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Hotels Change More Than Sheets on Beds

By Keith L. Alexander
Tuesday, February 1, 2005; Page E01

Whenever Elizabeth Pearson checks into a hotel, one of the first things she does is pull off the bedspread and hurl it into the nearest corner.

The District-based Web designer has seen enough "undercover" TV news magazine shows revealing the soils and stains on hotel bedspreads, even in some of the nation's fanciest hotels.

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"If it's not cleaned every day, it's not going to be near my body," Pearson said.

Many of the nation's largest hotel chains have long had bedding policies that turned off the likes of Pearson. While hotels changed the sheets daily, or as often as guests requested, some major chains cleaned the bedspreads only once every three months or instructed housekeepers to remove them only if they saw spots or soiling.

Now the nation's largest hotel chains are breaking with tradition. Several -- including Marriott, Hilton and Crowne Plaza -- have ditched their colorful, yet hard-to-clean, bedspreads and replaced them with duvets and comforters that are encased in sheets for easier, regular cleaning. Most hotel bedspreads had to be dry cleaned because of their fabric and bulkiness.

With airline fares dropping and the economy showing signs of strengthening, hotels are looking for ways to lure guests to their properties. The race is on to be the best in bedding.

Last week, Marriott said it would scrap its bedspreads after surveys revealed guests wanted more comfortable -- and cleaner -- beds.

Marriott is spending about $190 million on its new bedding, which includes 300-thread-count sheets at its upscale properties and 200-thread-count sheets at its second-tier properties such as Courtyard, Residence Inn and Fairfield Inns. (For the linen-challenged, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheets and the closer to heaven your sleep is supposed to be.)

Steve Samson, who oversees supplies and standards at Marriott, said the bedspreads weren't cleaned between customers and were instead "cleaned quarterly."

Under the new program, Marriott's white duvets will be washed after each guest checks out.

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