Secret Camera Investigation: Every Single Hotel Failed To Wash Your Cups And Glasses

Fox Atlanta set up secret cameras inside 5 different hotel chains from the Holiday Inn to the Ritz Carlton (shown above) and caught every single one of them failing to properly wash the room’s glasses.

At every single hotel, regardless of price, the glasses were simply rinsed out and left for the next guest. Some hotels used dirty bath towels to wipe the glasses. One hotel employee rinsed the glasses after cleaning the toilet—using the same gloves. Another one sprayed the glasses with blue cleaning fluid that was marked “Do not drink.”

Fox Atlanta has turned the results of the investigation over to the local health department. Experts interviewed in the video maintain that this isn’t just a case of “ew, gross” but a very serious health code violation. Dirty glasses spread disease.

Truly disgusting.

I-Team: Dirty Hotel Secrets, Pt. 2 [MyFoxAtlanta] (Thanks, Richard!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. mantari says:

    Between that, the bed bugs, and the ‘protein stains’, I have come to the firm conclusion that hotel rooms are just plain nasty.

    They DO change the sheets between visitors, right?

  2. homerjay says:

    There are some things I just don’t want to know about…..I’m not sure if this is one of them or not.

  3. headon says:

    Thats disturbing enough to make you drink. Oh wait. Ok disturbing enough to make you drink directly from the bottle.

  4. DashTheHand says:

    Great, like I need more to worry about in hotel/motels after the bodily fluid stains, curious odors, and bedbugs.

    Next up: They don’t actually wash their towels and linens, they just swirl them around the employee toilet and hang them to dry.

  5. Hotels are so expensive in general… I hate that I have to bring my own sheets, towels, cups, etc with to every one I go to.

  6. FullFlava says:

    Yeah, generally when I hear about “ew gross” type stuff, I figure it’s just people overreacting, but that’s seriously messed up. I’d like to see a virus/bacteria test done on hotel cups… if all they do, every time, is just rinse them out, imagine all the nastiness that builds up over time.

  7. Red_Eye says:

    W00H000 I was one of the ones who suggested this to the tips email. When my wife and I watched this last night we wanted to PUKE. This is so criminal it should be prosecuted at the corporate level. The fox reporters checked the maid carts in all the hotels they stayed in (mentioned in the reporters blog entries) and none of them had trays of new glasses so the local hotel management has no plausible way in my book to deny knowledge of the practice.

    @mantari: Umm if you check the fox news blog about this story you will see when they checked in they said they would be one guest one day and a new guest the next and NO they did not changed the sheets.

  8. GitEmSteveDave says:

    This is why you should pour large amounts of alcohol INTO the glass before using it. Then, just to make sure everything else involved in drinking is sanitized, you should probably drink the alcohol too.

  9. DarthSensei says:

    I just stayed in 2 hotels and now I want to throw up.

  10. bohemian says:

    I promise I will never ever complain about the cheap plastic disposable cups sealed in the little bag at some hotels.

    I can’t remember if I saw trays of glasses on the maid carts the last time I stayed at the Hyatt. Maybe it was a good thing I only drank bourbon out of them.

  11. boreddusty says:

    So what exactly are we paying hundreds of dollars a night for?

  12. Murph1908 says:

    I have always preferred the plastic, wrapped cups for suspicion of this very thing…suspicion I once thought might be unwarranted and paranoid.

  13. Skeptic says:

    Ok, now I’m grossed out.

    I always naively assume that hotel glasses were replaced and cleaned with a dish washer but the video shows that glasses are consistently “cleaned” by rinsing in the bathroom sink and often dried off with a dirty towel or washcloth–even in the expensive hotels. I’ve used a lot of those glasses. EEEEWWW!

  14. Skeptic says:

    I should add that the cheap disposable cups at some lower end motels may actually represent better service than the fancy highball glasses at expensive hotels since the sealed, one use cups have a chance of being clean…

  15. Aladdyn says:

    I stayed in a hotel in D.C. once that had a crappy ac unit (was frozen up, not really cooling room), and I found an empty water bottle up against the bed on the floor. Not too bad.. but then I found toenail clippings under the sheets. Yuck

  16. Scooter says:

    I always end up bringing a package of disposable plastic cups on road trips, so I inevitably end up using those when I’m in a hotel. Besides they hold more booze than most hotel glasses.

  17. savvy999 says:

    We’ll leave the (lipstick on the glass) for ya!

  18. aaronhoffman says:

    I used to work as a housekeeper at a resort in Breckenridge, CO. Same thing there. Just rinse in water, dry them out, and put them back. We even re-used the paper “hats” that are placed on top of these glasses to give the impression of cleanliness.

    Think about it…have you ever seen real glasses on a housekeeper’s cart ready to replace the ones you’ve used?

    I only drink from sealed disposable cups in hotels, or disinfect them with hot water from the coffeemaker before using them.

  19. boreddusty says:

    @Aladdyn: If I found toenail clippings, I’d be complaining (only to be offered a free night or something.)

  20. tlpintpe says:

    I am convinced that it is exactly this practice that started the SARS crisis in Hong Kong in 2003. An infected man from Guang Dong stayed at the Metropole Hotel in Mong Kok. Within days he was dead, as were several others who stayed on the 9th floor.

    I didn’t realize it was a practice here in the US.

  21. FLConsumer says:

    This makes me glad that I normally stay at Residence Inn hotels which have real dishwashers in the rooms. I stayed at the Residence Inn near Bryant Park last week and was quite pleased with how clean everything was. Not even little dust bunnies behind the TV or in the corners.

    Still…this story definitely makes me wonder just how often this sort of thing goes on. It then makes me wonder about the other things, such as ice makers and how often they are/are not cleaned. Some grade school student working with a Uni prof did a small study where they tested for bacteria in restaurant ice machines and for good measure tested their toilets. Guess which one had fewer microbes? I’ll have a coke, hold the ice please.

  22. MameDennis says:

    I’ve been suspicious of hotel room drinkware since the time my morning coffee magically changed color on impact with the mug. The previous occupant had poured creamer (God, I hope so) into the bottom of the mug and replaced the little white paper cap.

  23. chrisdag says:

    Eeew! Thanks for posting this right after I spent my 80th night in a Marriott hotel this year. Never used the in-room glasses myself since they have free bottled water in the full service versions of the hotel chain.

    I am pretty sure that the housekeeping carts did have trays of glasses on them at the hotel I was at most often this year (Marriott in downtown Richmond, VA).

    The only thing I do regularly in hotel rooms is strip any comforter or bedcovers since I don’t think those get washed or replaced often enough. No other real sanitary issues to report except for the occasional stray hair in the shower.

  24. BigNutty says:

    Why would you drink from anything but those wrapped plastic cups? The bar and the restaurant are the only places I feel that the glassware is properly cleaned because I have seen the equipment used to clean them.

  25. cacic says:

    Saw this for myself about 10 years ago when I returned to my room in the middle of it being cleaned. The housekeeper was “rinsing” glasses under bathroom tap. Since then, I have stayed at dozens of 4 and 5-star hotels and not once have I seen a cart full of clean glasses or a cart full of dirty glasses being removed. I would stick with bottled water.

  26. mopar_man says:

    I just stayed in a hotel this weekend. Luckily I didn’t use any of the supplied cups (only there for one night). I think now I’ll pack dish soap with my normal toiletries. :P

  27. protest says:


    totally. and either don’t use or wipe down the tv remote and phone. you know that stuff never gets cleaned.

  28. @Skeptic: Me too. EWWWWWW. How does a hotel NOT have a giant dishwasher that does nothing but wash room glasses?????

  29. Skiffer says:


    I just try to console myself by being even messier and more disgusting than any of the other guests…

    (Hmmm…toilet paper, or pillow cover….)

  30. bunnymen says:

    Ha ha, I’ve never even stayed in a hotel with anything but the wrapped plastic cups! I guess there’s something to be said for stinginess!

  31. Hoborg says:

    Hahaha My Fox Atlanta is the news station that did the special investigation into as being a terrorist organization. I dont think i can ever take them seriously again.

  32. MBZ321 says:

    This is why I stay at the cheapest hotel possible, bring my own cups, and spray the beds and counters, and anything else with lysol.

  33. MYarms says:

    Ummm yeah I’d much rather sleep in my car at a rest area when traveling on the road. There is no reason to pay exorbitant rates for a dirty hotel room.

  34. jaubele1 says:

    No surprise here — years in the hotel industry have shown me that there isn’t a hotel chain anywhere that spends the money necessary to purchase enough glassware (not to mention the labor dollars needed) to pull glasses from rooms and clean them properly.

    What’s even more amazing is the fact that health inspectors routinely take the word of hotel managers as to whether or not proper cleaning is occurring.

  35. Rando says:

    This is why I stay at Red Roof and use the plastic cups they provide…

  36. Meg Marco says:

    @Hoborg: Now I believe is a terrorist organization, thanks a lot.

  37. texasannie says:

    We stay at Holiday Inn Express whenever we travel and we love it. They use the plastic-wrapped, disposable cups. In the last year they also switched to using nice, white comforters on the beds, so most stains would be very visible. We’ve never had a bad experience there.

  38. krom says:

    In other words, the good-value economic midrange hotels that have shrink-wrapped plastic cups are actually better for you?

  39. Zerkaboid says:

    Hey, ya gotta build up antibodies somehow.

  40. UpsetPanda says:

    What do you think goes on with cruise ships? I hope they’re not the same but uggggh.

  41. asscore says:

    every hotel I’ve stayed at recently has disposable cups individually shrink wrapped.

  42. hotelslave says:

    As someone who works for a franchise of a national hotel chain, I was disgusted when I saw the video. While it is not the practice at the hotel that I work at (we send our glasses, coffee mugs and coffee pots through the dishwasher in our restaurant), the sad reality is that this is a common practice throughout the hotel industry.

    In response to this story, the brand that I work for sent out an email making sure that we are following the correct procedure for washing glasses and coffee pots. It was almost like they are in damage control mode.

  43. bdgbill says:

    Now I feel slightly guilty about using these glasses for ashtrays (especially in the non-smoking rooms).

    I also feel slightly smart for assuming the maids were scrubbing these things out with the toilet brush and never drinking from them myself.

  44. BoorRichard says:

    I’d rather sleep in a stranger’s sheets than sleep in lysol.

    Any time I have suspicions, I call the front desk, tell them something got spilled on the bed, and ask for the delivery of clean linens ASAP.

  45. omyard says:

    I can deal with sheets because they usually smell so strong of bleach that I don’t think they’re stained with human fluids, but I can’t over look this. From now on I’m bringing my own plastic cups in.

  46. tourpro says:

    Having worked in the hotel industry at various levels, beyond room revenue, cost control is paramount to profitability. Generous management rarely allows more than 30 minutes per room. Housekeepers learn how to cut corners while “polishing” the stuff that gets seen and inspected. If you have many rooms, quality control can only be done on a random basis. Even then, a room inspection can not take more than 5-10 minutes max. When I had to do this task, it was like a frickin’ game. Finally I resorted to random, but high intensity inspections. I would pick rooms on a semi-random basis (making sure everyone got a turn), start with 20 $1 bills and subtract one for every deficiency found. This worked like a dream, but later my short-term penny pinching bosses nixed it.

    Disposable is better on almost all levels except for the landfill part. Recycled paper cups would be best. Not sure it was mentioned anywhere, but the coffee urns are also a “hot zone”. Most places, the urn never leaves the room.

    Anyway, we started with real glasses per corporate standards requirements and the logistics of maintaining a constantly shrinking inventory on each floor of spotless glasses challenged us daily. In the end, we switched to logoed plastic and took the penalty on the corporate quality assurance scores. You know, all for the health of the guests.

  47. Hoss says:

    Is this from the hearing impaired channel? Where’s the sound?

  48. Jim C. says:

    The spray/blue liquid for washing the glasses is a bit of a red herring. You wouldn’t drink home dishwashing detergent, would you? As long as the glass is rinsed well, the unusual liquid in itself should be no problem.

    The rest of the report is right on target, though. The health department should throw the book at the hotels, assuming there’s no bribery going on.

    For washing the glasses yourself, the individually wrapped hand soap and hot water should be enough. TV remote? Don’t wash it, put it in a plastic bag.

  49. mgyqmb says:

    When are people going to realize that the hotel industry is the overpriced and under-regulated (rather, the regulations aren’t enforced)?

    There is no excuse why a bed should cost any more than $20 a night. Period. Where does all that money go??

  50. frank26080115 says:

    So nobody cares about the workers, huh?

    Try and be a little bit more understanding, you guys are the ones leaving them crap to clean, think they’re happy about it?

  51. oldnumberseven says:

    BY MGYQMB AT 12:16 AM

    When are people going to realize that the hotel industry is the overpriced and under-regulated (rather, the regulations aren’t enforced)?

    There is no excuse why a bed should cost any more than $20 a night. Period. Where does all that money go??

    More than $20.00 per night keeps the riff-raff out. Almost anybody could afford $20.00 per night. As for where the money goes, well, it sure does not go to the clerks, or the housekeepers, or even the sales manager, or assistant manager, or even general manager. With all those excluded, I am sure you can figure out where the money goes. It isn’t very difficult.

    The hotel business is a very destructive business to the environment. Think about all those single serving little bits of plastic that wind up in landfills. Think about all those HVACs running nearly 24/7. Think about all that water a hotel uses. The list could go on. Some hotels are trying to be compatible with the environment, but 100% of the hotels I worked at have no environment friendly programs. It is staggering how many resources are wasted to get Joe or Jane businessman from point A for a two day meeting with Joe or Jane buyer with company X.

    Forgive my tangent, but I did not want to write the exact same post as TOURPRO AT 11/07/07 08:13 PM. That post fits my hotel experience to a ‘T.’

  52. FLConsumer says:

    @frank26080115: I don’t think anyone was faulting the workers specifically in this report. They seemed to be focused on chains & hotels rather than the workers. With all 5 of the hotels sampled exhibiting the problem, this points towards upper management, not the hourly workers.

    @oldnumberseven: It’s the hotelier’s own faults for not being wise with resources. Conserving resources makes good economic sense when done properly. Sure, there’s an up-front cost, but with payback on some of these items being less than a year, it’s worth it. Why should HVAC systems be allowed to run 24/7? Why should hotels still have 6.0 gallon toilets in them? I’m not saying they should be legislated out of existence, but no doubt that hoteliers who aren’t willing to reinvest into their properties will find their profit margins shrinking as the costs for supplies and energy increases.

  53. FLConsumer says:

    @Hossofcourse: They’re probably afraid of being sued or fined by the FCC. Some of the Florida TV stations got fined for not running closed captioning during the emergency broadcasts during the hurricanes of 2004-2005. Sad, but true, these broadcasters would have been better off just shutting off their transmitters and telling everyone to go home. Instead, they were trying (under dangerous conditions) to keep the public informed and the FCC fined ’em for it.

  54. oldnumberseven says:

    but no doubt that hoteliers who aren’t willing to reinvest into their properties will find their profit margins shrinking as the costs for supplies and energy increases.

    Actually, the hoteliers probably will not. Many hotels are owned by one company, managed by another, and franchised from a third. When it is no longer profitable the owning company will either renovate, or sell the property off. It has been my experience that they sell. They would rather build a new building with some energy saving built in, than upgrade an old building. They sell off the old building to another hotel ownership group, who may re-brand the property, or take the property independent. Rarely have I seen the building torn down. As far as I recall the only hotels I have seen come down are in Las Vegas, though I am sure it does happen elsewhere.

  55. Hyperion1144 says:

    “BOREDDUSTY Wrote @ 11/07/07 02:33 PM

    So what exactly are we paying hundreds of dollars a night for?”

    You are paying hundreds to make the owners rich, and to reward their cost-cutting business with your dollars. Your dollars are like votes in the economy. When you buy something, anything, you vote for it.

    You vote for how it was produced, who produced it, and by what method. Every dollar spent encourages the process.

    Hotels exist to turn as much profit as possible for the owners. To this end, they hire often English-illiterate immigrants to clean rooms, because they will work for slave wages, don’t complain, and maximize profit for the owners.

    These housecleaners work very hard, and see very little return for their work. They probably even hate you (the guest). You are paying what for them may be a week’s wages to stay just 1 night in a place. They know they will probably work all their lives and have no chance at the life they see others living all around them everyday.

    How much do you expect these people care about your delicate health sensibilities?

    Are they at all rewarded if they do care? So what is their motivation? Do as little as possible; because they are being paid as little as possible.

    You get what you pay for, and you are paying for a system that rewards doing the least possible; where the people who provide the service are not really paid or rewarded for it.

    Your hundreds of dollars don’t go to the people who actually provide you with service. They go to people who will NEVER provide service to anyone, ever. This is why your service providers are all lousy, they have no motivation, and are not rewarded for a job well done.

    This is not just in hotels. You see it in Best Buy Geek Squad horror stories, as one other example (your service provider on Geek Squad sucks because he is getting paid $9 an hour to do service for which you are charged $75 an hour). Poor people at the bottom of the service chain aren’t that dumb. They know they are getting screwed. They know where all the money is going, and it isn’t to them. Thus, they do the minimum to get by, because they are rewarded at the minimum.

    The question is, given this system, why should they care about you? Answer: They don’t. Why should they? They will receive no reward for doing so, and may actually be punished instead (taking too long to clean a room, for example).

    Consumers reward bad behavior with dollar votes. It won’t stop until we find ways to stop having to reward such bad behavior. No easy task.

    Some organizations have found a way, like Costco. They pay their people well, give benefits, and are rewarded with one of the lowest turnover rates in retail. A quick search of the Cosumerist reveals only one Costco horror story I saw, the dirty-underwear punching bag, which they fixed ASAP after they found out about it.

    Costco actually has pretty good service and products, especially relative to the rest of the retail industry.

    See? This is what happens when you reward the people who actually provide the service!

    It is our job as consumers to reward the businesses who do this, and punish those who don’t! Don’t just shop for the lowest price. Vote with your dollars! Think about the stuff you buy, and whether you want to encourage more of it!

  56. Sidecutter says:

    @FLConsumer: Fewer microbes, sure. But what KINDS were where? If we’re talking higher incidences of E. Coli in the ice machine than the toilets, yes we have a problem. But the simple presence of microbes, in and of itself, is not a big deal.

  57. Eilonwynn says:

    The other option is to stay at a slightly more “independent” hotel / b&b – I stayed at the Hotel St Francis in santa fe, and it was *wonderful* – the rooms were cleaned thoroughly, guest service was thoughtful, and yes, it was REALLY FREAKING EXPENSIVE ($250/night) by a student’s standard, it was more than worth it.

  58. boandmichele says:

    @headon: you normally use glasses?


  59. Jackspeed says:

    I worked in the Courtyard by marriott for over a tear in the kitchen, of course we had our share of people who did some practices that I feel where not they way for things to be done, But We did have a large stack of glasses come down every day to be run though the dish washer. We also had a blue liquid that we used as a sanitizer. We used it to clean the stainless steal counters after they were washed off and it would be left on to air dry. So it might be safe once it has dried but I don’t know.

  60. Jordan Lund says:

    Weird, the hotels I’ve stayed at had individually wrapped plastic cups. You open one, use it and throw it away. Next day the plastic cup fairy comes and brings you more.

  61. stubar says:

    @FLConsumer: Before making a blanket statement about toilet water being cleaner than the ice machine, you should first consider the type of chemicals put into said toilet water to keep it clean, chemicals that not only kill microbes but quite possibly could kill you. It’s a moot point.

  62. FLConsumer says:

    @oldnumberseven: oh, they tear down quite a few motels in Florida. We usually see the progressively-declining hotel flags on the building (Holiday Inn -> Ramada -> no flag -> boarded up) and then the property sits idle for several years and trashed by vandals before being torn down. We also have had the “forced upgrades” caused by hurricanes at some of the coastal hotels, which was quite a plus.

    @Sidecutter: I don’t remember the specific details, but I do believe the bacteria identified had pathogenic properties. The study was done by a rather well-respected microbiologist (Dr. Daniel Lim, University of South Florida).

    @Eilonwynn: Don’t go to NYC then. Seriously. I’m sure there’s cheaper places to stay in NYC, but everywhere I’ve stayed thus far has been >$400/night.

  63. FLConsumer says:

    @stubar: They just randomly grabbed water samples from the toilets, so there’s some good chance that the toilets were used several times since being cleaned. I believe their theory on the findings was that the frequent flushing of the toilet basically flushed the bacteria down the drain, never giving it a chance to colonize the bowl.

  64. alice_bunnie says:

    That’s the exact attitude that keeps people earning that kind of crap wage. Do as little as possible, because no one cares. I started out earning minimum wage answering phones at an answering service while in high school. I could have been surly and inefficient, losing messages like many of my coworkers and acting as if I were doing my callers and customers a favor by picking up when I felt like it. However, I didn’t and I acted like I cared, because I did. I actually felt that a job was worth doing right. So, I got a raise, then I got promotions, then within 3 year I was the office manager. However, I saw plenty of people come and go, and lots of people who were much older than I was that were still earning minimum wage because they just couldn’t put any more effort because they were only “earning minimum wage”.

  65. Instigator says:

    @FLConsumer: “There’s slime in the ice machine!” We miss you, Marv! If you were still with us, I know you’d be on this disgusting story.

  66. sibertater says:

    Okay, that’s an extreme. I can understand not drinking, maybe the towel thing but you might want to talk to your mom and ask her if she meant to make you a germophobe.

  67. sibertater says:

    ALSO: I think that sanitizing EVERYTHING is dangerous. I don’t use antibacterial cleanser for anything except cleaning up after cooking. (Raw meats, especially.) I just think that we’re making superbugs and eventually it will come back to bite us…pun intended.

  68. amispatzi says:

    I recently stayed at a Cupertino Marriott family hotel and the coffee cup still had lipstick on it. Ick.

  69. Elle Rayne says:

    No freakin’ wonder I get sick every vacation! And here I thought it was just the stress of travel weakening my immune system. Oh God, I feel sick just thinking about all those sheets and glasses…

  70. ltlbbynthn says:

    omg I just got back from a five-night stay in a pretty nice hotel and I was using the glasses to rinse out my throat that was all swollen from SOMETHING in the rooms…. One of my teammates had mold on his pillow cover too. dang man

  71. Hotelguy1 says:

    This is news to everyone? Hidden camera investigations discovered this years ago and yet nothing changes. This hidden camera investigation could have taken place in any hotel anywhere in the world and you will find the same thing going on. It is not related to any one hotel chain or country. I have worked in the hotel industry for almost 20 yrs and I never use the hotel glassware for that very reason.

    Years ago all the glassware was loaded onto a trolly and taken to the stewarding department for cleaning in the dish washers. It all boils down to cost savings for the hotel, there is a lot of labour and wear and tear transporting glassware all over the hotel for cleaning. Maids want to cut as many corners as possible as well when cleaning a room since most are paid by the number of rooms not time. If you are alotted 14 rooms in an 8 hr. shift and get them finished in 7 you can go home an hour early.

    We had a maid in one hotel I worked at who was doing worse than your examples. She was actually using the toilet brush to clean the inside of the glasses! The same toilet brush she was scrubbing the toilet with.

  72. ktrotman says:

    If you’re in Atlanta, be sure to watch tonight (28 November, 2007) at 6 or 10 to see me interviewed about how I proved hotels are leaving the same coffee cups in the rooms without replacing them with properly washed ones. If you want to read about how I did this before tonight’s interview, you can see what the Fox News staff found by Googling “Atlanta dirty hotel coffee cups” or just go to the post I left on flickr back in March of 2006, here:

  73. ktrotman says:

    You can get sound with these links:

    Link to Part 1 of the story on Fox 5 Atlanta.
    Link to Part 2 of the story on Fox 5 Atlanta.

  74. ktrotman says:

    Link to Part 1 []
    Link to Part 2

  75. Anonymous says:

    This is still a common occurrence and I last experienced it at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Garden Grove, CA. The hotel manager was unable/unwilling to correct the issue.

    Can we resurrect this and I will submit the letter I wrote to the General Manager and the county health department.