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AAA Deploys Advanced ATP Technology to Pinpoint Dirtiest Spots in Rooms

bedroom interior design with decorative tea set and dessert on bed

For the last two years, the AAA’s inspectors have been using rapid ATP tests to verify the standards of in-room cleanliness, finding that glassware and communal seats are the germiest of all.
Germaphobes read no further: the American Automobile Association (AAA) is now deploying advanced technology to find the dirtiest spots in any hotel room.


Recent data from an in-depth look at the AAA rating system shows sofa beds, decorative pillows, and in-room glassware may be the least clean surfaces in your next hotel room.


Nearly a Century of Rigorous Standards

While it’s been around as an organization for well over a century, the AAA has been inspecting hotel rooms since 1937 and, in 1985, added restaurants to its rosters. As The Washington Post reports, its anonymous inspectors are now utilizing rapid adenosine triphosphate (ATP) swab tests to verify the hygiene standards within each and every property it inspects. While the AAA still deploys conventional physical methods to assess and grade rooms according to its famously rigorous standards, the body believes that this added level of inspection – which uses the energy molecule of ATP to indicate cleanliness – is a solid way of ensuring consumer confidence.


Speaking of the use of these tests – which were introduced by the AAA two years ago across the 25,000 hotels and 5,000 restaurants it inspects in the US, Canada, and the Caribbean – Scott Hammerle, director of the AAA Diamond Inspections Program, told the outlet, “It is a way to verify that the hotels are following the cleaning protocols that they claim. The inspection is done with both the physical validation and now the scientific component to ensure that these are places we can confidently recommend.”


In terms of rankings and ratings, a property’s status is gained based on an increasingly refined set of standards. For example, a five-diamond AAA property is described as “ultimate luxury” while four is classed as “refined”. A three-diamond establishment is “distinguished” while accommodation with a two-diamond rating is deemed to be “enhanced”. Finally, a one-diamond property is described as “budget-oriented”. As you’d imagine, only a very select number of properties hold the prestigious five-diamond rating – in fact, as the outlet reports, just 151 of the tens of thousands of properties inspected by the AAA have been awarded this ranking.


A Hotel Inspector Dishes the Dirt

Regardless of a property’s status, all inspections are performed in person and rooms are now swabbed to verify their cleanliness. The outlet shadowed an inspector with more than 30 years of experience in the field, one who has assessed hotels across 38 states, in three Canadian provinces, and across multiple locations in Hawaii and the Caribbean. In addition to checking hygiene standards, she’s also responsible for verifying that the quality of the service at any given location adheres to its ranking.


Commenting on her personal experience of hotel stays, she says that while she checks the mattress for bedbugs and looks for dirt and dust behind drapes, sofas, and doors, it’s a lost pair of underwear that have left an unwelcome lasting impression on her. “I thought I had checked my room well and then I went to use the bathroom. I shut the door and started to go for the toilet when I turned around, and there they were.”


With that experience in mind, she’s offered up some of her hygiene tips for the benefit of the wider traveling public. The inspector advises that certain spots and items in the room – sofa beds and decorative pillows as well as glasses, mugs, and even coffee pots – may not always be given the deepest of cleans. While it sounds far-fetched, she also advises against using a room’s iron because it’s possible that it may have been used on non-food items (i.e., for making grilled cheese). Other tips include using slippers or flip-flops to avoid walking on less than clean carpets. Frequently touched points in rooms – faucets, light switches, and door handles – routinely fail swab tests.


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MlleAddams September 6, 2023

I learned to clean everything with a 10-pack of Lysol wipes upon entry. Pack a blacklight to prove what you found was dirty. Be extra polite when asking for a refresh of linens and explain why. Request that the manager see it for themselves. They'll have your room cleaned while you sit in the bar. Don't expect a comp. on drinks; regardless if comped, 25% gratuity to the bartender shows you have an appreciation for their hard work.

TWAflyer August 11, 2023

"one who has assessed hotels across 38 states...and across multiple locations in Hawaii and the Caribbean"

News flash to Jackie Reddy, article's author: While the Carribean is not a state, Hawaii IS A STATE. It's already included in the 38 states; if not, that number should be changed to 39.

SamirD August 9, 2023

And people though staying at hotels was fine during Covid...