The Dirtiest Places On An Airplane Might Surprise You

This may come as a surprise, but the dirtiest spots on an airplane are nowhere near the bathroom. According to Explore, tray tables harbor nearly 10 times more bacteria than the toilet flush button. These surfaces may also carry dangerous viruses and antibiotic-resistant germs. For example, researchers detected methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — more commonly known by its abbreviation MRSA — a bacterium that may cause skin infections, pneumonia, or even sepsis.

Blankets, pillows, air vents, armrests, and other surfaces are all breeding grounds for germs. An example is Escherichia coli, a bacterium found on seat pockets and armrests. If ingested, it may cause diarrhea, cystitis, or urinary tract infections, according to 2013 research published in Frontiers in Microbiology

The same caution goes for the air vents above the passenger seats, which are touched by hundreds of people every day. These areas carry a whopping 285 colony-forming units of bacteria per square inch, whereas the lavatory flush button has around 265 CFUs per square inch.

The cabin air is pretty clean but can still wreak havoc on your skin. Most airplanes use hospital-grade filters and circulate the air from top to bottom, which helps reduce the microbial load. 

As far as restrooms go, they are cleaned but not disinfected between flights. With that in mind, remember to sanitize your hands after touching the washroom handle, headrest, seat belts, and other contact surfaces. Use wipes to disinfect the touch screen and clean the tray table before and after eating.