Did you know that cell phones contain up to 18 times more bacteria than the average toilet handle in a men’s public washroom? Now imagine what the telephone in a hotel room is crawling with after being used by the countless customers who stayed there before you did.

There’s no arguing that one of the most important things travellers look for in a hotel room is cleanliness. And yet, most of us have been surprised or shocked even by the uncleanliness of certain items in a hotel room. But who among us thinks to clean these items before using them?

Regardless of how much a room costs, studies show that even though most hotel rooms look clean, they are infested with germs. So where do germs like to hide in a hotel room? Sure, there’s the obvious spots like the sheets, toilet, bathtub and sink, but surprisingly, the toilet bowl and shower floor or bathtub are often among the cleanest items in a hotel room!

That’s because the dirtiest items are those that tend to be neglected by cleaning staff when doing their rounds:

  • Remote controls
  • Bedspreads and decorative shams
  • Bathroom faucets
  • Light switches
  • Curtains
  • Telephones
  •  Door handles
  • Water glasses and coffee cups

This oversight is usually due to insufficient cleaning. To make matters worse, these items should not only be cleaned, but disinfected, too. Although a simple washing with soap and hot water will remove most of the bacteria, these items should be disinfected with cleaning products to ensure all bacteria is removed.

So the next time you walk into a hotel room, think twice before flicking on the light switch or the TV remote. These two items are among the most contaminated surfaces in a hotel room – as in contaminated enough to make you sick.

The truth is, the current industry standard basically boils down to a simple visual inspection: “If it looks clean, then it must be!” Unfortunately, that’s not how things work. Visual assessments cannot effectively evaluate a surface’s level of cleanliness, much less determine the presence of bacteria and viruses.

Tips:

  • When travelling, carry a travel-size sanitizer spray (for air and surfaces), sanitizing wipes (with or without alcohol), slippers and a clear plastic bag.
  • Wash your hands when you first enter your hotel room (and especially before eating or touching your face). Chances are that by this point, you’ve already touched the door handle, pressed the buttons in the elevator and handled money. Since 80% of infections are spread by hand, it’s important to eliminate any potential pathogens on your hands before contaminating the rest of the room.
  • Inspect the room. Use wipes on frequently touched surfaces such as sink taps, the flush handle, door handles, light switches, telephones, clock radios, etc. Rather than wasting your time trying to clean all the nooks and crannies on the TV remote, simply place it in a clear plastic bag to serve as a protective cover during your stay.
  • Avoid touching the curtains, which tend to harbour months of accumulated debris, allergens and germs. Also avoid letting your skin come into direct contact with the carpeting and furniture upholstery. Avoid going barefoot in your hotel room, and get dressed before sitting down on chairs or the sofa.

Is the moral that you should avoid hotels because of germs? Not at all! Even if you do come into contact with bacteria-laden surfaces, you won’t automatically become sick. That being said, you can put the odds in your favour by packing sanitizing wipes in your luggage and by using them on any questionable surfaces. You can also ask the hotel management to leave such products in their rooms for the general use of guests.

It can also be a good idea to carry a big bottle of hand sanitizer with you the next time you stay at a hotel. After all, to truly avoid all risk of contamination, the simplest rule is to wash your hands frequently.