Guests who stay frequently at hotels accept that exposure to germs, viruses and bacteria is unavoidable. For example, fecal bacteria was found on a whopping 81% of all hotel surfaces tested by microbiologists who studied contamination levels in hotel rooms.
But before you go into full freak-out mode about your upcoming trip and hotel stay, it's important to know there are some things you can do to minimize your risk when you're traveling!
Here are some of the dirtiest surfaces and ways to get around touching them...
Drinking glasses near the sink
An ABC News investigation found that 73% of housekeepers didn't properly sanitize those complimentary drinking glasses that are in the bathroom. This revelation came as part of an undercover investigation that looked at 15 different hotels around the nation.
The solution? Drink bottled water or use those little plastic cups that are wrapped in plastic if they're available instead.
The same ABC News investigation captured one housekeeper on film who "used a spray bottle to douse the...coffee pot in the sink with a bottle of Lysol mildew remover." Another housekeeper was filmed using a dirty hand towel to wipe off the coffee pot — the same towel that had been used on the bathroom floor!
The solution? Grab a coffee on the go or skip the java altogether!
You probably know this one, as its become common knowledge among travelers and non-travelers alike. But what you might not know is that it's actually true. A CNN investigation found that bedspreads "might only be changed four times a year," according to one industry insider.
The solution? Never touch the bedspread. If you have kids who like to jump on the bed, be sure you carefully pull the bedspread off before the bouncing begins.
But before the kids start, you'll also want to inspect the bed for signs of bedbugs!
Just like with bedspreads, pillowcases can sometimes get the brush off when a harried housekeeper is rushing to turn over a room between guests.
A Today Show undercover investigation of five top hotel chains found that some housekeepers placed the pillow on a dirty chair next to the bed while changing sheets. Worse yet, they only gave it a fluff before putting it back on the bed for the next guest — without changing the pillowcase!
The solution? Bring your own pillow.
TV remote and bedside lamp switches
These two surfaces are among the dirtiest in the entire hotel room, according to a collaborative report between the University of Houston, Purdue University and the University of South Carolina.
The solution? Disinfectant wipes are great, but if you don't have any handy, then try wrapping the remote in a plastic bag to act as a barrier between you and the superbugs! While you're at it, tear off a little swath of plastic bag that will let you safely turn the bedside lamp switch on and off.
Hotel phones have two to three times as much bacteria as other nearby surfaces, according to a Today investigation. "People touch them a lot and they're not surfaces that are cleaned by the maids," said Dr. Luisa Ikner, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona Gerba Lab.
The solution? Have a disinfectant wipe ready to go before touching the phone or just use your own smartphone for any calls you have to make.
What is safe to touch?
Having read this list, you're probably wondering what in the world you can safely touch in your hotel room! Among the cleaner surfaces are:
- Bed headboards
- Curtain rods
- Bathroom door handles
- Light switches
- Alarm clocks
Hygiene tips for hotel guests
Worried about germs in your room? Take the advice of NYU professor of microbiology and pathology Philip Tierno and do the following to protect yourself and your family:
- Wash your hands well and often with soap and warm water, or use hand sanitizer.
- Move the bedspread aside.
- Choose a hotel that uses impervious mattress and pillow covers, sometimes called allergy barriers.
- Clean the remote control, the phone, the interior doorknob and other frequently used areas or devices with a germicidal wipe.
- Wear slippers or flip flops at all times.
- Cover open wounds and use disinfectant treatments on them.
Read more: 5 hotel scams to avoid