The Most Unsanitary Item in the Hotel Room? Don’t Reach for the Remote…

By Michael Acampora on 21 June 2012
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If you are reading this article from your hotel room, think about what you did when you came into the room. You probably touched the light switch to turn on the light and also might have used the television remote to put the news on.  If you did, you might want to grab the hand sanitizer at this point.

Frequent Business Traveler’s recent survey on hotel pet peeves revealed the many irritations that may await in a hotel room, including weak Internet (something I’m experiencing right now in a hotel room while writing this article) and insufficient electrical outlets.  In an online discussion thread about hotel pet peeves with research partner, an online travel community, several members raised the issue  of hotel-room cleanliness.  If you’ve ever thought about how clean your hotel room and everything in it is, read on.

Researchers from the University of Houston led by Katie Kirsch, a student there, recently reported their findings on the most contaminated surfaces in hotel rooms at a meeting of American Society for Microbiology. They conducted a series of tests in hotels in three states, testing 19 surfaces for levels of total aerobic bacteria (including the bugs known to cause streptococcus and staphylococcus) and fecal bacteria.

Their findings came as a surprise, at least to some people.  In addition to sinks, bathroom floors, and toilets, the team found that television remote controls and bedside lamp switches were the two surfaces most heavily contaminated with bacteria in a hotel room.

Another area that was found to have high levels of contamination was the carts used by housekeepers, including on mops and sponges.  The fact that housekeepers use the same mops and sponges in different rooms means that germs are carried from one room and transferred to another many times every day.

The cleanliest surfaces were found to be the headboard of the bed, curtain rods, and surprisingly, the bathroom door handle.

“Hoteliers have an obligation to provide their guests with a safe and secure environment,” said Kirsch. “Currently, housekeeping practices vary across brands and properties with little or no standardization industry wide. The current validation method for hotel room cleanliness is a visual assessment, which has been shown to be ineffective in measuring levels of sanitation.”

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