By now, many people are aware that the top blanket of a hotel bed might not be the cleanest surface. It’s a bit of a surprise, however, to learn that the television remotes in hotel rooms are one of the surfaces that have the most bacteria on them in the entire space. A new study shows that hotel room remotes are heavily contaminated with bacteria.
Researchers from the University of Huston conducted the study, which was released Sunday. According to the Huffington Post, the University of South Carolina and Purdue University were also involved.
"The current validation method for hotel room cleanliness is a visual assessment, which has been shown to be ineffective in measuring levels of sanitation," said Katie Kirsch, an undergraduate student at the University of Houston who worked on the study, in a press release.
The researchers tested a variety of surfaces in hotel rooms in Indiana, South Carolina, and Texas. They wanted to record the levels of total aerobic bacteria and coliform bacteria. Coliform bacteria is found in feces.
The toilet and bathroom sink registered high levels of contamination, as would be expected, but surfaces like the remote control and the bedside lamp switch also ranked high on the list. The study does not definitively say how this happens, but it’s an educated guess that not all guests of a hotel room wash their hands thoroughly (or at all) after using the bathroom. It should also be noted that some of the highest levels of bacterial contamination were found on items that like the housekeeping staffs’ mops and sponges. These items might cause bacteria from one surface to be transferred over to another room, which is known as cross-contamination.
During a hotel housekeeper’s work eight-hour shift, he or she is expected to clean approximately 15 rooms. This means that the cleaning staff spends about a half an hour in each room. Kirsch said that rather than simply alerting (and possibly grossing out) the public, identifying which areas have the most germs would allow housekeepers to "strategically design cleaning practices and allocate time to efficiently reduce the potential health risks posed by microbial contamination."
Researchers said that they tested a small sample of rooms, so a larger study might be necessary in the future.
Best Western hotels, possibly hoping to, ahem, clean up their image, recently announced an initiative that borrows cleaning techniques from hospitals, such as the use of UV light sterilization. The program called “I Care Clean,” is currently being used by over 700 hotels in the Best Western chain, and an additional 1,400 North American locations are expected to implement the program by the end of the year.