DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – If your summer vacation plans include a hotel stay, you may want to pack an extra supply of hand sanitizer—and maybe even some disinfecting wipes.
In what’s described as a “small” study, University of Houston researchers found that even high-end hotels can host a veritable petri dish of potentially sickening germs.
“We found 18 hot spots, meaning the places where there is high contact and the riskiest areas,” says researcher Katie Kirsch.
Some of the worst hotel room offenders: Bathroom sinks and floors, main light switches and the TV remote.
The research comes as no surprise to former Registered Nurse, Sandra Ware.
“We travel quite a bit,” says Ware. “So when I get to a hotel room, I pull out my sanitizing wipes. I hit all of the light switches, the door knobs, the TV remote, armchairs. I wipe ‘em all down.”
And good thing.
“A toilet seat in a hotel is probably cleaner than the phone, “ says Joel Winders with Pollock Paper Distributors.
North Texas-based Pollock is a distribution company for the nation’s top industrial cleaning products. Winders says the research comes as no surprise.
Pollock has worked with hotels, hospitals, even schools on similar studies—testing common surfaces that harbor germs to help build better cleaning programs.
“Some bacteria can live on a surface up to nine months, your common cold virus can live three to four days,” says Winders. So he makes it part of his travel routine to wipe down TV remotes and common surfaces. “It takes 20-30 seconds.”
Mom Margaret Kelley admits that she was more careful about germs when 3-year-old Drake was small.
“When he was a baby, I would wipe everything down with Purell wipes. I don’t do that as much anymore. Instead, I always take the bed cover off, because I don’t think they clean that regularly.”
And experts say, that’s not all. Even an inexpensive black light can reveal any “organic matter” that may have been missed during a room’s cleaning.
It’s a sign, says Winders, that a hotel’s housekeeping may not be up to par and usually means he’ll “check out and go someplace else.”
At a minimum, Winders suggests using that pocket hand sanitizer that everyone seems to have handy to give common surfaces a good wipe down—because anything that a previous guest has touched should be considered contaminated.
And it could make the difference in whether you bring something back from vacation—other than good memories.
“No matter if it’s 5 star rated, “ says Ware. “It keeps us healthy.”