Hotel guests might assume the quality of their accommodations improves as its star rating goes up.  A stay at a five-star property is expected to come with top-quality amenities, luxury service and well-appointed rooms. But in terms of cleanliness, a study from Travel Math found that these kinds of properties tend to fall short. When compared to three- and four-star hotels, higher-end hotel rooms contain more germs across frequently touched surfaces.

From nine hotels, 36 samples were taken from three-, four- and five-star rated hotels. Across the board, bacteria levels assessed in colony-forming units (CFUs) were counted higher on average compared a typical home, an airplane and even a school. In all hotels, the average amount of bacteria per square inch ranked as follows:

Bathroom counter: 1,288,817 CFUs
Remote control: 1,211,687 CFUs
Desk: 604,907 CFUs
Phone: 4,252 CFUs

Out of all the properties, three-star hotels appeared to be the cleanest. But in every guest room, bathroom surfaces, especially counter tops, were the single dirtiest area among all other spaces.  Various strains of bacteria (bacilli and cocci), yeast, gram-positive rods (bacteria that cause ailments, such as skin infections and pneumonia) and gram-negative rods (bacteria that cause respiratory and other infections) were concentrated in some places more than others.

Bacillus spp, which is associated with respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, was mostly found on remote controls in three-star hotels. Yeast was discovered in high quantities on bathroom surfaces in three-star hotels. In four-star hotels, remotes and phones also tested positive for Bacillus spp. In five-star hotels, the phone was full of gram-positive cocci strains.

Bacteria distribution in three-star hotels:

Bathroom counter: 320,007 CFUs
Remote control: 232,733 CFUs
Desk: 4,687 CFUs
Phone: 11,403 CFUs

Bacteria distribution in four-star hotels:

Bathroom counter: 2,534,773 CFUs
Remote control: 1,400,027 CFUs
Desk: 1,800,003 CFUs
Phone: 137 CFUs

Bacteria distribution in five-star hotels:

Bathroom counter: 1,011,670 CFUs
Remote control: 2,002,300 CFUs
Desk: 40,030 CFUs
Phone: 1,217 CFUs

Thankfully, there are some proactive measures hotel guests can take before getting comfortable in their rooms. The report suggests that visitors may want to pack a small bottle of disinfectant or alcohol wipes to sanitize those frequently touched areas. One solution for handling the remote control is to seal it in a plastic bag. But hotel guests’ best defense against germs is to simply wash hands as often as possible.