If you plan on staying in a hotel room this summer, you might want to avoid eating with the TV remote in hand.
A study in three states found that the TV remote and bedside lamp switch have joined the toilet as some of the most contaminated surfaces in hotel rooms.
Researchers from the University of Houston tested for two types of bacteria in each room—aerobic (oxygen-loving) and coliform (fecal) bacteria. While the tests weren’t designed to identify disease-causing bacteria, they do show how contaminated the surfaces are.
In addition to the toilet and bathroom sink, high-use surfaces like the TV remote also harbor high numbers of bacteria. Eating with the remote in hand can leave behind bits of food that the bacteria thrive on.
Items on the housekeeper’s carts, such as the sponges and mops, were also highly contaminated, which increases the chance of spreading bacteria from one spot to the next.
"If you clean the toilet with the sponge then go to the counter where you put that toothbrush, that bacteria can be transferred," study presenter Katie Kirsch said in a news conference.
While the findings are preliminary, the researchers hope to use them to help hotels maintain clean facilities. It’s impossible to tell whether a surface is contaminated with bacteria just by looking at it, so identifying the dirtiest areas can enable housekeeping staff to focus their efforts.
The surfaces with the lowest bacterial contamination included the headboard, curtain rods and bathroom door handle. You could try eating on those, but you are probably better off using a washable plate.