The Hotel Loofah

Hotel Loofah

What’s this thing with loofahs in hotel bathrooms? It seems to have become a standard thing, now, to provide one along with the cotton wool pads and buds and complimentary shower cap. And sometimes there’s a loofah even when all other basic commodities are conspicuously absent – no q-tips, no toothbrush, just a flat, rectangular packet with a body-scuffing loofah inside.

Even the most basic of hotels seem to now present a free loofah in the room as though it’s the most pedestrian of things. Like it’s a normal, everyday item, such a pen. Except that everyone needs a pen, everyone knows how to work a pen, everyone could happily pocket a pen happy in the knowledge that they will, at some point, use it. A loofah is somewhat obscure, don’t you think?

Because who uses a loofah on a regular basis? Am I excluded from some sort of national loofah-ing obsession? Has this craze passed me by? Is half of the world’s population preoccupied with sloughing off dead skin cells with a little oval of webbed fabric, so enamoured with the experience that they require a travel loofah for when they pop away on business for the night? Would it ruin their trip if they ran to the hotel bathroom to find that a loofah had not been provided? Have hotel chains merely responded to tens of thousands of guest feedback forms all requesting the provision of a disposable loofah pad?

 I need stats and I need them now.

Hotel Loofah

The loofah pad. There it sits, propped up next to the tub like a bizarre reminder of something that’s completely irrelevant to you. Every hotel. Every bathroom. It’s like a man standing outside your house each week, holding a stack of magazines that you would never choose to read: anglers weekly, for example. Why is he here? You’d think. Who has sent him? I never fish! Well neither do you loofah, but the hotels seem to think you should. Perhaps they are concerned for our skin health, maybe they think it’ll give us something to do so that we don’t start making toasties in the trouser press or re-wiring the wall lights. Maybe it stops people from using so many towels, because they have less skin to dry, or maybe they think they need less heating because everyone will have frictioned themselves to a desiccated crisp.

The strangest thing is that the loofah is offered when virtually nothing else is. I recently stayed somewhere that had nothing proferred but a loofah, a bible and a bar of soap. My imagination sprints away from me with that combo; does it present some sort of opportunity for a form of self-flagellation? Does the loofah replace the knotted rope? The soap cleanses the mouth of the deceiver? Do salesman across the land sit there lit only by the flickering blueness of the television screen, loofing themselves to oblivion whilst jawing on a bar of Cussons and reading choice passages from the Old Testament?

Who bloody uses a loofah?

Hotel Loofah

Also, I can think of better things to provide than a loofah. Effective ear plugs. An eye mask. Why are they never on offer – surely there’s more of a need for those, in a place where you’re more than likely to feel disturbed by other people’s noise or unfamiliar lighting.

When have you ever been grateful for a loofah? It’s the essential things you forget that you want to find there, lined up next to the bathroom sink. A tooth brush. A tampon. Mouth wash. Eye makeup remover. Not a loofah or a shoe-shine sponge. When the hell did you ever get to a hotel and lament the loss of your shoe shine sponge?

“Oh bollocks Maureen! My brogues! They’re covered in an almost imperceptible layer of London dirt! Did you remember to pack the shoe polish? No? For crying out loud Maureen! What about the shoe-shine sponge? I don’t believe this! My brogue leather is dull as a January morning, Maureen, I can’t go to see Cats with my brogues in this state!”

Who, at three am, when the next door room has been turned into a gin palace for eighteen American frat boys, asks for a loofah? A sewing kit? A shower cap? A shoe-shine sponge? Why is there never a set of ear plus when it is possibly the one scenario that is most likely to occur in a hotel with many and varied guests? Who ever says “oh well, I’ve forgotten my toothbrush and my breath smells like an elephant’s undercarriage but at least I can polish my ballet pumps.”

On what planet and in which era did a couple check into a hotel room and – oblivious to the sound of the TV blaring through the wall from the neighbouring room – search for a loofah over a pair of ear plugs?

“Janet. Did you remember the loofah? The loofah Janet! I need to pep up my circulation and slough off the day’s dead skin! For Pete’s sake Janet, I don’t care if you remembered the ear defenders so that we can get a decent night’s sleep – I’ll be tossing and turning all night if I have to repose knowing that I’ve not shed the spent proportion of my epidermis.”

Hotel Loofah

What’s wrong with a flannel for a bit of rough-scuffing? At least it’s washable. Re-usable. A disposable loofah can’t be the most ecologically sound way of giving your body a quick buff. Do these hotels get a job lot of loofahs for a reasonable price and decide that it’ll make them look more high-brow? Is it the same with the sewing kit? Who decides which amenities a hotel should provide?

How many times – honestly – have you required a sewing kit whilst in a hotel room? Don’t get me wrong, I love a little hotel sewing kit. I don’t own an actual, bona fide sewing kit, just thirty million tiny Borrowers sewing sets with five diferent colours of thread spooled neatly around a piece of card, the needles and three buttons tucked in behind and a safety pin (one of the most useful things on earth!) attached to the top in a little flourish of practicality. I take these kits and I stow them at home in my first aid drawer and once every five years, when a button in a particularly annoying position pops off (usually over the widest point of my stomach, after dinner), I congratulate myself for having had the sense to take the hotel sewing kit. Because if I hadn’t taken it then I wouldn’t have owned a needle or a thread, never mind a pre-threaded needle in a choice of five different cotton colours.

But do I need a sewing kit in my hotel room, in place of an infinitely more useful toothbrush (rarely found) or teeny bottle of mouthwash (only ever found in Soho House hotels and a scattering of others)? How many people do you think genuinely ever need one?

“Oooh, Geoffrey look! A sewing kit! My breath could stun a drunk gorilla at thirty paces and I’ve had to wash my face using the corner of the eiderdown instead of a flannel, but at least I can darn that hole in my coat that I’ve been meaning to darn…never.”

Who are these travellers that loof, that sew, that shine their shoes, that press their trousers? I need a show of hands please. Tell me; which hotel provisions do you find properly useful, which do you consider random? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found in the free amenities basket/tray?

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  1. Eva
    October 30, 2019 / 11:43 am

    I’m reading this on my commuter train into New York City and I’m nearly peeing myself! You’re so funny and such a good writer, Ruth. Please please write a book

  2. January 14, 2019 / 5:44 am

    A sewing kit and a shower cap may be a bit old fashioned – I can’t say I’ve ever used either when travelling but a loofah does sound like a lovely idea. I do agree though, if no other toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, soap) are made available then there’s really no point in providing the loofah. It really doesn’t look very good.

  3. January 5, 2019 / 7:38 am

    They’re great! It’s gentle enough to use with a foaming cleanser every other day and is good enough to remove all dead skin stopping you from having the glowing face you want.

  4. Beth
    December 26, 2018 / 10:48 am

    I am currently on honeymoon in SE Asia and can confirm that almost all our hotels have provided toothbrushes and teeny tiny toothpaste tubes. Not a loofa in sight.

  5. Catherine Rye
    December 20, 2018 / 5:42 pm

    Definitely a shower cap – especially if there’s a shower with only a rain effect head and you don’t want to wash your hair. You’d think they’d be standard but I remember trekking around Aix en Provence looking for a “bonnet de douche”. The orange stick thing is almost as perplexing as loofahs. Maybe hotels don’t provide earplugs because they don’t want to advertise they don’t t have proper sound proofing? Also I don’t get the whole stack of towels thing. I’d be much happier with one properly large towel and a flannel.

  6. December 19, 2018 / 2:27 am

    I had a “Sanity Bag” in a hotel room once. I can only assume it was meant to say sanitary or even vanity, but it was definitely amusing nonetheless!

  7. Moo
    December 18, 2018 / 8:31 pm

    Ear buds, infinitely useful! Shower caps too. Like you I bring away a stash for future re-use/emergencies, then bring them to other hotels on stays as so easy to pack, but then Return home with even more!!. Ahgrhhh!
    I once got shower and body cream by Byredo. Luchious as hell. It made my holiday!!.

  8. Caroline
    December 18, 2018 / 7:17 pm

    Loofah – useless. But the real problem is that, in advance of any hotel stay, I do not know what items will be there in the bathroom waiting for me! So I have to pack those cotton buds, cosmetic pads, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc, because I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WILL OR WILL NOT BE PROVIDED. Loved this post!

  9. Jennie
    December 18, 2018 / 5:23 pm

    Goodness Ms. Ruth I am rolling on the floor! I swear that some strange group of people sit in a conference room and walk through PowerPoint slides of what should be offered in the bathrooms. I am happy to see a lotion, but have learned to never touch the shampoo (as you have written in a previous post).

    Once you find a brand you like – we business travelers all gravitated to the same Hotel chain. Very weird!


  10. Susan
    December 18, 2018 / 4:12 pm

    You are the most amazing writer ever. Stop being so talented as well as beautiful!!!!! You need to write a book

  11. December 18, 2018 / 2:30 pm

    I don´t ever use a hotel loofa, I have better things t do with my time than scrubbing off my dead skin when I have a night on my own.

    Anne|Linda, Libra, Loca

  12. Barb in Texas
    December 18, 2018 / 1:26 pm

    Dying laughing across the pond whilst I drink my English breakfast tea as I read this. What I would love to find when I stay in a hotel in the UK?? English breakfast tea bags!!!! We don’t know how to do English breakfast tea in the States. A loofa? I buy them thinking I will exfoliate, but they end up in a pretty little basket in my linen closet, unopened and lonely. Keep making us laugh with your blogging, Ruth. You do it so well! xxx

  13. Gillian Pidler
    December 18, 2018 / 12:54 pm

    This post totally had me rolling around laughing!! I saw a guy who grows these on tv the other week, who knew!!!!! Facinating stuff!
    P.S I have a proper sewing kit, Mum gave me a basket and everything and I have some of my Nan’s sewing stuff, its’ a national treasure! And I use it, a lot!! Pair of socks with a hole, no problemo, daughter’s iron on badge peels on the corner, no worries! It’s actually very therapeutic.

    • December 18, 2018 / 9:00 pm

      GROWS them? I need to research this. I thought natural loofah was a sort of sponge? Mind you, what you get in hotels is never a natural loofah! x

  14. Sabrina
    December 18, 2018 / 10:24 am

    Lol Maureen and Janet! I love these imaginary conversations you include in your blog, they are HILARIOUS.

    I’ve often wondered about the loofah and shoe shine thing, I just have no idea. The weirdest thing I’ve come across (amenity- wise, in a hotel) is one of those long metal blackhead remover sticks. No flannels, cotton buds, toothbrushes etc offered….but a blockhead remover.

    Couldn’t help but wonder if someone during check in got a good look at my face and hot-dialled the housekeepers (what do you call them these days?) to include one pronto.

  15. Charlotte
    December 18, 2018 / 10:21 am

    Genuinely hilarious!! No I can’t say I’ve ever had a burning desire to loofah whilst in a hotel room.

    I have used the sewing kit – though usually only the safety pin. I’m with you on the ear plugs & an eye mask. Also a glass large enough to hold a more than a thimblefull of water & windows that actually open would be top of my list – hotel rooms are always so frigging HOT!!

  16. Katy
    December 18, 2018 / 10:04 am

    Hilarious. Happy Christmas lovely Ruth. xxx

  17. Beth
    December 18, 2018 / 9:45 am

    You have to admire the salesmenship of the loofah guy.

  18. Julie Oram
    December 18, 2018 / 9:40 am

    I’m typing this from a suite at the Principal Hotel on George Street in Edinburgh. I can report NO LOOFAHS! But plentiful Elemis amenities and fantastic towels! No sewing kit either but a pack of three cotton wool pads and three cotton buds. But I do agree, loofahs are hardly the essential item haha

  19. Anna Wright
    December 18, 2018 / 9:12 am

    Bollocks Maureen!hahahahahaha and where’s my loofah for gods sake janet! Oh how I’ve laughed my way into work this rainy morning, thank you

  20. December 18, 2018 / 8:35 am

    I loofah every day, me!! My skin seems to love it so who am I to complain, LOL! Though I wouldn’t take mine to a hotel and I wouldn’t expect them to provide one. What I want at a hotel is body lotion and LOTS of it please. Not those ridiculously small body lotion bottles that only have enough in for my neck, grrr. :) :)

  21. Kay
    December 18, 2018 / 8:33 am

    Yes! See also, a shoe horn. Is this a thing people regularly use? Why is there always one but, as already mentioned, hardly ever conditioner (or worse – conditioning shampoo, urgh). I’m quite partial to those “amenity kits” which is just a couple of cotton pads and some cotton buds in a tiny packet – v useful for the old washbag – but now I feel guilty about the needless plastic.

    Soho House obvs the best – tampons, condoms, tiny cowshed moisturiser and face wash for men and women – all in those very lovely bags and ALL of the cowshed products for bathing you can use. Also chic matches for the fires – perfect.

  22. Fabienne
    December 18, 2018 / 8:19 am

    Ooh spot on with them offering loofah’s (loofi? What is the plural of those things anyways?)in order to appear more posh! I would never use something that looks like a left over bit of doormat with a handle on, thank you very much! I don’t mind sewing kits as they have saved my derriere quite a few times. I’ve hardly ever been offered a toothbrush/toothpaste combo. But I’m always happy with dinky miniatures of branded products that I can nick afterwards. Speaking of shoe sponges, what about “shoe shine mitts”? I often see those provided and they last about half a shoe regardless… I wish I was in charge of amenities in the hotel biz, things would change! Additionally who decides that anyway? Someone with a catalog behind a counter somewhere? “Ooh that’s tacky and cheap, let’s get that!” sigh… Great post as per usual!

  23. Nyree
    December 18, 2018 / 8:19 am

    Loofah are making a comeback due to the popularity of Konjac sponges.

    Most people (mistakenly) believed loofahs came from the sea, whereas they are actually the seed pod from a cucumber like plant. So suddenly everyone is going back to loofahs as they are ecological sound. And natural.

    Weird. I know.

  24. Jinan
    December 18, 2018 / 7:13 am

    We are regular loofah users, in my house! And when we go to hotels we take them with us because they usually dont offer them!! How do other people wash their bodies? Soap on hands?

  25. Carla
    December 18, 2018 / 3:02 am

    This is hilarious! So true, Ruth. I LMAO . Never ever use the sewing kit, loofah or shower cap. What the heck? Ear plugs would be awesome!

  26. Nina
    December 17, 2018 / 8:53 pm

    A loofah – no. But I have at more than one occasion used both a shoe sponge and the sewing kit ( not at the same time). But what I really miss is conditioner and body lotion – much more needed than a loofah. Oddest thing – free condoms – a 4 star respectable hotel that obviously was hoping for their guests to get lucky even if travelling alone ( don’t you have that taken care of if you travel together with the person you would need condoms with) and somehow it must have need ok to bring additional guests…….

    • December 17, 2018 / 9:20 pm

      You see I think that condoms are a lot more useful than a loofah!! : )

      • Nina
        December 17, 2018 / 10:04 pm

        Completely agree but not as useful as conditioner or body lotion !

    • Cait
      December 18, 2018 / 12:27 pm

      I’m all for condoms in hotels– I work in public health and it is actually a law in several African countries that every hotel room must provide condoms. I particularly like it when they are in the nightstand drawer next to the Bible!

  27. December 17, 2018 / 7:45 pm

    Haha – only travellers without kids have time to loofah and sew! However, I cannot go to bed without flossing, so complimentary floss is always welcome.

    Angela at Blush & Pearls

    • December 17, 2018 / 9:20 pm

      I have never seen complimentary floss!

  28. Hannah
    December 17, 2018 / 7:25 pm

    Another corker of a post Ruth. Could you stop being so accomplished and likeable? It’s making me feel like a troll.

    The guy I lived with in my 20s actually owned and used a Corby trouser press, which was rather odd as said trousers were usually £15 polyester jobs from Matalan whose hideousness no knife-crease could describe.

      • Anonymous
        December 18, 2018 / 7:58 pm

        We also have one in the house…my mother in law bought it for my husband! We are too worried about hurting her feelings to get rid of it….she really thought/thinks it was an amazing present.

      • Hannah
        December 19, 2018 / 7:06 am

        Yes. Donated by his dad, who inexplicably didn’t wish to keep it.

  29. Anon
    December 17, 2018 / 7:04 pm

    handcream. hands down.

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