The Germiest Surfaces in a Hotel Room

Headed to a hotel for a holiday vacation? You might want to be careful about what you touch. Here are some of the germiest surfaces found in hotel rooms.


A 2016 study from TravelMath tested samples from nine three-, four- and five-star hotels to find out which often-touched surfaces harbor the most germs. And though phones had the fewest colony-forming units per square inch out of all the surfaces in the study, many were teeming with gram-positive bacteria, which can cause skin infections and pneumonia. Three-star hotels showed the most colony-forming units on phones, followed by five-star hotels. But fortunately, an antibacterial wipe should make quick work of those germs.


The TravelMath study also tested desks in each hotel room and found many more colony-forming units on average than what the researchers swabbed off the phones. They discovered the most colony-forming units on desks in four-star hotels ó many of which were gram-negative bacteria that can cause respiratory infections. Three-star hotels had the cleanest desks, relatively speaking, but itís still important to be conscientious of germs before you place items on any hotel room desk.

Housekeeping cart

housekeeping cartCredit: IPGGutenbergUKLtd/Getty Images

A 2012 study by researchers at the University of Houston, Purdue and the University of South Carolina tested 19 surfaces at nine hotel rooms across the United States. Although the study was simply preliminary and the sample size was small, they did come back with some consistent findings. And one of the most concerning was the high level of contaminants on the housekeepersí carts. The researchers found some cleaning items, especially sponges and mops, had high levels of pathogens ó which had the potential to cross-contaminate hotel rooms and spread disease.

Coffee maker

A 2013 investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation consumer watchdog series Marketplace tested 54 rooms from six large hotel chains in Canada for disease-causing germs. And it flagged hotel room coffee makers as a common spot for pathogens to linger, as the appliance might not be disinfected as part of the typical cleaning process. Plus, judging by the number of pathogens the investigators found on some coffee makers, they might have been skipped altogether for cleaning.

Drinking glasses and ice bucket

The Marketplace investigation also found ample pathogens on hotel room drinking glasses and the ice bucket. It even caught footage of one housekeeper washing a drinking glass with potentially contaminated rubber gloves and bar soap from the bathroom counter. Likewise, a small investigation by television stations across the United States found ď11 of 15 hotels tested did not take dirty glasses out of the room for cleaning and sanitizing.Ē At one hotel, they even saw a housekeeper clean glasses and the coffee pot with a spray bottle of Lysol mildew remover.


food and towels on a hotel room bedCredit: rilueda/Getty Images

Hotel room bedding grosses out many people for good reason. The Marketplace investigation found all sorts of bodily fluids in bedspreads and pillows, which likely donít receive a deep clean as often as they should. One small piece of good news is the University of Houston study learned headboards typically have some of the lowest levels of contamination in a hotel room. Itís just too bad you canít sleep on them instead of the bed. If your hotel offers it, book an ďallergy-friendlyĒ room, which should have cleaner bedding and better air purification.


You probably already can guess that a hotel bathroom isnít the cleanest place. And itís not just the toilet thatís hosting some germs. The Marketplace investigation found dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria on a hairdryer in one of the high-end hotels it tested. In fact, the investigators found superbugs on surfaces in every single hotel they went to. Thatís not to say theyíre on every hotel hairdryer, but itís a good reminder to wash your hands well after you touch anything in the bathroom.

Bedside lamp and light switches

Even in your own home, light switches typically are one of the germiest spots. And thatís no different in hotel rooms. The University of Houston study found high levels of contamination on the bedside lamp switch. So be sure to hit that with an antibacterial wipe, along with the main and bathroom light switches.


Many studies on hotel rooms have come to similar conclusions about the TV remotes: Theyíre gross. The TravelMath study found the remotes it tested had, on average, more than a million colony-forming units. And remotes actually were the germiest surface overall at five-star hotels. But instead of worrying about getting every nook and cranny of a remote clean with a wipe or spray, a common trick is to lock it in a plastic bag. That way, you can touch the remote without having to worry about contamination.

Bathroom counter

A person cleans a hotel room bathroom counter.Credit: shironosov/Getty Images

Just ahead of the TV remotes in the TravelMath study was the bathroom counter ó which also had more than a million colony-forming units on average. In fact, in the four-star hotel rooms the researchers tested, the bathroom counter was the absolute dirtiest surface out of the whole study, with five-star hotels close behind. Interestingly, three-star hotels showed significantly less ó though still potentially dangerous ó bacteria on the bathroom counters. And the Marketplace study found superbugs on bathroom faucets, showing itís a good idea to take an antibacterial wipe to the whole sink area ó and wash your hands well during your stay, too.

The good news

The researchers in these studies did come back with some unsettling findings. But the good news is not all of the germs on these surfaces will make a healthy human sick. And because most of these studies were fairly small, we canít say for sure whether every hotel room is as bacteria-laden. As long as you use common sense (i.e., donít touch the toilet handle and then your face), keep yourself healthy and practice good hygiene habits, youíll have a very good chance of making it through your hotel stay without picking up any bugs.

Main image credit: rilueda/Getty Images


Michael F
Michael F1 months ago

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Danuta W2 months ago

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Mely Lu2 months ago


Danuta W
Danuta W2 months ago

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Lesa D
Lesa DiIorio2 months ago


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Clare O2 months ago


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Vincent T2 months ago

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Ruth S2 months ago


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