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Years ago, an expert on Oprah announced that the dirtiest thing in a hotel room is the remote control. If Oprah said it, it must be true, and a study has just confirmed that the television remote control is among the dirtiest things in each room. Most of the room is covered in aerobic bacteria and coliform (or fecal) bacteria, but there is a high concentration of it on the remote and lamps, because hotel guests touch those with their dirty hands. Remember all the people you have seen leaving a public restroom without washing their hands? One of them may have been in the room before you. The sink and toilet are covered in bacteria, as would be expected. While all hotels have housekeeping services, most judge cleanliness visually, missing all of the microscopic bacteria that blankets each room.
One of the major culprits, and the most covered in bacteria, are housekeeping’s sponges and mops. They collect the bacteria in each room and spread it to the next, causing cross-contamination and general grossness. Think about it! If a housekeeper cleans 15 rooms over an eight-hour shift using the same sponge, all of the bacteria from the first 14 rooms is swiped all over the 15th.
Now that you are afraid to set foot in a hotel room, here are a few tips to keep in mind to avoid some of the yucky stuff while traveling. Bring a clear plastic freezer bag with you and place the remote inside it. This way you can still see and use the remote without having to touch it directly. As soon as you arrive in the room, remove the top blanket from each bed. As there are layers of sheets and comforters between that top blanket and the sleeping guest, the blanket gets washed less frequently than the rest of the bedding. Leave it in the corner, because you have no idea what the last person did on top of that bed.
The most positive thing to come of this study is that by pointing out the places with the most microbes, housekeeping staff can target those areas while cleaning. If the public is taking notice, hotel chains will make changes to the way they clean their facilities. Best Western is rolling out a new “I Care Clean” program that involves using a UV light to check for bacteria and other hospital-grade cleaning techniques, so germaphobes can sleep a little bit easier. Many hotel chains are sure to follow suit, making it safer to sleep in these establishments. If you’re about to freak out, just remember that you probably haven’t gotten sick from a hotel room yet. And don’t lick the remote.