How clean is your hotel room? Here’s how AAA inspects.

Germ-detecting technology part of post-Covid inspections

SAN ANTONIO – Before you check in, inspectors with AAA check out rooms at hotels across the country. And, post-Covid, they’re using technology to test for potential bacteria on surfaces guests tend to touch the most.

Inspector 66 shows up at thousands of hotels unannounced and anonymously goes about his business, checking rooms for cleanliness, security and creature comforts.

“The door needs a deadbolt lock for security that comes out a full inch,” he said.

It also needs a peephole and a working light by the doorway.

Like a nosy neighbor, he runs his finger across the tops of mirrors and art, under the microwave and across the tub or shower floor for signs of dust or hair. The microwave, the coffee pot and the refrigerator get a look, too, to be sure they were cleaned.

No cushion, drapery or shower curtain goes unturned as he looks for bugs, crumbs, cobwebs or mildew.

Since the pandemic, hotels have made changes. Inspector 66 said you no longer see pads and pens on the nightstand.

Inspectors have made changes, too. He now swabs high-touch surfaces like the bathroom vanity or thermostat and uses a machine to test for adenosine triphosphate (or ATP). The presence of the enzymes can indicate human skin cells or bacteria are present. It gives a reading in as few as five seconds.

Two of the surfaces most likely to fail the test, he said, are the TV remote control and the room thermostat.

Now, he said, many hotels are moving to remotes and thermostats with smooth surfaces, less likely to harbor germs and are easier to clean.

His findings help him determine a hotel’s rating. The Best Western on I-35 north of downtown earned a three-diamond rating.

Travelers can research inspector ratings at tens of thousands of hotels nationwide through the AAA app or website. You don’t have to be a member.

There are three things a guest can quickly check out on their own:

  • The bathroom mirror. It should not have spots.
  • A wide view of the room. The lamps, TV, and other objects should be neatly arranged.
  • And, take a deep breath. If it smells fresh, he said, that’s a good sign.

About the Authors:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.