How to disinfect your plane seat

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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?

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Written by livga


Total Comments: 11
  1. 0

    Sensible to say the least! Every trip I’ve had of late there are coughers and sneezers, and some are downright revolting.

    • 0

      What an eye opener – I always thought that the air-con was the culprit, I got very sick on a flight from Phnom Penh to Singapore once.
      Never gave it a thought that the seat, tray table, remote etc., could
      be germ laden!! Thank you for opening my eyes to this.

    • 0

      Yeah. Good tips. Also, if u can bear them, a light dust mask will help fend off odours n airborne particles. I wear them n dont care about people giving me dirty looks, it’s my health n my lungs!

  2. 0

    I can imagine the traffic jam waiting to get past me as I wipe down my hard surfaces, wait for them to dry, then carefully place my sarong on my seat… This might be sensible but it’s not practical, given the time allowed to board a plane full of passengers. [However, wiping the tray table etc after you sit down is a great idea.]

  3. 0

    Use disposable gloves. It’s no use just to use the wipes, get more germs on your hands and having to sanitise them, too.

  4. 0

    Wearing a disposable mask is a good idea, if anyone asks say you feel “fluey” and don’t want to spread your germs. You might say you have an immune deficiency illness also….or just hold your head high and carry it off. My last three overseas trips have ended up with me being so sick for 3 weeks when I got home. Planes are filthy things

    • 0

      Write right Patti, if anyone asks one should say, ‘mind your own business’.
      I have leukemia and have a bagful of masks, they are only good for an hour or so though.
      If there address people with colds/ flu I’ll put one on, otherwise it’s hospital for me.

  5. 0

    over the top really. do you want to live in a germ free environment because as soon as you step out of one you’ll be 1,000 time worse off.
    Okay wipe down your little bit of space, but think of other travellers when you do & don’t use anything scented as some travellers may be very sensitive to a scented wipe.
    So once you’ve wiped all down & nicely seated don’t move from your little space unless you take your wipes with you. Now as you move towards the toilets wipe down all the areas that you may touch but wait until it’s dry. When you eventually get to the toilet after 30 mins or more you can then spend the next 30 mins wiping down the whole toilet & don’t forget the taps & all the little bottles & door handles.
    One can become obsessed with hygiene to the point of not being resistant to every day bugs & germs & remember wipes, antiseptics etc will only kill 99.9%, it’s the 0.1% that’ll get you lol
    I travel often, never wipe etc & never been sick or crook during or after a flight, maybe I’m just lucky. Oh, & I never wipe shopping trolley handle either but always wash my hands before I eat.

  6. 0

    Haha – the person who wrote this shouldn’t leave the house.
    Don’t use wipes – they are an environmental nightmare.
    The air you breathe in an aircraft is recycled. It does not matter which way you look. A sneeze travels metres. Anyone you has ever been near a smoker can tell you how far air floats around.
    Do you really want to stay healthy?

    Use a touch pen to log in at the terminal.
    Do not eat until you have washed your hands.
    Do not touch your eyes.
    Don’t eat junk food, lollies etc
    Get a flu vaccination.
    -…and stress less – it improves the immune system.

    Have a great holiday!!

  7. 0

    Here is a good article:

    So you can get the same effect from any public transport or other confined places. Building up your immune system before you go is wise,lots of fresh fruit and veg and maybe some supplements. I personally like Olive Leaf extract.



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