If you’re like me, the first thing you think about when you walk in a hotel room is whether or not the sheets are clean. After reviewing the information provided by Katie Kirsch, an undergraduate student at the University of Houston, I may have to change my priorities. Kirsch led a team that swabbed various surfaces in hotel rooms then tested them for microbials. The results are little stomach turning.
The study was conducted Texas, Indiana, and South Carolina. It was relatively small in scale only evaluating 3 rooms in each state. The study sought out aerobic bacteria, which is the kind most likely to make one sick. The bacterial measurement is called colony forming units or CFU. So who were the big offenders? Well, as expected, the toilet and bathroom sink had high levels of bacteria. What might be less expected however, was the TV remote and the main light switch for the room. Let’s put it this way, in hospitals the cleanliness CFU goal is less than 5CFU per centimeter squared. The TV remote measured close to 70CFU per centimeter squared. The light switch was a whopping 112CFU per centimeter squared. Yikes! Another major problem they found was in the cleaning tools used by housekeepers. For instance, the sponges housed enormous amounts aerobic bacteria which presents a risk of cross contaminating room to room.
The study was not meant to be a scare tactic but rather, it was done as a first step to introduce the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system to the hotel industry. This system was originally designed by NASA as a way to prevent dangerous chemicals and microbes. The food and healthcare industries already use this system to prevent unwanted encounters with biological and chemical hazards. Kirsch said, “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.”
Kirsch presented her findings at the 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. You can watch the video via the YouTube link below.