You're Going to Want to Read This Before You Use the Hotel Hair Dryer

Sometimes the gnarliest germs are in the places you'd least expect — and for that very reason, too.

Yes, I know a hair dryer is one of the first things savvy travelers know to jettison from their streamlined luggage. After all, most higher-end hotels and resorts have these available for guests’ use. But I typically bring mine, since I’m a curly girl who only dries with a diffuser — and a diffuser that doesn’t fit on hotels’ standard-issue dryers.

And now, for a completely different reason, I’m glad BYO has been my practice. It turns out hotel hair dryers can actually be downright gross. 

According to in-depth investigation of hotels' cleanliness by ABC, hair dryers are among the major culprits for filth and germs. Microbiologist Chuck Gerba, who worked with ABC on its investigation, took swabs from various items in nine different hotels in the Los Angeles region. And hair dryers were among those items that stood out — for the wrong reason. “There must be some things you can do with a hair dryer that I am not aware of, because some of them were pretty germy," he said in the report.

I found this tidbit particularly surprising and horrifying: The investigation found that in-room items like hair dryers had the potential to actually become dirtier than sinks and toilets. And that’s because, unlike those bathroom essentials, they’re considered less obvious targets for cleaning and are often ignored by housekeeping. Consider that those items might go long stretches of time — like, gulp, years — without being disinfected. 

Not that being an obvious housekeeping target guaranteed cleanliness, by the way: Nine rooms evaluated in the study ranged to $500 nightly — and that's in the currency of 2008, when ABC's investigation was completed, so not exactly bargain basement by any measure — and Gerba found that sinks in six of those rooms had “excessive” germ levels.

Why should you care, other than just the bad aesthetics? “The biggest concern in a hotel room is picking up cold, flu virus or viruses that cause diarrhea," Gerba said. "It doesn't take very many to make you ill."

Charming. And while my high-maintenance curly hair never saved me from hotel sinks, I’m glad perhaps it at least saved me from some grimy hotel hair dryers over the years. 

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