Wipe Down That TV Remote Control In Your Hotel Room If You Hate Germs

If you’re the kind of person worried about what’s lurking unseen in hotel rooms, now might be the time to pack your travel Lysol and start making a plan of attack. A new study looking at surfaces in hotel rooms found that television remotes are one of the most heavily contaminated with bacteria. And then there are those housekeeping carts, which are veritable cross-contaminating trolleys for germs.

Researchers from the University of Houston discussed their findings from the study at the recent 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

“Hoteliers have an obligation to provide their guests with a safe and secure environment. 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,” said one of the students who presented the study.

Researchers from the University of Houston teamed up with others from Purdue University and the University of South Carolina to sample a variety of surfaces from hotel rooms in their home states. They tested levels of various bacterial contamination on each of the surfaces.

Areas like toilets and bathroom sinks were expected to have high levels of contamination, but the high levels on the TV remote and bedside lamp switch were a bit of a surprise. And then even scarier were the levels of germiness on items that go from room to room on housekeepers’ carts, like sponges and mops.

Bed headboards, curtain rods and the bathroom door handle were areas of the least contamination.

One of the biggest turnoffs of a hotel room is if it appears unclean, but what these researchers are saying is even the cleanest rooms might be far from it. No one wants to get sick because they touched something a previous sick guest sneezed on.

The researchers say the lack of standardization of hotel room cleanliness poses a risk for hotel guests, especially those who are more susceptible to infection. But by paying attention to the germiest areas, say the researchers, housekeepers could more effectively attack those spots and efficiently reduce the potential health risks.

The Most Contaminated Surfaces in Hotel Rooms [ASM 2012]


Edit Your Comment

  1. eccsame says:

    great – add another item to the list that I can stuff in the corner with the bedspread and ice bucket.

  2. Gman says:

    We always do the same thing when entering a hotel room:
    1. check for bedbugs
    2. throw the comforter on a unused chair [and anything else that is never washed]
    3. place the remote in a gallon sized ziplock bag [or the ice bucket bag] for using it.

    Done. Not perfect, wont prevent everything but at least gets rid of what we perceive to be bad areas.

  3. ChuckECheese says:

    I recently stayed at a Best Western where they have “Clean Remotes.” They are smooth remotes with little bubble buttons. This allows the remote to be thoroughly swabbed down between guests. And it comes ensconced in a silly little throne/holder, shouting out that it’s a clean remote. No such attention was given to the bedspread however.

  4. Sudonum says:

    Carry a zip lock bag with you and put the remote in the bag. Been doing it for years. I used to work in the hotel industry, remember the remote goes “hand-in-hand” with the adult titles on the pay per view.

  5. The Twilight Clone says:

    Wow, there are germs on surfaces that humans touch. Any indication on whether people have died from using a hotel TV remote?

    Didn’t think so. This is almost as sensational as the disgusting bacteria-coated toys in McDonald’s play areas that haven’t made anyone ill.

    • longfeltwant says:

      Is your question the same as “any indication that people have died of bacterial infection transferred to them through indirect contact, such as from a hotel remote”? Yes, of course they have, and do. Luckily it’s rare these days, because we are pretty good at both sanitation and fighting bacterial infections.

    • longfeltwant says:

      Is your question the same as “any indication that people have died of bacterial infection transferred to them through indirect contact, such as from a hotel remote”? Yes, of course they have, and do. Luckily it’s rare these days, because we are pretty good at both sanitation and fighting bacterial infections.

  6. CalicoGal says:

    I always use a Kleenex barrier on a hotel remote.

    But the lampswitch never occurred to me… GAH!

    • castlecraver says:

      Unless you’re using some amazing new impermeable kleenex, it’s not doing anything to protect you.

  7. Hotscot says:

    Doesn’t exposure to these build up our immunity?

    • The Twilight Clone says:

      Shh. That doesn’t feed the hysteria.

    • longfeltwant says:

      Sure. And it can also kill you, in rare extreme circumstances. We want neither to live in a germ-free world, nor a germ-infested one.

      This story is about the dirtiest places in a common human space, with the implication that those places are above the threshold of being too dirty.

    • PittPanther says:

      People are touching the remotes while “pleasuring” themselves with the TV porn. You want to build up your immunity to THAT?

      • The Twilight Clone says:

        There’s probably nothing in that to build immunity against. See my comment below regarding hysteria.

  8. Vox Republica says:

    But what are we supposed to do with the TV remote control in our hotel room if we love germs?

  9. HomerSimpson says:

    Isn’t there somewhere near the hotel you can buy a tub of Lysol wipes?

    • AttackCat says:

      They should start stocking the minibar with those. See how many people end up paying $10 for 3 Lysol wipes.

  10. sirwired says:

    Did they compare hotel remotes to remotes at home? I’d expect home remotes were also utterly filthy, germ-wise.

  11. dush says:

    Just expose yourself to all the germs. You’ll be healthier in the long run.

  12. longfeltwant says:

    Toilets shouldn’t be expected to have a high amount of bacteria on them. Not only are they made of non-porous germ-unfriendly porcelyn, but they are also cleaned with bleach regularly, and then splashed with antiseptic urine all the time. Also, people don’t usually touch toilets with their hands, so there is very little germ transfer onto toilets. Toilets are incredible clean.

    The things that are nasty are the things which people touch but don’t clean, as this article noted: light switches, remotes, phones, railings, knobs, etc.

    • Joseph S Ragman says:

      Urine is only “antiseptic” to the person from whom it came. To someone with a suppressed autoimmune system. your urine could be highly toxic to them.

      • MrEvil says:

        People with suppressed immune systems already take the needed precautions to avoid becoming ill, plus they don’t have to live in a bubble. My Uncle has a rare auto-immune disease and has to take anti-rejection medications to keep the condition in check. Even though his auto-immune response is suppressed, the passive parts of his immune system still function and he’s able to live a fairly normal lifestyle. He only actively avoids crowded public places and restaurants.

  13. blueman says:

    Really, some people should never leave their homes.

  14. AllanG54 says:

    I’ve stayed in quite a few inexpensive motels where I doubt anything is cleaned (including some swingers motels for short stays) and I’ve never gotten any diseases. So, either I have a FANTASTIC immune system or this is all a lot of worrying over nothing.

  15. castlecraver says:

    I simply refuse to succumb to the germophobia and have no problem using a visually clean hotel room remote as-is, or anything else for that matter. I think people tend to overestimate how much reduction in overall exposure they’re actually accomplishing by doing little things like bagging the remote, chucking the duvet, etc. Unless you also take obsessive, Howard Hughes-style precautions for EVERYTHING you might touch over the course of the day.

    Really, it’s a bit like getting your double Whopper without cheese because you’re on a diet; obsessing over a few extra calories without thinking about the thousands already in the burger. Think about all the stuff you touched just on the way to the hotel, and the fact that whatever mode of travel you took almost surely has a risk of injury and/or death that’s orders of magnitude higher than the risk of becoming seriously ill from a surface-borne pathogen.

  16. Dr.Wang says:

    Just a note about cleaning surfaces. At a hospital the wipes they use that are really effective must be used by a gloved hand, not a bare hand. If the wipes or spray you are using does not require some protective gear it is probably only minimally effective, like the wipes at the grocery store entrance.

    Although not always practical, the cheapest way to kill pathogens is to put it out in direct sunlight for a while. UV light and ozone gas kill about everything except Zombies.

    • who? says:

      I though UV was the way to kill Zombies.

      Oh. Damn. I just looked it up. UV light will kill Vampires, not Zombies!

  17. gman863 says:

    Reminds me of a story 20/20 did about germs in the typical office a few years ago.

    The restrooms had the LEAST bacteria since they were cleaned a few times per day.

    Shared keyboards, mice and phones were chalk full of staph, strep, flu and cold viruses.

  18. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I’m way more worried about bedbugs than germs on the remote. Blargh!

  19. mbz32190 says:

    There is probably more fecal matter on an average toothbrush stored on the bathroom counter than remotes and light switches.

  20. Here to ruin your groove says:

    Much like the “restaurant kitchen VS your home kitchen,” I think they should research random bedrooms and tv remotes at homes and see what they come up with.