After a long flight, a grueling day of business meetings, or simply walking around a new city, few things sound better than a hot bath. To some. Should you actually fill up that hotel tub, you may sit in a stew of germs, bacteria, and cleaning chemicals. A 2012 study of hotel cleanliness found that housekeepers spend about 30 minutes on each room, and that some of the most contaminated hotel items are actually the sponges and mops in housekeepers’ carts—a.k.a. the items used to clean the tubs. More recent research unveiled another sad truth: Hotel bathrooms are even dirtier than airplanes.
But this isn’t a big deal, right? There’s bacteria everywhere, including our bathrooms at home. But when you think about how many people bathe in a hotel tub, the ick factor grows exponentially for germaphobes. So do you dare “dip” into a bath during trips? Conde Nast Traveler editors share their personal hotel tub policies.
Skip the soak
“I am not a bath person, so it’s not at all surprising that I’m not a hotel bath person. I find them kind of boring, not as relaxing as I want them to be, and honestly, kind of gross. I just can’t get the idea that I’m sitting in my own broth out of my head (ew, I’m shuddering just typing that). Don’t get me wrong—I love a great, luxurious hotel shower (The Parker in Palm Springs is one of my favorites), but a long soak in a hotel tub where countless feet and who knows what else have been before me? Pass.” —Jayna Maleri
“I’m a maniac about germs, so the thought of getting into a bathtub used by countless other people gets a big ‘no thanks’ from me. Some also feel a little too…sexy. On a trip to Bali last fall, I stayed in one beachfront hotel that had a tub big enough to bathe a small elephant. And since there were no baby elephants nearby, it immediately occurred to me that this was a tub very specifically designed for two (or more than two)—which set my germ radar off big time. I already spend too much time thinking about what’s lurking on the furniture, carpets, bed, and TV remote. The bathroom is usually my safe place. Thank God for bleach—and steam showers.” —Caitlin Moscatello
Pass the bubble bath
“There’s a reason I almost always choose a hotel over an Airbnb—to me, going on vacation means not having to make my own bed. And because I live in a New York apartment roughly the size of a large walk-in closet, hotels are the only time I can soak in a bathtub. I’m not talking about a shower that happens to have a bathtub at the bottom—I mean a huge, deep, lovely, designed-just-for-lounging-with-a-book tub like at the Capella Washington, D.C. or the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver, B.C., where you can release the tension of eight hours on your feet, running around a city. Many ultramodern hotels are doing away with tubs in favor of high-tech rainforest showers (that you seemingly have to turn on with brain waves) but I’ll take a good, old-fashioned clawfoot tub any day of the week.” —Lilit Marcus
“I only take baths in hotels—given how many people (on our staff alone!) skip the tub in favor of a shower, I can’t imagine they’re used all that frequently. And so what if they are? There are professionals on the job to keep it shiny, and that’s good enough for me. If I spent my life worrying about bacteria, I may not have enjoyed the candle-lit, champagne-accompanied soak that andBeyond’s Phinda Rock Lodge had waiting for me as a surprise after a nighttime game drive in South Africa, complete with—I kid you not—moonlight streaming in through the windows. What’s germy about that? It made a romantic out of me.” —Laura Dannen Redman