They’re large metal containers filled over and over again with people from around the world, so it’s really no surprise that airplanes are gigantic Petri dishes of nastiness. From entering your departure airport to disembarking at your final destination, the average person is bombarded with germs in countless ways, not to mention the recirculated air everywhere, practically begging for you to get sick.
Website TravelMath.com dug deep and researched the dirtiest things on an airplane and in the airport, revealing that the bathroom is not, in fact, the lead culprit. Yes, you read that right — there are at least six things onboard your average plane and in your average airport that are more disgusting than that teeny-tiny closet washroom.
The website sent a microbiologist to take samples from five U.S. airports and two separate airplanes (though they didn’t reveal which ones, understandably). For study purposes, dirtiness was measured by CFUs (colony-forming units) per square inch. Believe us, there was plenty of dirt to go around.
Here are the top 6 dirtiest places on an airplane and in the airport:
6. Airport bathroom stall lock: 70 CFU/sq. in.
Not a shocker, right? Imagine how many thousands of people put their grubby mitts on this every single day? We won’t even get into how many people don’t bother to wash their hands. Ewww.
5. Airplane seat belt buckle: 230 CFU/sq. in.
These archaic devices that are still featured in the safety brochure (c’mon, guys, who doesn’t know how to buckle these by now?) have more germs than a bathroom stall handle. Let that sink in. Just foul.
4. Airplane bathroom flush button: 265 CFU/sq. in.
Besides releasing the scariest and loudest sound known to man (not really, but it’s still terrifying), the flush button for an airline toilet just got worse. At least all of those urban legends about people being sucked down the toilet hole and into the air are fake. This dirtiness factoid is true.
3. Airplane overhead air vent: 285 CFU/sq. in.
Mmmmm … recirculated air. Already nasty, but now we know even touching it is potentially harmful to our health. We’d rather sweat our body weight than touch these again, thanks.
2. Airport drinking fountain button: 1,240 CFU/sq. in.
Just do us a favour and splurge on that $8 bottle of Dasani, OK? It’s worth it.
1. Airplane tray table: 2,155 CFU/sq. in.
Here it is, folks. The resting place for all germs. It’s where we eat, fill out those endless customs forms, and hell, we’ve even seen people sleep with their FACES on these things. Never again. Or else, we’ll be covering the surface with napkins. Clean, disinfected napkins.
Travelmath.com has suggested that planes’ overall dirtiness has increased due to upped pressure on staff to rapidly clean the aircraft for the next slate of passengers. They simply don’t have enough time to do a thorough cleaning, whereas bathrooms are scrubbed and more diligently washed.
The silver lining after these realizations? All 26 samples taken by the microbiologist were negative for the presence of fecal coliforms such as E. coli, which can potentially be infectious. Hey, we’ll take that good news.