Germiest Places in Your Hotel Room

by Ann Pietrangelo

A preliminary study of contamination found on surfaces in hotel rooms could  help improve hotel housekeeping practices and provide a safer environment for  travelers. Researchers from the University of Houston reported on the experiment  at 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

As you might expect, samples from the toilet and bathroom sink show high  levels of contamination. Also on the list of surfaces showing fecal  contamination are the television remote control and the lamp switch beside the  bed.

Like in the kitchen, cross-contamination is a problem in hotel rooms. The  researchers found some of the highest levels of contamination on items from  housekeeping carts, including sponges and mops.

The lowest levels of contamination were found on the bed’s headboard, curtain  rods, and the bathroom door handle.

Researchers can’t say for certain if the bacteria found cause disease, but say contamination levels are reliable in  assessing overall cleanliness.

“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,” says Katie Kirsch an  undergraduate student at the University of Houston who presented the study.

“Currently, housekeepers clean 14-16 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,” says Kirsch.

A lack of industry standards and occasional illness outbreaks in hotels have  the public paying more attention to hotel cleanliness.

While the study was limited (three hotel rooms each in Indiana, South  Carolina, and Texas; and 19 surfaces in each room), it is the first step in  applying the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system to hotel  room cleanliness. Developed by the National Aeronautics and Space  Administration, HACCP is a systematic preventive approach that identifies  potential physical, chemical and biological hazards and designs measurements to  reduce these risks to safe levels.

“The information derived from this study could aid hotels in adopting a  proactive approach for reducing potential hazards from contact with surfaces  within hotel rooms and provide a basis for the development of more effective and  efficient housekeeping practices,” says Kirsch.

Also participating in the study with Kirsch and her colleagues at the  University of Houston were researchers from Purdue University and the University  of South Carolina.

Source: Press Release/American Society for Microbiology