Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Hotel Stay? Where to Use Your Sanitizing Wipes

Found this morning in the Bottom Line Newsletter:

As a person who stays in hotels, it never occurred to me to wipe down the main light switch (DUH!) or the bedside light, or that the most bacteria filled objects of all would be the sponges and rags used to clean them. Oh UGH! I think carrying sanitizing wipes sounds like a really good idea!

The Four Dirtiest Surfaces in a Hotel Room

When you enter a hotel room, you already know that it’s probably teeming with germs from the many strangers who stayed there before you.

But, realistically, what are you going to do about it? Spend hours cleaning every corner? Cover yourself in plastic wrap? Not travel?

Well, there’s a new (and much more realistic) strategy that you can try, because a recent study has identified the areas in hotel rooms that have the most bacteria.
And they’re not all spots that you would commonly think to avoid or to wipe clean.
So instead of worrying or just feeling uncomfortable, I’m going to focus on sanitizing these few hot spots—and you can, too. It doesn’t take long (there are only four!).

Researchers collected samples from various surfaces in three freshly cleaned hotel rooms in three different states (a total of nine rooms), and then, back at the lab, detected how many bacteria were on each surface by conducting something called aerobic plate counts. The higher the surface’s “count,” the more bacteria it contained. The top four dirtiest surfaces (outside of housekeepers’ cleaning equipment, the toilet, and the bathroom sink and floor—all of which scored over 117 “counts”) turned out to be:

Main light switch: 113
TV remote control: 68
Bedside lamp switch: 22
Telephone keypad: 20

Most items (including the toilet paper holder, mug, bathroom faucet, room door handle, shower floor and bathroom door handle) had relatively moderate amounts of bacteria, with scores between 4 and 11. The two cleanest surfaces, both of which scored only 0.5, were the bed headboard and the curtain rod.

Yuck! Some of these top hot spots, such as the remote control, don’t surprise me, but I never would have thought about the bedside lamp! This news is definitely going to make me rethink the way I always turn on the bedside lamp (without disinfecting it first) while reading before bed. I’m also stunned that the bathroom faucet, the shower floor and the two doorknobs weren’t higher on the list!

You might be wondering which types of bacteria were identified. Unfortunately, the aerobic plate counts measured only how many bacteria there were on the surfaces, not which kinds.

When I called study coauthor Jay Neal, PhD, a food microbiologist and assistant professor at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management within the University of Houston, he wasn’t overly concerned by the findings, because not all germs will make you sick. But exposure to any pathogens (germs that carry diseases) raises your risk for getting sick, especially if you are immunocompromised. For example, if you’re undergoing chemo…if you’re pregnant…or if you have HIV, you’re more susceptible to infection.

Of course, there’s no way to completely avoid germs, but, in my opinion, it doesn’t hurt to take the following basic precautions—whether you’re immunocompromised or not—to help reduce your risk of getting sick.


While Dr. Neal does not believe that sanitizing wipes are necessary, I pack them whenever I travel. You, too, can slip a container of them into your suitcase to disinfect the bacteria-laden surfaces mentioned above the moment that you walk into your hotel room.

Don’t assume that a housekeeper cleaned those areas. Even if a housekeeper did, he or she likely wiped it down with a sponge or mop that was filled with bacteria. Of all the different surfaces that the researchers examined, sponges and mops were the most contaminated items of all!

And, of course, wash your hands when you’re in a hotel room as often as possible with soap and hot water (or use hand sanitizer)—especially before eating or touching your face.

Source(s): Jay Neal, PhD, assistant professor, Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston. Researchers reported these findings at the June 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. Until the results are published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be viewed as preliminary.

August 16, 2012 - Posted by | Health Issues, Hygiene, Statistics, Tools, Travel

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