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Why You Should Always Wipe Down an Airplane Seat

Traveling can be stressful enough without having to worry about getting sick, but travel-related illness is a very real issue. And of course, getting sick while traveling is a sure way to put a damper on your vacation (or make that work trip even less enjoyable than you previously thought possible). The good news, though, is that there are some proactive measures you can take to protect yourself from germs and bacteria—especially while traveling by plane.

In fact, by simply taking the time to wipe down your airplane seat before you sit down, you can significantly reduce your chances of catching an illness. From there, you can travel with greater confidence.

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Reasons to Wipe Down Your Airplane Seat

You may be thinking that there’s no reason to go out of your way and wipe down your own airplane seat. After all, isn’t it the flight crew’s job to clean the plane in between flights?

Well, yes. Flight crews are tasked with wiping down surfaces and making sure a plane is clean before you board. But in reality, flight crews often don’t have enough time to do as thorough of a job as you might expect. This means that some surfaces might be missed or not cleaned very well at all, leaving you susceptible to bacteria and microbes that could make you sick. Also, someone may have spilled something such as lighter fluid or other chemical not visible that you may not want on your clothes.

By wiping down your own airplane seat and the surrounding area before you sit down, you can enjoy the peace of mind in knowing that every surface you’re touching has been disinfected and that you’re less likely to fall ill after traveling as a result. And honestly, the flight crew and the passengers sitting around you will probably appreciate your efforts.

Best Practices For Cleaning an Airplane Seat

Not sure where to begin when it comes to cleaning your airplane seat? We’ve got a few tips and tricks worth keeping mind as you prepare for your flight or red-eye flight.

Start With the Right Cleaning Products

Begin with travel-sized versions of the most effective cleaning products. Remember that anything you bring in your carry-on bag will need to meet TSA guidelines; this means that any liquid cleaners you may be bringing cannot be more than 3.4 ounces each. And yes, this means you won’t be able to bring that full-sized bottle of disinfecting spray from home onto the plane.

Typically, the best type of product to bring onto a plane to clean your seat and surrounding areas is a pack of sanitizing wipes. These are small enough to easily fit inside a small carry-on bag while also meeting the TSA’s liquid guidelines. If you prefer a spray (such as Lysol), make sure you transfer it into a TSA-approved bottle and seal that bottle inside a plastic zipper bag before packing it.

Spray or Wipe Down the Seat

Keep your sanitizing wipes or spray in an easily accessible part of your carry-on bag so that you can quickly get it out as you board the plane. After all, there will likely be other passengers boarding the plane behind you, and you don’t want to hold everyone up by shuffling around your bag for your cleaning supplies.

If your airplane seat is made of a plastic-like material (such as vinyl), you can simply take a sanitizing wipe and thoroughly wipe it down before you sit. If you brought a disinfecting spray, you can give the seat a spritz as well. In general, though, a sanitizing wipe will let you do a more thorough cleaning job. That’s because you’ll really want to disinfect more than just the seat surface; wiping down the seatbelt buckle and armrest is also advised.

Follow Up With Other Hard Surfaces

Of course, the airplane seat isn’t the only surface you’ll be coming into contact with during your flight. Take a second to think about all the other surfaces on the plane that you may touch, such as:

  • Air circulation knobs, light switches, and call buttons
  • Seat-reclining knobs and levers
  • Tray table and tray table latches
  • Seatbacks
  • Window shades
  • Barf bag

It never hurts to give these surfaces a quick wipe down as well!

Allow Proper Drying Time

This may be easier said than done when you have other passengers behind you trying to get to their seats, but cleaning products (including disinfecting sprays and wipes) are most effective when they’re able to dry on their own. This means you shouldn’t immediately sit down on a still-wet seat or use a towel to dry a surface after you’ve cleaned it.

For this reason, you may want to consider doing a quick wipe-down of your seat before you put your carry-on luggage in an overhead bin or underneath your seat. By the time you get your stuff situated, your seat will likely be dry. From there, you can sit down and get to work wiping down the other surfaces (tray tables, knobs, etc.) around you without holding up the line of passengers trying to get to their seats.

What About Fabric Seats?

Of course, not all airline seats are made of vinyl or other easily-cleaned materials. Fabric seats are common on some airplanes and pose a unique cleaning challenge. If you’re traveling on a plane with fabric seats, you can give yourself some added protection by wearing a long-sleeved, hooded sweatshirt with pants. This will minimize skin contact with the seat itself, which is better than nothing. Just be sure to shower and change clothes once you land and get settled in.

Other Tips For Avoiding Germs While Traveling

In addition to wiping down your seat and surfaces, there are some other steps you can take to avoid germs when you fly.

Use Hand Sanitizer

Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs, but using hand sanitizer before, during, and after your flight is never a bad idea.

Avoid Touching Your Face

When you come into contact with illness-causing germs on your hands, the real problem is ingesting that bacteria. This most often happens when you touch your face or mouth, so do your best to avoid touching your face at all during and after your flight.

Choose Your Seat Wisely

Unfortunately, cleaning the surfaces around you won’t protect you from getting sick if you’re sitting in proximity to somebody who is already sick. If you have the option to snag a seat on a flight that’s not full, try to sit in an empty row or as far away from other passengers as possible and ask the flight attendant about the airplane filtration. This won’t be an option on every flight, of course, but keeping your distance from others is a great way to avoid the spread of germs—especially on a plane.

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