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The Dirtiest Surfaces in Planes and Hotels, According to Scientists | Frommer's vvoe / Shutterstock

The Dirtiest Surfaces in Planes and Hotels, According to Scientists

With the considerable rewards of travel come the inevitable risks of encountering crud. 

But some parts of hotels, airplanes, and airports are cruddier than others, according to Reckitt's Lysol Pro Solutions, which devises hygiene protocols for businesses. (You're not going to believe this, but the solutions the team comes up with nearly always involve Lysol products.)

Based on their own research conducted by a group of scientists, Lysol Pro Solutions has named the most contaminated surfaces in travel. The tests did not cover airborne nasties, such as the ones that cause Covid-19.

Reckitt, the consumer goods company that makes Lysol, only released a summary of the report's findings rather than the report itself. In an email, a spokesperson told Frommer's that scientists collected samples in 10 planes and 15 hotels across the country, testing more than 40 touchable surfaces in plane cabins and airport terminals, and 9 surfaces in each hotel room. 

Swabs were subjected to ATP (adenosine triphosphate) analysis to measure "the total presence of biological material," including "nasal secretions, saliva, hand and finger skin cells and soils," which can "harbor viral and bacterial pathogens." Not to mention give us the creeps.  

From those tests, the team determined the germiest hot spots. We have listed them below; in each category, the filthiest surface appears first. 

In plane seat areas:

• (tie) seat belt buckles, window shade handles
• tray table latches
• overhead air vent dials

At airport check-in:

• pin pads at check-in kiosks
• check-in countertops
• baggage office countertops

In hotel rooms

• toilet handles
• (tie) TV remotes, doorknobs
• (tie) desktops, fridge handles, nightstands

In hotel common areas:

• elevator buttons
• luggage cart handrails
• (tie) bathroom doors, front desks, elevator handrails

As a traveler, there are of course some common-sense steps you can take to minimize the dangers. We've summarized what to do in this handy acronym we just came up with: WACK.

  • Wash your hands frequently, and especially after touching high-contact germy surfaces such as toilet handles.
  • Avoid touching stuff you don't have to. Don't fiddle idly with one of the plane's window shades. Use a paper towel to open the airplane lavatory door from the inside. If you're gonna watch TV in your hotel, wrap the remote in the free shower cap from the bathroom before channel surfing (thanks to USA Today for that idea). 
  • Carry sanitizing wipes to give a rubdown to airplane seat belt buckles, hotel doorknobs, and other potentially contaminated spots.
  • Kill germs with hand sanitizer when hand-washing isn't feasible, such as when you return to your seat after using the plane's lavatory. 

You might as well do what you can to protect yourself. Getting sick on the road is wack

For more helpful tips, see our full rundown of ways to avoid germs on an airplane