The Dirt on Which Hotel Rooms are Cleanest

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When you book a hotel, what are your priorities? Location, sure. Cost? Absolutely. Amenities – sure. But what about cleanliness?

Unfortunately, aside from reading customer reviews there’s no way to rate a hotel’s cleanliness ahead of time. You could book a four or five star hotel and decide that some of the additional cost is going to keeping your room tidier … but as recently discovered, you might be quite surprised to find that cost has little to do with actual cleanliness.

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Experts at the site dispatched teams to nine hotels to check out 36 bacteria samples in hotel rooms, and dug up some surprising dirt. Here’s what they found:

The dirtiest places in hotel rooms are….


Bathroom counter (average: 1,288, 817 bacteria Colony Forming Units per square inch)

Remote control (average: 1,211, 687 CFU)

Desk (average: 614,907 CFU)

Phone (average: 4,252 CFU)

None of those locations should be too surprising; we put our mouths, our hands and our personal care items all over these items. But the real surprise came when the CFU were broken down by hotel grade:

3-star hotels

Bathroom counter (320,007 CFU)

Remote control (232,733 CFU)

Phone (11,403 CFU)

Desk (4,687 CFU)

All of these numbers are either at or well below the average “dirtiest” places, and seem to indicate that in a 3-star hotel items are either cleaned more often, or are perhaps used less often.

4-star hotels

Bathroom counter (2,534,773 CFU)

Desk (1,800,003 CFU)

Remote control (1,400,027 CFU)

Phone (137 CFU)

Change the numbers to a 4-star hotel and the public areas skyrocket way above average in CPU numbers. The exception is the phone, which is hardly an issue (widespread use of cell phones may keep telephone receivers relatively clean). Again, there’s no way to know if this means the room is cleaned less well, or people just spend more money in the hotel room when it’s a little more luxurious.

5-star hotels

Remote control (2,002,300 CFU)

Bathroom counter (1,011,670 CFU)

Desk (40,030 CFU)

Phone (1,217 CFU)

Top-of-the-line hotels should be top-line clean, but while they were generally superior to the 4-star hotel, they’re far more bacteria-infested than 3-star hotels. Again, some of this may have to do with residents spending more time in their rooms when they’re comfier, but that doesn’t change the fact that rooms should be cleaned between visits.

“All germs are not created equal,” noted the TravelMath study, noting that multiple kinds of bacteria were searched for, including bacteria that can cause skin infections, pneumonia and respiratory infections, and yeast. Three-star hotels were more likely to have infection-related bacteria, especially on the phone. In high-end hotels, the bacteria was more likely to be respiratory infectious-related.

The good news is that not all bacteria cause illness, and we all need a certain amount of exposure to keep our immune systems on their toes. But if this study has you rethinking any hotel stay you may ever take anywhere, here are a few basic steps you can take to reduce the levels of bacteria in your hotel room – wherever you stay:

  1. Check the room before settling in. Look around to make sure there isn’t a residue of hair, crumbs or other debris from a previous occupant. Inspect the bathroom for mold or mildew.
  2. Wash your hands. Hand-washing, the study notes, reduces the risk of respiratory infections by 16 percent.
  3. Bring wipes or disinfectant spray. Now that you know where the hot spots are, travel with your own cleaning kit and spend a minute or two wiping down those surfaces.
  4. Yank off that bedspread. The top duvet cover, assuming there is one, tends not to get washed after every guest. Pull it off and hide it in the closet for your stay. If you feel particularly icky about the sheets, bring your own and make the bed fresh.
  5. Don’t walk around barefoot. Much like the duvet cover, you have no idea what’s been on that floor or when it was last cleaned. Use socks or slippers.

And, of course, if something doesn’t match your standards, speak up to a manager! Regardless of whether you’re paying 3-, 4-, or 5-star prices, we all deserve a clean place to lay our heads at night.

(Photo Credit: Randee Dawn)

Randee Dawn is a contributor for InsureMyTrip and can be found at and @RandeeDawn on Twitter.


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