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How clean are US hotel rooms?

Young maid cleaning the hotel suite

The average hotel room is dirtier than a typical home, an airplane, and even a school according to travelmath.com. The web site let EmLab P&K perform laboratory tests of 9 often-touched hotel room surfaces to find out how clean or dirty 3-, 4-, and 5-star US hotel rooms are.

Guess what! 3-star hotels appear the least germ-ridden. These hotels tend to offer well-appointed rooms, with limited service offerings. The bathroom counter is the dirtiest surface in these hotels, followed by the remote control.

Higher-end 4-star hotels are luxurious, with special touches such as pillow-top mattresses and extra seating. In these hotels, the bathroom counter is also the most bacteria-laden surface, followed by the desk.

The most lavish are 5-star hotels, often with an array of personalized services and amenities such as fresh flowers. Among these hotels, the remote is the germiest surface, followed by the bathroom counter.

The tests assessed bacteria levels in colony-forming units (CFUs), the number of viable bacteria cells within a sample. The bathroom counter in a 3-star hotel room contains an average of 320,000 CFU/sq. in. (6.5 cm2). According to travelmath.com this is around “8 times less than a 4-star hotel room and 3 times fewer than a 5-star hotel room.”

This is an opaque phrase, certainly for a site named travelmath. Most likely they mean that the number of CFUs in a 3-star hotel bathroom is approximately 1/8 of that in a 4-star hotel and 1/3 of the number in a 5-star hotel.

cleaning1Hidden-camera exposés have revealed hazardous cleaning techniques, such as hotel personnel wiping the countertop with the same towel used to clean the toilet.

Incidentally, you can disinfect most of the surfaces fairly easily with antibacterial wipes or spray. Also keep in mind that frequent hand-washing may reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16%.

The averages of the 4 dirtiest hotel room surfaces follow.

Hotel room surface CFU/sq. in.*
1. Bathroom counter 1,288,817
2. Remote control 1,211,687
3. Desk: 604,907
4. Phone 4,252

* 1 sq. in. = 6.5 cm2.

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