hotel room before i trash it!!

What is the purpose of the cloth across the bed? I see it at many hotels and it does not seem to serve any purpose other than make it look nice. Any idea what it can be used for?

Ps. The purplish elephant in foreground is towel. It looks nice!

  • 28
    "not ... serve any purpose other than make it look nice" Well, congratulations, you just answered your question by yourself...
    – Alexander
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 10:36
  • 40
    I think its pretty obvious that it serves to make the towel elephant feel more regal, no?
    – Jaydles
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 14:24
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    Now I'm wondering on which SE site I should ask, "How do I fold a towel or towel set into an elephant?"
    – Adam Davis
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 15:19
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    @AdamDavis It's about time someone proposes a towel folding stackexchange on Area 51.
    – Philipp
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 15:51
  • 10
    @AdamDavis "Towel Origami" is the phrase you are looking for. There are several books available (Amazon should help with that), and of course lots of videos that others are already pointing at.
    – RBerteig
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 20:58

6 Answers 6


A bed runner is a small, long piece of decorated cloth used to enhance the appearance of an otherwise plain bed. While some prefer the look solely for aesthetic reasons and would choose it even if it were more expensive than traditional decorative bedding, the primary reason to use one in the hospitality industry is to reduce costs while keeping the room attractive.

Plain white linen not only costs less initially, it's easy and cheaper to launder than decorative linen. Delicate or decorative fabrics often can't be bleached, and are easily damaged by mechanical washing machines - they simply don't last as long. However, white blankets, comforters, and bedspreads are easy to clean and sanitize, don't fade, and still look good even after many washing cycles.

Plain white linen doesn't look as attractive as a fully decorated bed, though.

So a bed runner, which is small and only used for decoration, will enhance the appearance of the room while not requiring frequent laundering (only when obvious spots appear), and , being small, are easy and cheaply manufactured. When they do need to be laundered, several of them can fit into a load, and that load can be run on a gentle cycle - the shear volume of bedclothes that must be laundered would prevent large bedspreads from this care, but the relatively smaller volume allows an occasional load of runners to take more time and perhaps a more expensive detergent process to clean without causing delays in resetting rooms.

Further, some hotel guests prefer clean white linen - which is easier to inspect and note stains or previous usage - to patterned linen for personal hygiene reasons. Bed runners add touches of decoration while still exhibiting cleanliness for picky travelers.

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    @Relaxed: Personally, I find a room that does not force me to bother with stowing away a bed runner into some shelf or wardrobe more attractive, even though it may not be as aesthetic ;) Commented May 13, 2015 at 18:17
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    Interesting, I had always assumed they are so you can lie on the bed without your shoes spoiling the sheets.
    – Gusdor
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 11:50
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    @O.R.Mapper, I suggest you try leaving it where it is. Works for me. Keeps my toes warm.
    – A E
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 14:53

It's called a “bed runner“.

The main purpose is to make the bed look nicer and more stylish. Where I live, it's become trendy (again?) to put something similar on tables too (a “table runner”).

Earlier, it would be common in some countries to get a similar effect by covering the bed with a large blanket, folded at 2/3rd of the length to reveal another pattern.

  • 4
    Cloth runners have been around for a lot longer than 10 years. My grand mother had table runners (and I ain't a spring chicken) and I recall hotel decor using them for many many years back. There has been more usage in recent times by lower cost hotels as a cheap way to upscale themselves a bit.
    – user13044
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 12:07
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    @Tom I edited the answer in light of your comment. I am not saying they did not exist at all, I wouldn't know. Maybe it would be more accurate to say they are making a come-back, then. One way or the other, they are in fashion now in a way they weren't 10 years ago (at least where I live).
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 12:43

I have no evidence of it, but I always thought it was there to protect the bed from dirty items like your luggage or your shoes. Your luggage might be dirty because it touched the floor, so if you want to open it you put it in this piece of cloth and only that will get dirty and not the sheets where you'll sleep later. Same thing to your shoes, suppose you want to lay down for a few minutes and you're already dressed. You can lay your feet on that piece of cloth and not in the sheets.

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    The "runner" is made of fragile fabric. I afraid it might tear if some sharp edge of my luggage caught it.
    – vasin1987
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 11:29
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    @vasin1987, perhaps it can be a fragile fabric, but I've seen it made of rougher fabric. I never tear one of those, although it might well happen.
    – gmauch
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 11:52
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    This hypothesis assumes that the average hotel guest will actually make half an attempt to aim his luggage or think about position when flopping down on a bed.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 6:13

The purpose of the bed runner is very simple: to protect the sheets. So that when you lie on the bed with your shoes on, the shoes would not dirty the sheets.

It also looks pretty, but I think that's a secondary consideration. It's not solely aesthetic.

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    That seems to depend greatly on the length of the person lying there. In a standard hotel bed, my feet are pretty much at the edge of the mattress when my head rests on the pillow. In this case that cloth wouldn't protect much.
    – helm
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 14:19
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    Either you are a giant or the hotel bed in question is exceedingly short. When most people lie on a bed, their feet can rest on the bed.
    – Zack Xu
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 14:23
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    This answer sounds more like an explanation for a "bedspread" (which covers most or all of the bed) than for the narrow bed runners described here. Commented May 13, 2015 at 18:22
  • I hope your shoes will not go "most or all of the bed".
    – Zack Xu
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 16:13
  • @helm Hotel rooms I've been in are arranged so that it's easiest to watch TV while on the bed. The runner is positioned right around where you'd rest your feet, so this does make some sense
    – Izkata
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 17:03

My personal epiphany towards the use of bed runner - is for people to jump onto the bed without removing their shoes. Your legs (with shoes on) should then be placed within the area of the bed runner so as not the dirty your bed sheet.

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    I find it a bit shocking anyone would put their shoes on a bed at all, and I know many people from eastern cultures who find even walking around a hotel room in street shoes somewhat nauseating. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 12:01

All very good and interesting and partially correct answers.

The cloth in question originated in the early days of the medieval time period where they warmed the beds with hot rocks and coal type bed warmers stuffed in between the mattresses diligently monitored by Noble's personal help. The cloth, although I forget specific original name, was at the time actually a form of tapestry of the family crest meant for fashion of course and also was truly meant to hold the heat in the sheets as much as possible, that's the original intent.

But, over time it has taken on the name of "bed runner" and the shape of fashion. Many different and interesting stories have been focused around this item of the high-end hotel industry. Many hotels, especially in the European countries still practice this fashion statement out of respect for its true intention (without the rocks and coals, of course) and some simply like the design aspect and some wrap the cloth because it starts interesting and memorable conversations at the breakfast buffet and also because memorable stories bring you back to visit again, so it's become a fashionable piece of advertising and has taken on many true and correct reasons to add this odd item to the laundry staffs checklist.

I'm no expert of the period but I am a traveler of the world touching down at over 1350 hotel stays in my travels of business and pleasure and have been part of this conversation at many a buffet table. I was told this story at one point and actually found it to be very true, as my curiosity led me on an interesting voyage of truth of the tapestry, whose name I can't remember.

  • This is very difficult to read. Please consider adding paragraph breaks. Also, have you found any sources or done any research to back this up? A story some random person told you isn't terribly reliable information. Commented May 16, 2015 at 17:13

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