The real reason you might not want to use a hotel hair dryer

We have every reason to want to pack light when we travel. Especially when we're traveling on budget fare tickets, checking a bag can cost us extra for just about every domestic flight, and the size of cabin storage seems to shrink every time we look. Also, there are a ton of things we shouldn't pack when we go on a trip anyway. 

In the face of rising travel costs and shrinking cabin spaces, even publications like The New York Times offer helpful tips on how to pack efficiently, with an emphasis on maximizing suitcase space. And more often than not, experts recommend that we leave our hairdryers behind because they're bulky and they may not have the right plugs or voltage (especially if we are going overseas).

But one germ expert says we may want to change our minds about leaving our trusty hair dryer at home.

Why bringing your own hair dryer may be a good idea

ABC asked Microbiologist Chuck Gerba to carry out tests in different Los Angeles hotel rooms, which ranged in price from $98 to $500 a night. Together, they took germ samples from the same items across the different rooms, from glasses and toilets to sinks, irons, and hairdryers. Gerba says: "The biggest concern in a hotel room is picking up cold, flu virus or viruses that cause diarrhea," Gerba says (via ABC). "It doesn't take very many to make you ill."

While Gerba found that the germ count in most hotel toilets and bathrooms were not much worse than the germ count in our own homes (we don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing), the microbiologist raised a red flag over the hotel hair dryers. "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 says.

Other hotel germ colonies we might need to be aware of

The swabs turned up germ counts in other "interesting" places, too. At one five-star hotel, the microbiologist found high levels of bacteria on the room service menu (but the others turned up clean). Gerba thinks this is understandable, and explains, "They flip through the pages. They put their fingers here. So, you are more likely to find something here." Another germ hang out is the ice bucket — Gerba found the ice bucket at one three-star Beverly Hills hotel to have five times the level considered acceptable, with some of the cheaper hotel rooms having much lower levels, thanks to their protective plastic covers.

The microbiologist says the way housekeepers clean a room has an impact on how clean it actually is. "You have to be very careful in the use of your disinfectants, your cleaning tools, and where you wipe and what you wipe so you don't really move germs around," Gerba says. "You don't want to give them a free ride around the hotel room."

So, since you don't know how thorough the hotel's housekeepers clean their rooms, it's a good idea to pack your own hair dryer, just in case.