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September 02, 2015

Study: The dirtiest place on an airplane isn't the bathroom. So what is?

Airports and airplanes are dirtier than your home, and the ickiest place on the plane isn't where you might think, according to Travelmath, a trip-calculating website.

Travelmath sent a microbiologist to collect 26 samples from five airports and four flights. The samples were then tested to estimate the total bacteria population per square inch.

The results? Contrary to what you might think, the dirtiest place on an airplane wasn't the bathroom. It was the tray table, with 2,155 colony-forming units (CFU) per square inch.

"Surprisingly, it is the one surface that our food rests on – the tray table – that was the dirtiest of all the locations and surfaces tested," Travelmath said. 

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


Here is the study's ranking of the dirtiest places and surfaces on airplanes and at airports:

  1. Tray table - 2,155 CFU/sq. in.
  2. Drinking fountain buttons - 1,240 CFU/sq. in.
  3. Overhead air vent - 285 CFU/sq. in.
  4. Lavatory flush button - 265 CFU/sq. in.
  5. Seatbelt buckle - 230 CFU/sq. in.
  6. Bathroom stall locks - 70 CFU/sq. in.

Because bathrooms are sanitized more frequently, they were some of the cleaner surfaces tested.

Travelmath advises that fliers bring hand sanitizer for any dirty surfaces they may touch along their journey. But remember, germaphobes, trying to avoid germs is pretty much useless.

Read more about the study here.

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