The Dirtiest Spot In Your Airplane Seat Isn't What You'd Think

While it's not the most pleasant thing to think about, airplanes hold a lot of germs. It makes sense. These vessels of transportation move countless people around the world, connecting travelers to their destinations, while bringing their germs along with them. Each passenger touches the seat belt, air vent, tray table, and armrests regularly throughout their flight. While planes are cleaned in between each flight, it's tough to know how thorough the cleaning process was, and honestly, it's unlikely that every square inch of each passenger seat is perfectly sanitized, particularly during quick turnarounds. 

As anyone who travels frequently knows, garbage gets left behind in the seat pocket and under the seats often enough, despite airlines' best efforts to tidy up. Plus, in a rush, the process of sanitizing might be nothing more than a quick wipe-down. The good news is that there are certain things you can do to mitigate contact with germs. The window seat tends to be the best airline seat for germaphobes. Also, don't touch certain spots on an airplane, since every surface has the potential to be very germ-ridden. But the dirtiest spot on a plane is, of all things, the seat pocket in front of you. Who knew?

Why the seat pocket on a plane is so dirty

As much as you can, avoid touching the seat back pocket. Flight attendants do their best to pick up any garbage shoved in the pockets, but the area itself is rarely wiped down and sanitized. On TikTok, flight attendant Brenda Orelus (@flightbae.b) shared why seat pockets are the dirtiest spots on a plane. "They're dirtier than the lavatories, they're dirtier than the seat cushions, and they're dirtier than the tray tables, and let me tell you why," Orelus said. "It's because they're never cleaned."

Orelus went on to note that cleaners remove trash from the pockets and that's it: "So all of those germs have accumulated and there's no real regular maintenance or cleaning of those surfaces whereas lavatories are regularly wiped down and sanitized." Unsurprisingly, many people commented with their own experiences. Someone wrote that they saw a parent shove a dirty diaper in a seat pocket, while others said they've seen passengers put dirty tissues in them and even rest bare feet against them.

On Reddit, someone asked flight attendants for their big secrets and HausOfDarling wrote back, confirming our fears: "I ALWAYS recommend you never, ever, ever, EVER use or put anything in the seat pocket," they explained. "They are cleared of rubbish but are never 'cleaned.' I have pulled out and seen all sorts [being] pulled out from there. Dirty tissues, sick bags, knickers, socks, [peoples'] feet, gum, half sucked sweets, apple cores ... and then next flight you go and put your phone/laptop/iPad in there." Yikes!

How to keep your flight as sanitary as possible

With such horrible images about seat back pockets, it's worthwhile to consider how to travel as hygienically as possible. Consider traveling with a small package of sanitizing wipes, and thoroughly wipe down every area on or near your seat that you're likely to touch during your flight. Andrew Dominic DeMarco, MD, told Martha Stewart that you should cleanse as best you can your armrests, headrest, air vents, any buttons you might push, and of course, the seat back pocket. Wipe the area down and allow it to dry naturally, as the process of drying is part of the disinfecting procedure. Wear long pants and a hoodie, so that no part of your skin is touching surfaces exposed to the public. 

You can't use wipes on mesh or fabric, so don't try wiping these textures down if that's what your seat back pocket is made of. Instead, don't put anything in the seat back pocket, and avoid touching it during your flight. If you must use it to store books or items you'll need during your flight, consider bringing a plastic bag with you. This should act as a liner between your items and the seat back pocket. Place your items in the bag, and then place the bag in the seat pocket. Once the flight is over, throw away the bag. Also, sanitize your hands, and avoid touching your face during the flight. Once you land, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands.