The next time you're staying at a hotel, you might want to think twice before grabbing that TV remote, or switching on the bedside lamp. Maybe wipe them down first.
According to new research, presented at this weekend's American Society for Microbiology annual general meeting in San Francisco, these two areas are among the most contaminated spots in U.S. hotel rooms.
And while the bacteria samples were taken in the United States, there's no reason to believe Canadian hotel rooms would be any different.
"The current validation method for hotel room cleanliness is a visual assessment," says Katie Kirsch, a researcher on the study and student at the University of Houston, "which has been shown to be ineffective in measuring levels of sanitation."
Researchers at the University of Houston, Purdue University and the University of South Carolina tested for levels of aerobic bacteria, including fecal bacteria, in hotel rooms in Texas, Indiana and South Carolina. They examined 19 surfaces in three hotel rooms in each state. These bacteria might not lead to disease, but they are good indicators for the level of cleanliness.
While they weren't surprised to see the bacteria showing up on the toilet and bathroom sink, the other places like the TV remote and the bedside lamp switch were less expected.
They also found that the sponges and mops on the housekeepers' carts were rife with the bugs, which could cause cross-contamination among rooms.
The places with the least amount of germs were the headboard, the curtain rods and the bathroom door handle.
"Identifying high-risk items within a hotel room would allow housekeeping managers to strategically design cleaning practices and allocate time to efficiently reduce the potential health risks posed by microbial contamination," Kirsch says.
In fact, this small study is a first step in a bigger project to give scientific-based advice to the hotel housekeeping industry.
So now, in addition to your male colleague's work phone, you have yet another germ-ridden item to watch out for.