What’s in Your Hotel Room’s Air?

You’re finally taking that long-desired trip or vacation. You packed your bags, traveled to your destination, checked into your hotel, and got a good night’s sleep. But then you wake up the next morning with watery eyes, a cough, a headache, or sinus congestion.

The culprit? Particles that we can’t even see without a microscope in your hotel room.

According to the EPA, indoor air may be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. The best way to remove those pollutants from the air is with proper ventilation, but that’s not always easy for indoor places like hotels.

With new guests checking in daily, more air pollutants enter the hotel. Pet dander from a guest with a cat, cigarette smell on the clothes of a guest who smokes, and viral particles from a guest coming down with something are in the building from previous visitors or current stays. Also, hotels see guests come and go throughout the day, bringing pollen and other outdoor allergens into the lobby and their rooms.

That doesn’t include what’s inside the hotel, such as mold from areas with high humidity or chemicals from the cleaning products.

Black mold on a white wall


Whether you see it or not, mold lingers in even the cleanest hotel rooms. It grows in areas with high humidity. Because hotel rooms house everything – a shower, sink, mini-fridge, coffee maker – in one small space, that water vapor doesn’t have many places to go. Housekeeping cleans the most common mold areas, such as shower curtains or coffee pots. But it can still grow on the mattress, pillows, bedspreads, carpets, or behind the walls.

Pay attention to how your room smells when you walk in. A musty odor could mean that mold is present in the room, even if you can’t see it. 

Pollen is blown off a flower by the wind


As stated above, hotel guests come and go, bringing outdoor allergens into their rooms. They also bring their own pollutants with them from home and the airport. When a guest checks in for a hotel stay, so too do the pollen, pet dander, and dust mites they bring with them.

Mist comes out of a spray bottle


Hotels are vigilant about keeping rooms and other areas clean from surface germs. But many of the cleaning products they use contribute to air pollutants that can make guests sick.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are found in more than 10,000 chemical compounds we use. Think of the smell of a cleaning product, a fresh coat of paint, or a new pair of shoes. That’s due to VOCs.

In hotel rooms, VOCs are everywhere due to the daily room cleanings and regular maintenance work. High levels of VOC in indoor places can lead to dizziness – think about when you breathe in too much bleach and need to sit down – as well as more severe health effects such as headaches, coughing, nausea, and difficulties breathing.

Check your PTAC unit

There’s an easy way to see for yourself what’s in the air you’re breathing in a hotel. But be warned, you may not like the results.

A quick look inside the PTAC unit can show you the dust, pollen, pet hair, dirt, and other allergens that are being recirculated throughout the room.

A PTAC unit with its cover removed to show dirt

If your allergies are acting up during your next hotel stay, check the PTAC and see what’s inside. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you!

A close up of a dirty PTAC unit

How to protect yourself

You can’t control whether your hotel room’s previous guest has a dog or what type of cleaning products housekeeping uses, but you can enjoy clean air during your hotel stay.


Thousands of hotel rooms around the globe utilize PTAC units to keep your room cool or heated and air flowing.  The RZ AIRflow is a compact air filtration device that attaches to your hotel room’s PTAC unit. Weighing just one pound and fitting inside a durable carrying case, the AIRflow is the perfect travel companion for those who want to breathe easy during their stays.

The HEPA filter removes 99.97 percent of particles — viruses, bacteria, dust, pollen, mold, pet dander, smoke, and dust mites — that are 0.3 microns in diameter. Its active carbon filter also removes odors, smoke, and other gaseous particles. Compatible with the vast majority of PTAC units, the RZ AIRflow reduces odors and provides maximum room purification within 45 minutes on average for rooms up to 315 square feet (the average size of a hotel room in the US). So you can breathe easy and enjoy your vacation stay.