How to disinfect your plane seat

Ever noticed how you board a plane in full health and emerge hours later carrying variants of the common cold, influenza and the plague? The worst thing you can do before a trip, for either work or fun, is to allow yourself to get sick on the way over. Making sure you stay as hygienic as possible (emphasis on the as possible) in your own seat is the first line of defence for your health.

So, you’re about to board a plane – or germ tube, as we like to call them – and your hazmat suit wouldn’t fit in your carry on. What’s the best way to disinfect your seat?

Step 1. Bring wipes
Possibly the most practical invention since the wheel, disinfectant wipes are a must on any plane trip. While you can buy bulk packs, we recommend smaller ones so they don’t take up too much space in your carry on. Also, opting for scent free wipes might help lower attention drawn to you, no one wants to be trapped in a confined space with the smell of lemony chemicals.  

Step 2. Become immune to the sideway glances of fellow passengers
We’re not going to lie and tell you that whipping out a pack of disinfectant wipes is going to make you the most popular passenger on a flight (unless you’re willing to share). But on the plus side, anyone who gives you a sideways glance now has a higher chance at getting sick than you do, so the joke’s really on them.

Step 3. Here goes nothing (except germs)
You’ll want to get the wipe down done before you sit down and settle in, so stow your overhead and get cracking. According to, the average airplane tray table has more germs on it than a toilet seat … yuck. Wipe down any hard surfaces, including the tray table, control panel, arm rests and if your seat is vinyl or leather, wipe the whole thing down too. If you have an aisle seat, pay extra attention to the head rest and outside edge as people often grab them for stability as they walk past. Note that different brands of wipes may take different times to dry and clean, so have a glance at the instruction on the packet and don’t sit down on your disinfected seat until it’s dry, both for function and comfort.   

Step 4. Expect the unexpected
Shock and horror; you’ve boarded the plane and the seats are … upholstery! Germophobes, suppress that oncoming anxiety attack, as there’s still hope. While disinfectant wipes may not work on fabric – don’t even try, it’ll just make your chair soggy as well as germy – there are alternative solutions. Admittedly, these take a little more commitment on your part, as it requires bringing an airplane seat cover, either disposable or reusable. On the plus side, the wipes will still work on the tray and armrests. Laying a light fabric, such as a sarong, down can be a DIY version of a purchased seat cover.   

Step 5. Rethink the seat pocket
Do you really want to store your personal belongings in the seat’s dumping ground/bin? If you’re serious about hygiene, we recommend giving it a miss altogether, but if you’re dead keen on the idea, how about bringing a thin cushion cover from home to use as a liner? Place the cover opening up and out in the seat pocket. When leaving the flight, flip the cover inside out so you don’t end up rubbing your own little colony of germs against everything you own.

Were these hygiene hints helpful? How do you avoid getting sick on flights? What tips do you have for fellow travellers?

Related articles:
How to make flying more comfortable
Finally, a supportive travel companion
Avoid the worst seat on the plane

Written by Liv Gardiner

Writer and editor with interests in travel, lifestyle, health, wellbeing, astrology and the enivornment.

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