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Hotels and motels need more towel racks to allow guests to dry their towels so they can be used for more than one day. This environmentally friendly move will reduce the use of detergents and save millions of gallons of water. Stock photo
Columns Hit the Road

Hotels slow to get hang of water conservation effort

As I write, I’m about to get on an airplane and head to the Midwest.

During our visit, we’ll stay in a modestly priced chain hotel that offers an in-room fridge and microwave, and a free buffet breakfast. All good.

What the hotel won’t offer are towel racks.

I know, who cares about towel racks? Whoever even thinks about towel racks?

I don’t — except when I need one and it isn’t there.

I realize the absence of towel racks in hotels is not a problem that will tip the balance of world power or lose a war, but the lack of them does affect the environment.

Long ago and far away, when the daily change of linens and towels was de rigueur and the scarcity of water was not on our radar, there was no need for an extra rack or two where guests could dry their towels. We used them and tossed them. 

Times and awareness have changed.

Now hotel guests often find little tent signs placed in bathrooms or on desks or beds asking to help conserve water by forgoing daily linen changes and reusing towels. Just hang the towels you intend to reuse, the signs say, and put the ones you want replaced on the floor.

Glad to oblige, but there’s one problem: There is nowhere to hang those wet towels.

And don’t tell me to use that hook on the back of the door. Towels do not dry on a hook. I’m not a physics genius, but I know that if most of a towel’s surface area is not exposed to the air, it remains soggy.

I’ve spent hundreds of nights in hundreds of various types of lodging — some of them five- star — and I have yet to find a bathroom suitably equipped with towel racks.

I have resorted to hanging wet towels on hangers, which I then hang in a closet or from the lamp shade wires. Once in a while, if I can reach it, I’ll hang a towel over a shower rod.

But be forewarned: If you resort to this, check the top surface of the rod. It can be quite dirty and you’ll have a dry towel with a black line across the middle.

I know I’m fortunate to deal with this aggravation; it means that I am traveling. But I’d also like to do my part in leaving a smaller footprint as I go.

When we remodeled our bathroom several years ago, I made sure that we installed ample towel racks so we can use our towels for several days. Doing likewise in hotels will go a long way in reducing the amount of water and detergent needed by the hotel/motel industry.

I searched long and hard to find statistics on how much detergent the hotel industry uses and came up with nothing. There were, however, stats on just about everything else, which I’ll save for another time.

Before I leave this gripe session, I want to give equal time to slippery showers and tubs. Nothing good about either of those, of course, so I’d like to implore hotel and motel designers to choose materials that are not slippery when wet.

Seems like common sense, but I too often find that taking a shower is risking a fall. In today’s litigious society, spending a few extra dollars in the name of safety seems like the smart thing to do — for all parties concerned.

Wouldn’t hurt to throw in safety bars in the tubs and showers, too.

Hotels/motels do get positive points for some things.

I’m seeing more and more wastebaskets for recyclables in hotel rooms, and kudos to those establishments that have replaced those tiny, personal bottles of soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion with larger, multi-use bottles.

I know the tiny bottles are cute and fun to take home (I donate mine to a mission that provides services to the homeless), but all that plastic has deadly consequences for the environment.

Telling hotels that you like the environmentally friendly changes might help spread the trends.

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