The Dirtiest Place on an Airplane Is Not Where You Think

The Dirtiest Place on an Airplane Is Not Where You Think

Knowledge is power.

By Alesandra Dubin
Things You Never Knew About Flying Commercial

If you slather every inch of your body in antibacterial gel after leaving an airplane bathroom — well, we understand the impulse. But we’re here to present the cold, hard fact that it’s not that tiny room that’s actually the place on an airplane worthy of your biggest concern.

No, the distinction for dirtiest place on the airplane goes easily to (wait for it) the tray tables. Trip planning website Travelmath dispatched a microbiologist to test multiple different airports and flights on two major carriers, and then published the findings.

The scientist tested the surfaces for "colony-forming units," (CFU), which do have the potential to make people sick — although doesn’t mean that people who face exposure will indeed fall ill.

By that standard, the six dirtiest places in order are:

1. Tray table: 2,155 CFU per square inch

2. Drinking fountain buttons: 1,240 CFU per square inch

3. Overhead air vent: 285 CFU per square inch

4. Lavatory flush button: 265 CFU per square inch

5. Seatbelt buckle: 230 CFU per square inch

6. Bathroom stall locks: 70 CFU per square inch

Obviously, it makes sense that tray tables might be dirtiest, given just how much — and in how many different ways — users come in contact with them. Unfortunately, it’s also the place from where people eat and drink, so passengers should exercise caution.

"Since this could provide bacteria direct transmission to your mouth,” says the Travelmath report, “a clear takeaway from this is to eliminate any direct contact your food has with the tray table.”

Copy that! You only have to tell us once.

Oh and by the way? According to the report, bathrooms really aren’t your enemy — which might surprise you. “Bathrooms were some of the cleaner surfaces tested, which may be contrary to conventional thought. Regular cleaning schedules mean these surfaces are sanitized more frequently. This is a good thing.”

And now we know.

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