The Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science - University of Arizona

Cleaning of Bacteria Contamination on TV Remote Controls

Sheri Maxwell, B.S.
Charles P. Gerba, Ph.D.

Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona. 85721

June 15, 2007


According to a previous study, the television remote control was found to have the highest level of bacteria in a patient's hospital room, which can lead to nosocomial infection, or hospital-acquired infection. More than 2 million Americans acquire hospital-related infections each year with almost 90,000 deaths reported. Each year, patients with hopistal-acquired infections increase hospital bills by more than $9.5 Billion.


The purpose of this study was to determine if a TV remote with a flat surface was more conducive in removing bacterial contamination.

Materials and Methods

Four different brands of TV remotes were used in this study: Panasonic, On-Command, Zenith and Clean Remote. An overnight culture of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE) was used to inoculate the remotes. A sterile cotton tipped applicator was dipped into the bacterial suspension and applied to the face of the remotes. After inoculation, the remotes were allowed to air dry for 30 minutes. Each brand of remote was swabbed to determine the number of bacteria that remained after air drying. The remaining remotes consisting of two of each brand were cleaned with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes using a sweeping motion three times on the face of the remotes. The surface of the remotes was then sampled with a swab that had been pre-moistened in a neutralizing broth. All remotes were cleaned and swabbed in the exact same manner. The swab was then placed in 1 mL of neutralizing broth. Dilutions of the sample were assayed onto Tryptic Soy agar amended with 5% sheep blood for analysis of MRSA and VRE. The petri dishes were incubated at 35 degrees C for 48 hours and bacterial colonies counted. All remotes were disinfected between experiments by spraying twice with 70% ethanol and exposed to UV light for 12 hours.

Results and Discussion

Results in Table 1 show the initial numbers of MRSA and VRE on the TV remotes before cleaning and after cleaning. The Clean Remote had considerably fewer bacteria on its surface face than the other brands. The Clean Remote had far fewer initial bacteria. The reason for this is unclear. It could be that the greater surface area of the regular remotes with raised buttons results in capture of more bacteria i.e. the swab touches more surfaces during inoculation of the remote. This implies that during use the flat remotes get less contaminated than the ones with buttons, because more surface is handled when they are used. This could be another benefit of the flat remotes.

Table 1. MRSA and VRE bacterial numbers before and after cleaning

Remote Initial Number of MRSA Bacteria on Remote Before Cleaning Number of MRSA Bacteria Remaining on Remote After Cleaning Initial Number of VRE Bacteria on Remote Before Cleaning Number of VRE Bacteria Remaining on Remote After Cleaning
Clean Remote 6,550,000 10,000 1,000,000 251
Zenith 10,500,000 7,700,000 6,100,000 2,190,000
On-Command 12,000,000 4,700,000 5,450,000 1,280,000
Panasonic 9,100,000 1,100,000 2,400,000 215,000

Table 2 shows the combined data of MRSA and VRE, again showing considerably fewer bacteria remaining on the Clean Remote than the other brands.

Table 2. Bacteria numbers on remotes before and after cleaning

Remote Initial Number of All Bacteria on Remote Before Cleaning Number of All Bacteria on Remote After Cleaning
Clean Remote 7,550,000 10,251
Zenith 16,600,000 9,890,000
On-Command 17,450,000 5,980,000
Panasonic 11,500,000 1,315,000