What's the first thing you do when your family gets to your hotel room? Several recent studies suggest it might be a good idea to pull out a package of antibacterial wipes and give your room a quick once-over.
At least four investigations since 2012 have used microbiological testing to reveal that hotel rooms—even those that have been cleaned by housekeeping staff—typically contain zones where germs thrive.
Don't assume that paying more means you'll get a cleaner room. A 2016 hotel hygiene study by TravelMath focusing on three-, four-, and five-star hotels revealed that the more luxurious four-star and five-star hotel rooms tended to be dirtier than less luxurious three-star hotels.
Want to keep your family healthy on vacation? Before you let your gang kick back and relax, wipe down the following surfaces.
TV Remote Control
A 2012 study by the University of Houston found that high-use surfaces like the TV remote harbored huge numbers of bacteria. An investigation by Jeff Rossen on NBC in November 2014 found similar results after testing hotel rooms at different chains for bacteria. In the five tested properties, the TV remote control was by far the germiest item in each guest room, frequently carrying levels of bacteria four to five times above the limit deemed acceptable.
In the TravelMath hotel hygiene study, the remote controls in the three-star hotel were far dirtier than those in four-and five-star hotels.
After the TV remote, the next germiest item in the hotel room was the lamp next to the bed, according to the University of Houston study.
The University of Houston study found the main light switches around the room to be swarming with germs.
In each of the hotels tested in NBC's investigation, the guest room phones were "teeming with bacteria" at up to three times the acceptable level.
Bathroom Faucet and Countertop
In October 2013, an episode of "Marketplace" on the Canadian network CBC aired an investigation called "The Dirt on Hotels." The report flagged the bathroom faucet and countertop as suspect surfaces due to the high risk of inadvertent cross-contamination by housekeepers when they clean bathrooms.
The Travelmath study found the bathroom counters in three-star hotels were cleaner than their four- and five-star counterparts.
The "Marketplace" investigation also found that the hotel room coffee maker was a common place for germs to linger.
The 2016 TravelMath study found that desktops were among the germiest surfaces in hotel rooms. Those in three-star hotels were cleaner than their four- and five-star counterparts.