When lounging around a luxurious hotel room, germs are (hopefully) not the first thing that comes to mind. Blissful ignorance and five-star accommodations aside, hotel rooms are still crawling with germs—like any home or public restroom, the bathroom sink, shower, toilet, and more are far from pristine. But a study out of the University of Houston found that a few far-less-obvious items actually collect the most germs.
As Time reports, the light switch and the TV remote are the two most bacteria-ridden surfaces in a typical hotel room. TV remotes reportedly had an average of 67.6 colony-forming units of bacteria (CFU) per cubic centimeter squared. The main light switches, on the other hand, had 112.7 CFU, as well as the highest levels of fecal bacteria. For reference, surfaces should have a maximum of 5 CFU per cubic centimeter squared to be considered clean.
To reach this conclusion, lead study author Katie Kirsch and her team sampled 18 surfaces in three hotel rooms in three different states, including Texas, Indiana, and South Carolina. They tested for levels of total aerobic bacteria, including the bugs that are known to cause illness like strep throat and staph infection, in addition to fecal bacteria. Trailing remotes and light switches were bathroom sinks and bathroom floors.
What's worse, mops and sponges in housekeeping carts also had high levels of bacteria, meaning that harmful germs could easily transfer from one surface or room to another. "If you clean the toilet with the sponge and then go to the counter where you put your toothbrush, that bacteria can be transferred," said Kirsch. "Currently, housekeepers clean 14 to 16 rooms per eight-hour shift, spending approximately 30 minutes on each room. Identifying high-risk items within a hotel room would allow housekeeping managers to strategically design cleaning practices and allocate time to efficiently reduce the potential health risks posed by microbial contamination in hotel rooms."
She also cautioned about the preliminary nature of the study, as a total of nine hotel rooms were tested. In other words, try not to let a fear of germs ruin your vacation, but it also doesn't hurt to bring along some hand sanitizer or surface wipes to clean light switches, remotes, telephone key pads, bathroom counters, and the like.