7 Dirtiest Parts on a Plane

Dirtiest Parts on a Plane

Hey there, fellow germaphobes! During my travels, I’ve seen my fair share of gross stuff on airplanes.

Sure, flying in a metal tube 35,000 feet in the air can make anyone uneasy, but some areas are way worse than others when it comes to cleanliness.

After consulting with experts and doing my own detective work, I’ve uncovered the 7 dirtiest spots on planes that you should definitely avoid touching if you want to escape your flight germ-free.

Let’s dive in!

plane seat guide

Tray Tables

These handy fold-down tables see a lot of action during flights. From holding drinks and food to providing a surface for books and electronics, they get handled constantly.

Unfortunately, cleaning crews often overlook tray tables between flights, leaving behind plenty of germs from previous passengers. Even a simple wipe down can miss crumbs and sticky spots lurking within grooves and hinges.


I always give mine a thorough disinfecting with a sanitizing wipe as soon as I board.

Seatbelt Buckles

You definitely don’t want to skip the seatbelt for safety reasons, but beware that buckle!

Think about how many people have buckled and unbuckled on your seat over hundreds of flights. Those metal buckles harbor germs from every single flyer.

Whenever I buckle up, I make sure to not let the buckle touch any part of my body directly.

I also give it a surreptitious spritz of a disinfectant spray when no one is looking. Gotta do what you gotta do.

Lavatory Door Handles

Public restrooms are germy places to begin with, but airplane lavs take it to the next level.

Just imagine all the hands that have touched those tiny door handles after using the facilities. Coughing, sneezing, you name it.

Door handles are prime real estate for spreading germs fast, especially in the confined space of an airplane.

So, I always make sure to use a paper towel as a barrier when opening and closing the door.

Pro tip: use elbows whenever possible to avoid hand contact altogether.

Seat Pockets

Who isn’t curious what treasures lie within that magical seat pocket in front? Old food, used tissues, barf bags…you just never know!

Flight attendants only do a quick wipe of these pockets between flights if they aren’t too crammed. Think twice before sticking your hands inside to explore.

If you absolutely must use it, keep disinfecting wipes handy for a DIY deep clean first.

Overhead Air Vents

While air vents pump in purified air, that doesn’t prevent the vent itself from harboring bacteria and viruses from oh-so-many sources.

Just think — every cough, sneeze, and breath can send germs right into that vent, ready to rain down on unsuspecting passengers below.

I’d recommend reaching up delicately with a tissue or paper towel to redirect the airflow away from your face.

Inflight Magazines

You might be tempted to flip through the glossy pages of an inflight magazine to pass the time. However, dozens of germy hands have already thumbed through before you.

If you must read, consider asking the flight attendant for a fresh, unopened magazine.

Or, bring your own reading material. Trust me, e-readers are better germ barriers than dog-eared magazines!


The battle for the armrest can get ugly on crowded flights. While your seatmate might win the territory dispute, you’re both losing when it comes to germs. Every elbow, forearm, and hand leaves behind germs on these shared surfaces.

I wipe my armrest down thoroughly with disinfectant right when I get settled, but avoiding touching it altogether works even better to stay in the clear.

Use your own sweater or pillow as a barrier if needed.

Final Thoughts

mom and toddler on plane

The key to steering clear of airplane germs is staying vigilant!

Follow these tips to avoid the dirtiest spots, and don’t be shy about busting out disinfecting wipes or sprays. You’ll arrive at your destination healthier and happier.

Safe travels, germaphobes…this is one fight we can win together!


What are the best disinfecting products to use on airplanes?

The CDC recommends alcohol wipes with at least 70% alcohol. Also look for EPA-registered disinfectant sprays or wipes with proven efficacy against viruses and bacteria.

Should I wear a mask on the plane?

Wearing a high-quality N95 mask greatly reduces risks from airborne germs. Be sure to change the mask every 4 hours if it’s cloth.

How often do airlines clean between flights?

Policies vary, but expect a quick cabin surface wipe rather than extensive disinfecting. High-touch areas may only get cleaned nightly.

Where are the cleanest spots on a plane?

Try to avoid high-touch hot zones. Best bets are overhead bins, below the seat, and your own purified air vent.

What else can I bring to sanitize on the plane?

Portable UV sanitizers and antimicrobial bags for personal items are great extras. Don’t forget hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.

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