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How to Sanitize and Disinfect Your Airplane Seat, Hotel Room, Luggage and More

Amar Hussain's image
Amar Hussain
Amar Hussain's image

Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

816 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury


38 Published Articles 3340 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 48U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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Any form of public transport is guaranteed to be grimier than you are used to at home. The pathogens that cause norovirus, coronavirus, and a wealth of other nasty bugs and germs can be found in huge numbers on door handles and seat trays. They can also be found in public bathrooms and even on innocent looking surfaces like laminated menus and safety instructions.

Before you head out on vacation this year, stay safe by preparing your very own portable hygiene pack. With just a few easy to buy products, you can help reduce your family’s risk of getting sick.

Travel Sanitization Products You’ll Need

Keeping your personal space or hotel clean requires some dedicated tools to take with you. Don’t rely on buying antibacterial products in transit or when you get to your destination — instead, compile your own cleaning kit to take with you. At the very least, this should include:

Disinfectant Wipes

These types of wipes are impregnated with a series of active ingredients that help destroy bacteria, fungus, and mold in a short time. Unlike baby wipes or face wipes that have a high water or soap content, these are specifically designed to sanitize hard surfaces.

Containing such active ingredients as hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol, or ethanol, the active ingredients in these wipes break down the components of viruses and bacteria to destroy them with close to 100 percent effectiveness. These also contain growth inhibitors that prevent those nasty bugs, germs, and viruses from multiplying and growing, leaving your surfaces nice and clean.

You can buy these types of wipes in small, purse-size packs that contain between 12 to 20 individual wipes, or larger packs or tubs that will contain many more. Ones like the travel-size wet wipes below come in individual packets that can be tucked away in your case, carry-on and purse without weighing you down.

Hand Sanitizer

These handy little bottles of goodness can be applied to your hands without the use of water, dry in seconds, and leave your hands feeling fresh and clean. Useful for instances where you cannot get easy access to soap and water, these are a vital addition to your disinfecting armory. Fragrances and other ingredients are often added to make them smell nicer.

Available in liquid, gel, or sometimes even foam form, they are specifically designed to decrease the number of nasty infectious agents that are sitting on your hands, but they cannot remove harmful chemicals.

Different brands of antibacterial gel contain different active ingredients, with varying levels of effectiveness between them. Most will typically contain a combination of isopropyl alcohol, ethanol (ethyl alcohol), or n-propanol, with versions containing 60% to 95% alcohol being the most effective.

While these alcohol-based gels and potions are useful, remember that while they work against microorganisms, they cannot work on the spores that could help the germs come back. There are also certain non-alcohol based versions made using benzalkonium chloride or triclosan, but these are generally accepted to be less effective than alcohol-based ones.

You may want not to want to take a big bottle with you when you are traveling, but at the same time, little bottles can be less cost-effective. Purchase a bigger bottle like these alcohol-based hand sanitizer gels and decant the gel into your regular 3.4 ounces or fewer travel containers.

Hot Tip: You should reach for your hand gel before you eat, after using the bathroom, and in any situations where you may have had to touch dirty or potentially contaminated surfaces.

Disinfectant Spray

Often used in bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas of the home, disinfectant sprays clean surfaces while killing nasty pathogens. It is well known that some viruses can survive on inert surfaces for days at a time, meaning that they can have a direct effect on the way that viruses are spread.

Areas that are heavily used can be breeding ground for germs to spread, and you should pay particular attention to door handles, work surfaces, tables, toilets, and other high use areas.

Most commercially available disinfectant sprays contain the active ingredient hydrogen peroxide, which is effective against a wide variety of microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses when used on hard surfaces.

You must read the instructions on the product, as most sprays need to be left on the surface for a short time before being wiped away to ensure that they are effective. When you are traveling, choose a product like Protext disinfectant spray that comes in a compact bottle that is perfect for suitcases and travel bags.

Microfiber Cloths

Made up of millions of tiny fibers, microfiber cloths can lift and hold dirt and bacteria with just the use of a drop of water. While probably not sufficient to completely clean public, high-use areas, they are a useful way to pull up anything lurking on the surface you about to start cleaning.

Washable, reusable and better for the environment, a pack of high-quality microfiber cloths can remove as much as 99 percent of bacteria on surfaces. For travel purposes, you should use clean microfiber cloths combined with disinfectant spray to ensure the perfect combination to keep the hard surfaces around you clean and safe.

Portable UVC Light

While you are busy cleaning your seat and everything around it, your cell phone, tablet, and other tech can be harboring a small army of germs from constant use. Don’t reinfect your freshly cleaned area with a dirty phone — grab a travel wand UVC sanitizer to help keep your treasured tech clean, too.

UVC light interferes with and destroys the nucleic acids of bacteria and other microbes. While these are only useful for your devices’ surface area, holding them underneath the light for a few minutes can help keep them clean without having to get them wet. You might want to invest in one of these gadgets to use at home and away.

How to Sanitize Your Airplane Seat

Delta Airbus A220 First Class Row 3
Your empty seat in first class on this Delta Airbus A220 awaits a final deep cleaning. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Before you get yourself settled in your seat, take some time to give your seat and the surrounding area a good going over.

Keep Your Sanitizing Wipes at Hand

These will be your best weapon against germs and viruses while on a plane. While airlines do clean in between flights, you should assume that they are not cleaned to a standard that you would be entirely happy with, and besides, there is no harm in cleaning them again.

If you are in a rush to be seated, at the very least give the armrests, the latch for the tray table, the top of the seatback pocket, and the seatbelt buckle a good once over with your wipes. Wipe them vigorously, then allow them to dry naturally to ensure that the active ingredients can work their magic.

You should also keep your wipes handy to discreetly wipe down the handle of the overhead bin before and after you use it, as well as the handles on the bathroom door, the flusher, and even the faucet handles.

Hot Tip: Remember to wipe down the laminated safety instructions in the seat pocket and any multi-media screens, remotes, or buttons that you are likely to use during your flight.

Get Ready to Spray

Once you are in your seat and fellow passengers and their baggage are not jostling you, you can reach for your disinfectant spray and microfiber cloths. Pull down the tray table in front of you, spray it liberally, and then wait for the spray to work before wiping it clean.

You should apply the same cleaning routine to the seatback in front of your armrests, seat belt (including the buckle), and any other areas that are not made from soft material.

Keep a plastic bag for your dirty cloths once you have used them to ensure that they don’t make your other belongings wet or potentially contaminated with germs. You can wash your cloths out properly when you reach your destination.

What About the Soft Part of the Seats?

Don’t waste your wipes on the seat fabric because they simply will not work. Aerosols are not allowed in the aircraft cabin, so you will need to find another way to overcome the worry of a potentially germ-ridden seat.

First off, provided you are wearing clothes (which let’s face it, you totally should be), there are very few places where your skin will actually make contact with the seat. Once you are seated, avoid rubbing your hands on the seat or grabbing it when you stand up and you should be just fine.

Communal Areas

Once you have your own travel space cleaned and disinfected, it seems only natural to worry about the other areas of the plane that you might need to visit or items that you will have to touch. While us germaphobes can find hygiene issues everywhere, some areas should cause you less concern.

You can wipe cans, bottles, and even food packaging with your wipes before you open your complimentary drink and snack. When taking a drink from the bar, ask for a plastic glass as these are single-use only.

The tray your food is served on is usually sealed in plastic before being opened by the cabin crew. You can wipe the packaging down before opening everything on the tray if you wish to.

This is a situation that often can’t be avoided, especially on longer flights, but take your wipes with you every time you go to the restroom. Always wash your hands thoroughly when you finish and apply your hand sanitizer when you get back in your seat.

Keep Your Hands Clean

Surfaces riddled with nasty bugs and germs won’t make you sick by simply touching or sitting on them. But, if you touch a surface with your hands and then touch your face, it is far easier for you to pick up an illness on an airplane, at the store, or virtually anywhere you go.

There are 2 really super easy ways to minimize this risk while you travel:

  • Wash or sanitize your hands regularly, and especially before you eat or after touching shared surfaces.
  • Try to keep your hands away from your face. Tie your hair back, avoid fiddling with your glasses if you wear them, keep your wits about you, and keep your hands down low.

How to Sanitize Your Hotel Room

The Laguna Bali Executive Suite Bedroom by Day
A cleaned bedroom suite at the Laguna Bali still has an opportunity for sanitization. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Once you are all checked in, get ready to give your room a once over before you get settled.

Wash Your Hands

Before even thinking about cleaning your room or unpacking, give those hands a thorough wash with soap and hot water. On your way up, you will have touched many high-use surfaces, including the lobby desk and the elevator buttons, so let’s get those germs gone before we begin.

Try and use dedicated antibacterial soap unless there is none available. The suds of regular soap could be enough to break down the greasy enzymes of viruses that can make you sick, leaving your hands squeaky clean and germ-free.

Keep Your Luggage on the Floor

Your case has been everywhere with you — rolled through dirty streets and airports and sat on grubby floors. For this reason alone, don’t sling it on the bed when you get in. Keep it firmly on the floor until you are ready to clean and unpack it.

Get Your Wipes Out

In the privacy of your hotel room, you can clean to your heart’s content. Although let’s be honest, that’s not what you are here for. However, it is prudent to give all of the high-contact areas a good going over before you touch them. This includes doorknobs, toilet handles, hotel phone, window slides, light switches, and of course, the TV remote control.

Hot Tip: If you are likely to use the TV during your stay, pop the remote in a clear, plastic bag. This way, you can still operate it, without ever having to really touch it.

Clean the Sink

Hotel sinks are one of the most germ-ridden parts of any accommodation, even in upscale hotels. A great way to ensure that yours is as clean as can be during your stay is to wipe the sink, faucet, and surrounding areas down with your antibacterial spray. Leave it to work before wiping it away with a microfiber cleaning cloth.

Remove the Comforter

Most hotels use white bed linen because it can be cleaned at incredibly high temperatures and sterilized to prevent the spread of germs.

Decorative covers and comforters, however, are not washed as often and, therefore could be harboring germs that you don’t really want to share a bed with. Take cushions and comforters away and pop them in the cupboard for the duration of your stay.

Wash Up

If your room comes with coffee cups, glasses, or even a beaker for your toothbrush that is not sealed in a wrapper, wash them up with hot soapy water and leave them in the air to dry. You should also do the same for your ice bucket.

Wipe Down

We can assume that every surface in a hotel room will receive a higher amount of touching traffic than they do back at home. Cleaners and maids will usually dust and polish to make the room look nice, but they may not really “clean” them. To this end, wipe down hard surfaces like night tables, coffee tables, desks, and shelves before you put any of your belongings on them.

How to Disinfect Your Suitcase

couple in airport with suitcases
Image Credit: Olena Yakobchuk via Shutterstock

As we mentioned above, your suitcase can easily pick up a lot of dirt and germs along the way. When you reach your destination, or when you return home, be sure to give it a good clean using wipes or disinfectant spray.

Clean the Wheels

If you think your shoes get dirty outside, you should check out the wheels on your suitcase. Prevent them from being a mobile breeding ground for germs by giving them a thorough clean using your disinfectant spray and microfiber cloth.

Now the Handles

Handles, locks, and the retractable pull-along may not touch the floor, but they will be touched by your hands and possibly the dirty hands of others. Again, give these a good wipe with your disinfectant spray and microfiber cloth before opening or putting away. You should also extend the handle to its longest setting to make sure you never miss a bit.

Clean the Case

Both soft and hard-sided suitcases can be given a thorough cleaning with your trusty sanitizer wipes. Be sure to test the wipe on an inconspicuous area just in case the active components in your wipes could discolor your suitcase.

On the interior, you can also use your wipes for quick clean-ups while you are away. When you get home, however, you should give it a much more thorough clean before storing.

Vacuum out the inside to rid your case of crumbs, dust, sand, and even insects or bed bugs before giving it a good wipedown with a sanitizing spray.

Hot Tip: Ensure that your luggage is completely dry before storing it, as damp interior materials can lead to mold spores and damage.

Carry Bags and Hold-Alls

If you choose to use bags or backpacks instead of cases, you may find that they can be given a machine wash when you get home. You should still regularly wipe handles, zippers, and other closures while you are on the go. Bags that cannot be put in with the laundry should be wiped down using a small amount of laundry detergent, followed by disinfectant wipes before drying.

Bed Bugs

Unfortunately, even upscale establishments can occasionally suffer from problems with these microscopic monsters, and bed bugs like nothing better than hitching a ride back to someone else’s home. They are particularly fond of zippers, seams, and the rubber ribbing of your suitcase, and of course, they are notoriously tiny and difficult to spot.

Here’s a quick guide to preventing bringing bed bugs back home with you:

  1. Before you leave, visually inspect your case for tiny black or red dots. These are easier to see on lighter colored cases, and a cluster of them may be an indication that this is the skin or blood of these tiny critters.
  2. Use your sanitizer spray across all areas of the case, or leave it in bright sunshine as the UV light can help to knock them dead.
  3. When you get home, sling all of the contents of your case on a super hot wash (or as hot as they can handle). If you use packing cubes, you should wash them, too.
  4. Vacuum out the inside of your case and immediately change your vacuum bag.
  5. Use a bed bug treatment spray on your case before cleaning it again and storing.
  6. Keep your case outside in the garage or shed until you are sure that they are all gone. It’s not just beds they like — carpets and couches are popular with them, too.
  7. Finally, if you are very concerned about bed bugs, go nuclear on them with Nuvan ProStrips. Pop them and your suitcase in a garbage bag, and they will release a gas that will suffocate and kill your unwanted visitors.

Final Thoughts

There has never been a more important time to practice good hygiene than right now. Keep yourself and those around you safe by ensuring that your travel hygiene kit is always close at hand.

The single most effective way to ensure good hygiene both at home and away is regular and efficient hand washing. As often as you can, reach for soap and water and give your hands a really good scrub and you’ll feel cleaner and safer almost immediately. Now — go wash those hands!

All information and content provided by Upgraded Points is intended as general information and for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as medical advice or legal advice. For more information, see our Medical & Legal Disclaimers.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you maintain hygiene when traveling?

The number 1 thing you can do to maintain good hygiene when you travel is to wash your hands with soap regularly. You should also travel with a hygiene kit that includes hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray to keep yourself and any surfaces you come in contact with clean and germ-free.

What has the most germs in a hotel room?

There are many contenders for what has the most germs in a hotel room, from cushions and light switches to drapes and comforters. One study by the TODAY Show indicated that the remote control had the most germs. The most straightforward fix is to place the remote in a clear plastic bag as you can still use the device through it.

How do I clean the outside of my fabric suitcase?

To clean your case, you can use upholstery shampoo and a damp microfiber cloth to wipe the outside of your fabric suitcase gently. Just be sure to test a small section first to ensure it doesn’t discolor your case.

How do you disinfect an airplane seat?

If you are in a rush to be seated, at the very least give the armrests, the latch for the tray table, the top of the seatback pocket, and the seatbelt buckle a good once over with your wipes. Wipe them vigorously, then allow them to dry naturally to ensure that the active ingredients can work their magic.

Can I bring disinfectant wipes on a plane?

You can take disinfectant wipes onboard an airplane in your carry-on or checked luggage. You can buy these types of wipes in small, purse-size packs that contain between 12 to 20 individual wipes, or larger packs or tubs that will contain many more.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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