Are You Sleeping in Someone Else’s Dirty Hotel Sheets? These Trackers Will Tell You

New hotels in China put electronic tags in bedsheets and pillowcases to assure guests that they are clean.
March 10, 2021, 6:34am
China hotels track bedsheets cleaning
Chinese hotels have a way to track the cleaning history of bed linen. PHOTO: PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP

Have you ever wondered if the sheets in your hotel room were actually changed after the last guest left? A Chinese city is trying to put the question to bed using tracking devices.

Several hotels in the eastern city of Hangzhou have adopted a system that tracks the cleaning history of bed linen by installing electronic tags inside bedsheets, pillowcases, and quilt covers, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Tuesday.

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These tags, inches-long labels attached to the edge of the sheets, use radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to record the cleaning history of the items. After checking in, guests can scan a QR code in their room and find out exactly what time the bedding was washed and changed. 

Reports about dirty hotel bed sheets have prompted online uproar in the past. In 2017, hotel reviewers in China secretly left fluorescence stamps on hotel items and found that several luxury hotels in Beijing failed to change bed sheets. Authorities later launched investigations. 

The tracking system can also be used to police cleaning workers. Customers at five-star hotels in China have complained about seeing staff using guests’ bathing towels to clean the toilet and the floor.

One hotel in Hangzhou put a tracking tag on every towel used in cleaning the rooms. The tag is wirelessly connected to staff’s smartphones and wristbands. An alarm will go off if the cleaning workers use guests’ towels on the toilet, presumably by detecting the proximity between the tags of the towel and the toilet bowl.

Hygiene standard violations recorded by the system will also be sent to local regulators, the CCTV report says. The trial program now covers more than a dozen hotels at Xiacheng District in Hangzhou, and could be expanded to more places if it works well. 

The bedding tracking system has received much praise from social media users as a way to make sure people don’t sleep in dirty hotel sheets, but some are wary of the ever-growing presence of surveillance technology. 

“It doesn’t solve the problem,” one person commented on the microblogging site Weibo. “They should provide higher salaries and better training to the hotel staff.” 

“It’s only a matter of time before we have 5G antennas inside our face masks,” another person commented. 

Follow Viola Zhou on Twitter.