Coffee maker? Nope. Bed sheets? Nah. Toilet bowl? Not even close.
TV remotes are still considered the hands-down germiest part of hotel rooms, years after an initial study tested them for fecal bacteria as well as bacteria known to cause strep throat and staph infections.
BBC Travel recently polled frequent travelers on their most egregious hotel secrets. Respondents were quick to point out that the TV channel changer is grossly germ-encrusted. (To be fair, the light switch is even more germy, but remotes definitely cause travelers more willies.)
Most panic stems from a 2012 study that found the average hotel room remote has 67.6 colony-forming units of bacteria per square centimeter (a typical hospital standard is five). It's unlikely that hotel remotes have become less germ-laden in the years since, and travelers are still grossed out.
How do you protect yourself from this sneaky sickness agent? A few suggestions:
- Bring a plastic bag. Put the remote inside, and control it from there.
- Search for hotels that let you control the TV from your phone with a mobile app. LodgeNet, a popular remote control app, is likely on its way out. But there's even sexier new technology on the way.
- Clean the remote with your own antibacterial wipes. "Natural" or plant-based wipes will remove the most germs, but traditional bacteria-fighting chemicals will kill the most germs once they're removed.
- Better yet, try bleach or alcohol. It may sound extreme, but infection control specialists say it's best to clean your remote with something besides antibacterial wipes. Bring some bleach or alcohol in a travel-sized spray bottle, and go to town.
- Don't watch TV. You came on vacation to unwind, right? Then it's best to unplug.
Or, alternatively, channel surf, wash your hands thoroughly and hope for the best!