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How did the pandemic change travelers’ cleanliness standards?

The average traveler says 10% of their luggage is dedicated to cleanliness items such as hand sanitizer, masks and wipes.

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Family with two small children loading car for trip in countryside, wearing face masks.
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

Nearly half of Americans buckle down for at least a week before a trip to avoid getting sick.

A new survey of 2,000 nationally representative Americans found that 44% take extra precautions to avoid falling ill for at least a week, with 22% saying they do so for at least two weeks.

In fact, the average respondent says 10% of their luggage is dedicated to cleanliness items such as hand sanitizer (73%), masks (63%) and cleaning wipes (60%).

Since the start of the pandemic, 58% of respondents admit that they have higher standards of cleanliness when traveling.

But that’s not to say respondents aren’t staying clean at home. On a typical day, respondents wash their hands with soap and water about six times per day and use hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes about four times.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Ecolab, results also revealed that 56% of respondents feel dirtier and germier when they’re traveling.

Respondents are more concerned about cleanliness while traveling to their destination compared to after they’ve arrived (23% vs 16%).

To that same tune, most respondents (40%) feel like they first need to clean themselves immediately after arriving to their destination.

Even so, respondents aren’t letting their guard down upon arrival, they’re looking for both red and green cleanliness flags.

When searching for red flags that might indicate their room is not clean, respondents look for stains on the sheets (74%), trash on the floor (70%), soap scum in the shower (64%) and dust or fingerprints on the cups (57%).

On the flip side, they’re looking for green flags like clean smells (82%), fresh trash bags in the cans (77%), cups wrapped in plastic (72%) and a post-clean seal on the door (52%).

It’s no surprise that more than four in five (82%) feel more comfortable staying at places where they have a clear cleaning program.

“It’s more important than ever to try to be cleaner and safer when traveling,” said Lisa Robinson, VP Global Food Safety and Public Health. “While most travelers may have their own cleanliness habits, the Ecolab Science Certified Program can help businesses advance cleaner, safer practices through science-based products and periodic auditing by an Ecolab specialist.”

The survey also asked respondents about their encounters with germs or sickness when traveling and found that 40% of all respondents have gotten sick while traveling.

Getting sick on vacation is a traveler’s worst nightmare. Of those who have, 45% said they were relegated to their room until their flight back, while 24% actually turned around and went home.

Another 22% said their illness ruined the trip for everyone else involved.

One in five (20%) spread their germs throughout the group, making the other travelers in their party sick as well.  

And while they didn’t have to cut their trip off early, 19% had to take an extended stay and remain at their destination to recover.

One respondent said, “I wasn't able to do things with my family when we arrived at our destination.”

“Vacations are an important time to relax and recharge and the Ecolab Science Certified seal can help give peace of mind to those traveling so they know they are at a location dedicated to a higher level of cleanliness and so we can get back to enjoying life,” said Robinson.

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 nationally representative Americans was commissioned by Ecolab between October 11 and October 17, 2022. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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