The Price of Cleanliness

ABC News tested nine Los Angeles hotel rooms for germs.

ByABC News via logo
February 12, 2009, 1:30 PM

Feb. 11, 2008 — -- When it comes to hotel cleanliness, star ratings and prices may have little to do with how hygienic a room is.

Tune in to Good Morning America on February 12th to for a special under cover investigation of hotel germs and watch hotel maids caught on camera.

ABC News conducted an experiment to see whether more money means fewer germs. We checked into nine Los Angeles-area hotels; three were inexpensive, three were medium-priced and three were high-end.

Microbiologist Chuck Gerba conducted germ tests in the hotel rooms, which varied in price from $98 to $500 per night. In each, we swabbed the same nine items.

"The biggest concern in a hotel room is picking up cold, flu virus or viruses that cause diarrhea," Gerba said. "It doesn't take very many to make you ill."

Gerba tested toilets, sinks, drinking glasses and even irons for germs. The results varied greatly and six of the nine bathroom sinks tested had germ levels considered excessive. One three-star hotel had a lower level of bacteria, but still turned up fecal coliform and MRSA, a serious germ known to cause severe skin infections.

One place hotel guests may not think about when it comes to germs is the room-service menu, a hotel-room staple.

At one swanky five-star hotel, the experiment uncovered high levels of bacteria on the menu, but the others tested clean.

"They flip through the pages. They put their fingers here. So, you are more likely to find something here," Gerba said of the menus.

Another place where germs can hide out is the ice bucket. One bucket at a Beverly Hills three-star hotel had five times the amount of germs Gerba considered acceptable. At some less expensive hotels, the levels were much lower.

And there weren't many germs on keys or irons in any hotel tested.

And if you thought toilets might be one of the germiest things in a hotel? Turns out, whether it was a $98 toilet or a $500 throne, the germ count was not much greater than the toilets in your home.

However, the same couldn't be said of the hair dryer.

"There must be some things you can do with a hair dryer that I am not aware of because some of them were pretty germy," Gerba said.