Hotel Remotes, Bedspreads Harbor Icky Fecal Bacteria, Study Shows

If you (like me) have always been a bit skeeved out by hotel room remote controls, light switches, bedspreads and other furnishings, you’ve probably been called neurotic or tried to suppress feelings of disgust when you have to touch one of these commonplace items.

But it turns out hotel remotes and other common items are indeed covered with icky bacteria that could potentially make you sick, according to researchers from the University of Houston who swabbed and tested the items.

Door handles, headboards, bedspreads, light switches and remote controls were among the items examined in a study presented at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Francisco. 19 common surfaces in hotel rooms across three states were swabbed for the study, and the housekeeping cart was pegged as the possibly contaminant in some of the germiest surfaces.

Katie Kirsch, an undergraduate student at the University of Houston, explained in a news release about the research that a lack of standard practice across the industry may be responsible for germed-up surfaces in many hotel rooms. In a news release, Kirsch explains that the status quo- a “visual inspection” of cleaned rooms- may be unsafe for guests:

“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.”

hotel room bacteria

Kirsch also said that the study could help the hospitality industry create better standards when it comes to hotel room cleanliness:

“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.”

The germiest hotel room items located in the hotel room study were the remote, the light switches, the sinks and toilets, while headboards, bathroom door handles and curtain rods were the least likely items to harbor fecal bacteria such as E. Coli.