These Are The Grossest Things You Touch On Airplanes

Think the food is the grossest thing you’ll encounter on your next flight? Think again. A recent review by Drexel Medicine revealed the germiest places on airplanes, and by the looks of it, it may be time to start packing a hazmat suit in your carry-on.

“Airplanes, like most forms of public transportation, are filled with germs,” says the report. “Whenever you cram a bunch of people in a tight space for a few hours – especially one with limited air flow – germ accumulation is inevitable.”

With that comforting kick-off, Drexel Medicine exposes the six things on planes that are most likely to get you sick.


No surprises here – airplane lavatories aren’t exactly bastions of cleanliness. A single bathroom serves roughly 50 passengers, so you can imagine the tapestry of germs and bacteria that’s coating every surface. Skip the lav if you’re on a short enough flight. If not, use paper towels when you touch the faucet, toilet seat lid, and door handle. Be sure to close the toilet lid before flushing to prevent further germ dissemination.

Blankets and Pillows

That snuggly blanket and cuddly pillow aren’t so snuggly and cuddly after all. You’re likely not the first passenger who’s come in contact with them, and they probably weren’t washed between flights. Do you really want to snooze with your cheek pressed against someone else’s drool? Bringing your own sleeping accoutrements is the better bet.

Touchscreen Entertainment Systems

Everyone loves the seatback touchscreens, but with touch in the name, you know they’re a prime breeding ground for germs. Every single person who sat in that seat before you probably had their hands on it, and who knows where their hands were before? Your own electronic devices – or one of those retro book things – are safer. If you can’t resist the siren song of the touchscreen, bring hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face.

In-Flight Magazines

We both know you don’t need a solar powered cooling hat or a mini vacuum cleaner for your desk, so put down that SkyMall. There’s no way to know how many passengers have flipped through an in-flight magazine before you. What you do know is that they’re never “cleaned” unless a new publication comes out – and that’s only once a quarter.

Seat Pockets

Do not be deceived by the seemingly innocent seat pocket. What appears at first to be a handy storage solution for your headphones, sunglasses, and snacks is in fact one of the worst offenders when it comes to in-flight germs. Passengers stuff all kinds of disgusting material into the pockets, from fingernail clippings to used tissues and diapers. They’re essentially trash bins. Your knickknacks are better off stowed in your luggage below the seat.

Tray Tables

You may have heard the horror stories about tray tables already. That thing you’re supposed to eat off of is used for all manner of icky activities. Flight attendants have reported seeing passengers use their tray tables to hide chewed gum or even change dirty diapers. Avoiding the tray table completely is a major inconvenience, so bring along disinfectant wipes to perform a scrub down before you chow down.