How clean is your hotel room?

When you’ve collapsed in a hotel bed at the end of a day of vacationing, the last thing you want to worry about is whether a previous guest left germs behind. But germs are invisible to the naked eye, so how do hotel housekeepers — who have an average of 30 minutes to clean a room — make sure their job is well done?

In Texas, Indiana and South Carolina, researchers tested levels of bacteria on 162 surfaces in nine hotel rooms after they had been cleaned. While door handles, showers and carpets had been mostly scoured of germs, such objects as light switches, remotes, bathroom sinks and telephone keypads still had high levels of bacteria. The worst offenders were mops, sponges and gloves on the housekeepers’ cleaning cart.

Although cleaned, bacteria remain a problem in hotel rooms. (Chris Low)

Rather than scare hotel guests, the researchers hope that the data, presented last week at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, will help hotel managers optimize their cleaning procedures. Housekeepers might be encouraged to focus on the items found to remain contaminated after cleaning, for example. Hotels could then retest rooms to check whether the alternate cleaning measures are working out. Until then, sleep tight.

Sarah C. P. Williams, ScienceNOW