Are hotel bathtubs clean? Should I be worried about taking a soak?

You’ve got questions, SmarterTravel has answers. In this month’s edition of the travel website's advice column, Check Your Baggage, SmarterTravel reveals if hotel bathtubs are clean.

Q: “Sometimes I hesitate to soak in a hotel tub even if it looks inviting. I can’t help thinking of all the people that have been in there before me! Are hotel bathtubs really clean?” — CS

A: Considering that everything from hotel room remotes to in-room drinking glasses have been called out for their filthiness, it makes sense that the hotel bathtub would seem suspicious. But I don’t bring along a blacklight or germ culture kit when I travel (yet), so I did the next best thing and asked the experts.

Are hotel bathtubs clean? Should I be worried about taking a soak?

Rob Dunn, professor of applied ecology at NC State University, reassured me. “Your chances of encountering a microbe that will make you sick in the bathtub while bathing aren’t very high,” he said. “They are far higher from shaking the hand of the person at the front desk than from lounging in the tub. In short, lounge in the tub and don’t worry about it. But wash your hands with soap and water (though never antimicrobial soap) after shaking hands.”

Erica Marie Hartmann, assistant professor at Northwestern University, notes that even if you do encounter some microbes in your hotel bathtub, they’re unlikely to cause any problems for a healthy person — and you may be more likely to find microbes in your hotel showerhead than in the bathtub anyway.

Both professors agree — don’t drink the tub water, and you’ll be fine.

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