed.

  41. Once a quarter, twice a year, once a year. Sensing a pattern? There is no real answer. So many variables.

    I stayed 300 nights at a Marriott-branded hotel, operated by Aimbridge. The housekeepers never once replaced bed skirts, flipped the mattress, or deep-cleaned the room. I know because during the lockdown I was there many days when they cleaned the room. Maids never spent more than 25 minutes in my room. Ever.

  42. In Vegas at a 5 Star Property, I went to sleep in a fully made king bed only to wake up and discover that I spent the night with a pair white tube socks (not mine). Who wears white tube socks ??

  43. re Stuart’s comment: “probably best not to know too much of what goes on behind the scenes. Just as you rarely know what’s going on in the kitchen of a restaurant.” — I judge a restaurant by the bathrooms. If the bathroom is marginal or disgusting, I will never eat there again. If the restaurant takes good care of a bathroom, they probably are doing good cleanliness practices in the kitchen, too.

    Ditto to Richmond’s comment: “I don’t sit on sofa or chairs undressed. I always put towel on them. Wouldn’t won’t to touch dirty chair directly with my body.” — Exactly! I immediately put a large towel on the back and seat area of the desk chair when I arrive (just after I toss off all the throw pillows, etc from the bed). I also bring my own small pillow and extra pillow cases – and skip the hotel pillows.

    I’m going to also ditto Franz: “I always re-wash EVERYTHING in the kitchen that I might use because I presume housekeepers do not wash all the utensils, glasses, bowls, plates and so forth in-between every guest.” Absolutely ! Who knows if the guest may have just “rinsed” something and put it away without a proper washing.

  44. I’m more curious about tubs.

    I’ve never taken a bath in a hotel. I just can’t imagine the tub is ever cleaned

  45. I always put a towel on top of the pillow I sleep on. I hate hotels that just have duvets and no sheet between me and the unwashed comforter, ugh. I am with all of the others who remove all extraneous pillows & bedding.

  46. @James S

    The tub is actually cleaned quite often. Any dust or hair is super obvious, and it’s not a huge task to clean it.

  47. @ James S
    I assume the tub is OK if it looks OK. I assume that most harmful pathogens die on a dry surface which is the tub when not being used.

  48. I once woke up after a one-night stay at a Residence Inn and found a lollypop stuck to the sheets. Don’t know I didn’t see it when I went to bed.

  49. You can get the answer for each hotel by looking at these service carts they use to transport the dirty laundry and the clean laundry.

    Same is true for drinking glasses in the rooms, by the way. They don’t magically fly to your room, so either they are on these carts or they get “cleaned” within your room. Nice thought, right?

    Now, have you EVER seen decorative pillows on these carts?

  50. If you are willing to use only half of the pillows, if you remove the pillow case and use two pillow cases on each pillow, that isolates the pillow fairly well.

    The Edition hotels brown decorative throw that is randomly thrown on the bed looks like a dog to me. I throw the dog into the corner of the room, which is animal abuse, I know.

    The thought of unwashed duvet, blankets, decorative throws is yukky. However, remember that copulation is also yukky. Oscar Meyer is put inside the other person’s rectum or vag and put in repeatedly in and out.

  51. I have worked in two different resorts owned by two different brands. At both places, our duvets had actual covers with button snaps. But at both places, I never saw those duvets get washed. The covers got replaced after every guest, but the actual duvet would never leave the room. The same goes for decorative bedding, unless if they’re noticeably dirty. Same goes with the extra bedsheets that you would find in the closet. Usually those just get folded back up and placed back into the closet.

  52. Laundry I am not concerned about. My concern is having a top sheet on it’s own, plus a duvet (in s a sheet bag).

    I consider hotels that do not provide a separate sheet as cheap and uninformed.

    Having both a sheet and blanket (duvet) is key to regulating temperature in an unknown environment, and temperature control is a key to good sleep.

    Don’t get me started on lighting and sleep, and these dumb hotels… and the worst part about a Hyatt.

  53. Some people commenting here are really paranoid. If you can’t deal with the situation, don’t travel. I can’t imagine wasting hours washing or replacing every duvet, cover or sheet after checking in. Plus all the items in the bathroom, glasses, cups, tv remotes etc.

    Bacteria or viruses survive for a mere few hours in a dry ventilated environment. In pre-COVID times, you would touch many surfaces in and around the city anyway, including hotels. Eg. What about arm rests in restaurants, what about lift buttons, hand rails?

    Sheets, duvet covers and pillow cases should be washed between every stay. That’s it, end of. The hotel will decide when to replace the duvets themselves. They are not going to be washed after every stay.

    Having worked in hotels myself and knowing people that had worked in housekeeping, it does sometimes happen then things are washed less often in luxury hotels as there’s much more pressure to do other things.

  54. @Springdragon: I largely agree. The bigger issue is the newly built and newly renovated hotels, particularly the big brands, have eliminated combination shower-bathtubs for walk-in showers with sliding glass doors.

    I’ve seen basically the same shower and door at several Marriott brands, IHG’s Holiday Inn Express and Holiday Inn brands, and independent hotels. The door is horrible. Lots of mold and mildew gets inside the door area and is not easily cleaned.

    When housekeepers, as someone else mentioned, only have 20 or 25 minutes to clean a guest’s room they don’t have the time to spend 5-10 minutes cleaning hard to access areas of the shower.

    Sometimes you wonder if the people who design these hotel rooms have ever stayed in a hotel room or worked as a housekeeper.

    Housekeeping is the most important job in a hotel. I have never understood why owners and management go cheap on housekeeping when it is so important.

  55. I’m sure it depends upon the individual hotel. With COVID we’ve gone off the deep end on “germs.” Unless you’re elderly or in bad health your immune system is built to withstand and fight off viruses and germs. How do you think the human race has survived millions of years? And before modern plumbing that only came about at the end of the 19th century.

    If your health is compromised you should not travel unless it’s absolutely necessary. Airplanes, airports, hotel rooms because of the volume and turn over of human beings are breeding grounds for germs. Yet I know that on my 2 flights today they’re be no shortage of sick people in wheelchairs flying. Then we scream about the spread of COVID.

  56. Hampton Inns wash everything, including duvet covers, I can smell the bleach on them when I arrive in the room. Hence, my loyalty to Hilton and Lifetime Diamond status….

  57. @Lucky I work at a 5 star hotel (Marriott International) in Dubai, and inspect the laundry every day, I can tell you that the decoratie bedding isn’t washed on a regular basis for economical and ecological, eco-friendly reasons, although every 2 months we do a thorough deep-cleaning of all decorative pieces, the duvets, toppers, and pillows get washed per stay while the mattress protectors, duvet covers and sheets get washed and cleaned daily. With COVID-19 we’ve also implemented spraying the mattresses and sanitizing all surfaces and public ambiences (lobby, dining, club lounge, etc…) with disinfectants.

  58. On past trips to Singapore, given the number of girls used to barfine from KTV bars, I suspect bedding cleanliness was the least of my worries.

    Get over yourselves and grow a strong immune system !!!

    My only real gripe is catching athlete’s foot from poorly cleaned showers.

  59. Feather pillows can be dry cleaned. Although I doubt hotels do that. Actually, I doubt they have feather pillows at all. Or real goose down duvets, for that matter.

    I agree with Lucky that I much prefer the European style of a duvet inside a buttoned or zippered cover. No chance of coming in contact with the duvet. I never understood or liked the American system of a blanket on top of a sheet. Some people say they prefer to use a sheet only if the room is hot, which I agree with – but that’s why hotels should provide both a duvet in a button or zipper cover AND a sheet.

    In my house, we use exclusively button duvet covers on all our beds, no exceptions. And in summer everyone gets a sheet as well .When I’m a guest, I *really* like it when that’s what my host provides rather than the American-style “sheet sandwich”.

  60. @George N Romey
    It’s hilarious how hard you try to cram your garbage in every post, whether it’s related to COVID or not. Humans also survived the Plague, Spanish Flu, Ebola, Smallpox etc. but does that mean we shouldn’t try to prevent their spread? Your arguments are ridiculous. Your standards of success is merely the survival of the human race, regardless of the number of deaths?

    Your understanding of germs and viruses are also laughable. Did you know the Spanish flu killed mostly immuno-compromised individuals during the first year, but the strain mutated and killed off people with STRONG immune system during the second wave? You are seriously lacking in both logic and knowledge.

  61. @FNT Delta Diamond
    I regularly wash my down pillows and duvet on a Miele down programmed wash …. and a perfect result is obtained. And whilst this is not a Martha Stewart column, there is nothing better than sunlight for refreshing a feather/down duvet or pillows.

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