You can't see them, but your home away from home is likely teeming with microbes.
If you're planning to travel this summer, you should know that your hotel room may come with a unwelcome assortment of germs. A new study finds that bacteria may dwell on the various surfaces in hotel rooms. The television remote and the gear used to clean the rooms may be the biggest threats of all.
Researchers from three universities swabbed 19 different surfaces from three hotel rooms in three different states. They looked for the presence of aerobic (air-breathing) bacteria and coliform bacteria, which come from fecal matter. Not surprisingly, the team found higher amounts of bacteria in the usual places: bathroom sinks and toilet surfaces. But they also found higher levels of contamination on often-handled objects, like remote controls and light switches. The lowest amounts of bacteria were found on less-trafficked surfaces like curtain rods and headboards. (But, oddly, bathroom door handles were also among the least laden with bacteria.)
Importantly, some of the highest concentrations of bacteria came not from the rooms, but from the cleaning tools on the housekeepers' cleaning carts, like sponges and mops. This, too, may not surprise you, but it does mean that the odds of cross-contamination between rooms is more likely.
"Hoteliers have an obligation to provide their guests with a safe and secure environment," said Katie Kirsch, an undergraduate student who helped carry out the study, in a news release. "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."