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The Two Germiest Areas in Hotel Rooms, New Data Reveals

You don't have to be in a hospital to get a "hospital-acquired infection."

Hotel rooms may be cleaned more than most social spaces on the planet, and yet they're still havens for bacteria. That's according to two new studies, one that looked at germs on soft furnishings (such as chairs, comforters, and carpets) and one that looked at hard surfaces in bathrooms. Unfortunately, the results are consistent across categories—your hotel room is likely to be crawling with various types of bacteria, including staph.

Of course, the last souvenir anyone wants to bring home is an infection. One way to minimize your exposure is to know the danger zones of your hotel room. Read on to find out what the germiest item in your hotel room is.

RELATED: These Are the 5 Germiest Places in Airports, According to Science.

What is staph?

Microscopic view of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria
Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock

Staph, scientifically known as Staphylococcus aureus, is a type of bacteria that can be found in many places but is common in hospitals. According to the Mayo Clinic, staph bacteria are for the most part innocuous, causing "relatively minor skin infections" (if they cause anything at all).

Still, staph bacteria can sometimes cause staph infections, which range from irritated skin and superficial boils to fevers, low blood pressure, and stomach pain. In rare cases, some strains can even result in toxic shock syndrome, a serious condition that can be deadly if left untreated.

RELATED: The Gross Reason You Should Never Make Your Bed Right After Waking.

Here's where staph is most likely lurking in a hotel.

A hotel room with a chair and a bed at dusk.
TamuT / Shutterstock

When you get back to your hotel room to relax, don't sit in the chair—even if you're a no-outdoor-clothes-on-the-bed household.

According to research shared by Mattress Next Day, it's unlikely that chairs in hotel rooms get as much attention during the housekeeping process as the bedding or the bathroom might.

And as reported by Workplace Insight, citing a University of Salford study, chairs in shared spaces like offices tend to harbor staph bacteria.

As an extra precaution, when you're in a hotel, place a towel or sheet on the chair, and then take a seat.

RELATED: Never Use Your Hotel Coffee Pot, Says Flight Attendant.

Similar bacteria are lurking in the bathroom.

A person cleans a hotel room bathroom sink.
triocean / Shutterstock

A separate study conducted by Water Filter Guru swabbed various surfaces—including shower heads, faucets, sink handles, toilet seats, and even toothbrush holders—in both hotel rooms and shared-home spaces, with the goal of identifying which items harbored various types of bacteria.

They tested for five different types of bacteria, including gram-negative rods, which as the study authors note, are "commonly associated with hospital-acquired infections." Per the Rhode Island Department of Health, staph is one of the most common such infections.

According to Water Filter Guru's research, hotel sinks are the germiest items in a hotel room. Specifically, sink faucets are what you should look out for. The study revealed hotel sink faucets harbored 30 million colony-forming units (CFUs) of gram-negative rods.

For comparison's sake, the same study showed hotel shower heads had 4 million CFUs of the same bacteria type, while shower handles had just 20 (not 20 million, just 20 total). For an even grosser data point, a hotel's sink faucet had 55,000 times the bacteria of a hotel's toilet seat.

Logically, this makes sense. When disinfecting a room, you'd naturally wipe down handles, toilet seats, and other surfaces that are regularly touched by humans. You may not, however, think to scrub the underside of a sink or shower faucet.

In any case, to avoid bacteria infections in your next hotel room, consider wiping down the faucet. Obviously, it's not ideal to shower with bottled water, but if you want to be extra cautious, you could use bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth.

RELATED: The No. 1 Mistake You're Making in Your Hotel Room, Bed Bug Experts Warn.

Here are some of the other germiest places in a hotel room.

hotel housekeeper cart
WeStudio / Shutterstock

In their report, Mattress Next Day referenced "insights from real hotel cleaners shared on Reddit," which detailed how throws and comforters are often only washed during a room's deep clean—meaning not every time a room is turned over.

To put in perspective how gross this may be, they say, "An average person sweats up to 500ml each night, and over an 8-hour slumber, we shed a whopping 320,000 dead skin cells. In a month, that adds up to a staggering 15 [liters] of sweat and a jaw-dropping 9.6 million dead skin cells."

Mattress Next Day also points out that all soft furnishings are a potential breeding ground for bed bugs. However, they specifically call out fabric headboards, which are also usually only included in a monthly deep clean.

"[Bed bugs] can gather within the fabric of the headboard and lay up to 20 eggs per time, making their removal a complex task, often necessitating professional intervention," they explain.

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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