Air travel and germs tend to go hand in hand. Frequent travelers swear by sanitary wipes and 3-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer. They’ll tell you to wipe down everything from restroom fixtures to the tray tables on the planes themselves. These are all very good ideas, but some might be surprised to learn that the dirtiest places in airports, regarding germs, are actually the self-service ticketing kiosks.
So, just how dirty are they? Well, according to a Texas-based insurance company, self-service kiosks have more than 1,475 times the amount of bacteria than your toilet seat back home. The company conducted multiple tests at three different airports throughout the United States, swabbing a variety of surfaces and then counting the number of bacteria units per square inch.
While the self-service kiosks proved to be the dirtiest surface in airports, they aren’t the only things to be leery of when traveling. The second and third place awards went to the armrests at the gates seats and water fountain buttons, respectively. The bacteria levels found on each of these locations is comparable to the levels found in the kitchen sinks of most common homes.
The company also swabbed surfaces on airplanes. While the planes were a little cleaner than the airports they fly into, the results of the test still give us plenty to cringe about. The flush buttons in the lavatories proved to be the dirtiest surfaces in the sky—approximately 3,000 times dirtier than the flush handle in your average home bathroom. Tray tables came in second place, and seat belt buckles came in third.
The presence of germs doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to get sick, but these figures should definitely give you a moment’s pause the next time you travel. If you don’t normally bring sanitary wipes and hand gel with you, it might be time to reconsider that decision. It doesn’t take long to wipe down the surface of a kiosk—especially if it will keep you from being laid up in the room with a stomach bug during your entire weeklong trip to Hawaii.