The next time you're in a hotel, you may want to think twice before turning on the TV or the lights.
A new study of hotel surfaces finds that the TV remote and bedside lamp switches carry more bacteria than almost any other place in the room.
Both were found to carry bacteria levels comparable to the toilet and bathroom sink.
According to the study, a lack of industry-wide housekeeping standards--leading to a variety of cleaning practices--and an emphasis on how the room looks could be the reason.
"The current validation method for hotel room cleanliness is a visual assessment, which has been shown to be ineffective in measuring levels of sanitation," study presenter Kate Kirsch, an undergraduate researcher from the University of Houston, said. The University of Houston, Purdue University and the University of South Carolina collaborated on the study.
The study found consistently that mops and sponges had higher bacteria levels than any other place in the room, increasing the risk for cross-contamination.
"If you clean the toilet with the sponge then go to the counter where you put that toothbrush, that bacteria can be transferred," Kirsch said.
The least contaminated areas were the headboard on the bed, curtain rods, and the bathroom door handle.
The study looked at three hotel rooms in Texas, Indiana and South Carolina, testing 19 surfaces within the rooms. Kirsch acknowledges that the sample size was small; only three rooms per state were tested. However, Kirsch said the study could be a good starting point for more extensive studies down the road, possibly leading to a scientific basis to hotel housekeeping.
"The information derived from this study could aid hotels in adopting a proactive approach for reducing potential hazards from contact with surfaces within hotel rooms and provide a basis for the development of more effective and efficient housekeeping practices," Kirsch said.