Hotel Coffee Makers Are Used to Wash Underwear, Says Flight Attendant Lore


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Flight attendants see and put up with a lot on the road and at 30,000 feet above sea level, which means they have plenty of wisdom to offer about travel—including, apparently, why you should avoid using the coffee pot in your hotel room. 

According to many flight attendants, your hotel coffee pot might have been used for more than just brewing coffee. “Many senior mamas like to tell horror stories about in-room coffee pots being used to rinse pantyhose, among other things,” a flight attendant writes in her food and travel diary for this week’s edition of The Receipt on Bon Appétit. “I’m unafraid as long as the coffee maker looks clean.” I know we’ve all done some pretty desperate things while traveling, but…the coffee pot? I’ve certainly defaulted to using the one in my hotel room in the past (you sing and dance your heart out at ABBA Voyage and tell me how you feel the next morning), but I deeply regret my choice now. 

“This may be an urban legend,” the flight attendant writing this week’s Receipt admits about the pantyhose horror story. “I can’t imagine anyone actually doing it.” But there have long been whispers on the internet that coffee pots are used as “miniature underwear washing machines,” as one anonymous commenter on Reddit puts it. And generally, flight attendants and former hotel employees advise guests to get their morning cup of joe with breakfast, order room service, or bring their own. On TikTok, creators have posted videos of hotel coffee pots, opening the lid to the chamber and revealing questionable debris and gunk. I don’t know about you, but I prefer my coffee with cream and sugar only. 

In reality, hotel coffee maker cleanliness seems to vary across chains. At Radisson, “high-touch items,” including coffee makers, are “thoroughly cleaned daily and disinfected after each check-out.” At Marriott, rooms at “select and extended-stay” brands like Courtyard by Marriott get housekeeping service every other day, while pricier brands get a “daily tidy.” (The poshest, like Four Seasons, get “daily full clean service.”) At Hilton’s brands, the majority in the US offer “flexible housekeeping policy,” meaning “daily services upon request.” No mention of coffee pots there, though.

Whether or not people really use coffee pots as personal washing machines, this legend is enough to keep me from using a hotel coffee pot again. My plan: investing in travel-size dish detergent and giving the coffee pot (and mugs and glasses) a good rinse if I absolutely have to drink from the pot—or I’ll just grab coffee somewhere else. It’s not the first time someone has claimed to defile a coffee pot, after all: Apparently, you can cook chicken with butter and garlic in one. 

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