Flight Attendant Reveals 7 Mistakes People Make in Plane Toilets

Getting decent legroom and a seat in your preferred part of the cabin is a priority for most travelers. 

But there is one area that passengers should give more thought to and that is the airplane toilets. 

Speaking with bathroom specialists, Sanctuary Bathrooms, a former flight attendant who spent years working for a major airline, revealed why this part of the plane is widely considered, within the airline industry, to be the dirtiest place on the plane. 

They revealed how often airplane lavatories are cleaned, the worst time to use them during the flight, and the important do’s and don’ts when trying to get much-needed mid-flight relief. 

A former flight attendant lifted the lid on airplane lavatories after working for a major airline for more than five years. They reveal how often bathrooms are cleaned and when it is best to use them.

1. DO: Wear a mask in the bathroom

“The airplane bathroom is essentially a closet, with no clean air. There is no window and the air ventilation is poor. 

“This means that every time you go to the bathroom, you’re not only breathing the air of many others who have “removed” before you (especially if it’s a long-haul flight), but you could also be breathing the potential airborne fecal particles after toilet flushing.

2. DON’T: Brush your teeth

Do not clean your teeth in an airplane bathroom. 

The former assistant explained: ‘The water on a plane comes from the same water tank and is not filtered. 

“If you really need it, use bottled water, but my main advice would be to not take your toothbrush or wash bag anywhere near an airplane bathroom.”

3. DO NOT: Touch any surface, including the toilet seat

“Sounds dramatic, but I strongly recommend that you avoid direct contact with as many surfaces as possible, in the airplane toilet cubicle.”

That starts when you open the door. Instead, they recommend using your foot or wearing disposable plastic gloves to touch the handle.

Also, most airplane lavatories have washcloths by the sink, which are there for you to use. 


The former cabin crew member explained: ‘An important part of the airline industry is billing’. 

“This sometimes means that a complete and deep cleaning of the airplane bathroom is not always possible due to lack of time and higher priorities.”

Cubicles will usually get a quick cleaning before a flight takes off and again during the flight they tend to be checked every half hour. 

However, they explained that if there are more urgent things in this bathroom control, they will fall on the priority list. 

Delving further, the former flight attendant explained that passengers may not be aware that the waste water tank is on board the flight and that there can sometimes be several, depending on the size of the plane. 

Looking back at last year, they said: ‘This tank is supposed to be emptied once the plane has landed, but as 2022 is one of the busiest years for flights, it can often take a couple of days before is completely emptied. 

“If the sewage tank were to overflow, there is a risk that the pipes could rupture and its contents enter the plane, which has happened before.” 

You should definitely clean all surfaces before touching them, but if that’s not possible, grab a few sheets of toilet paper and use them to avoid touching anything directly with your fingertips. 

They said, ‘Worst case scenario, use your knuckles, instead of your fingers, and sanitize your hands immediately afterwards.’

Finally, do your best to hover over the toilet seat and avoid sitting down and touching it.

If you find it difficult to balance, there are usually handles you can hold on to, but again, wipe them down first or cover them with toilet paper; the same applies to the download button.

4. DO: Shower immediately after your flight

“Due to the poor air circulation on an airplane (especially in bathrooms), as well as the number of surfaces that can harbor a large number of germs, you could leave your flight with dirty hands, hair and clothes. 

‘As soon as you arrive at your destination, put your clothes in the wash and give them a good scrubbing. 

“I would always take a shower right after work and sometimes the water would turn brown.”

5. DON’T: Take off your shoes, never!

“Sometimes people take off their shoes to walk around the plane, but they don’t go into the plane bathroom with their feet in socks or even barefoot.

‘Because of the high probability of imbalance and people missing a toilet bowl, there could be urine on the floor. 

“Imagine if you were to take this from your sock to your shoe and back to your house, that would be incredibly unsanitary.”

6. DO: Bring hand sanitizer

Post covid, regular hand washing is now much more frequent, as is the use of hand sanitizer. 

These personal hygiene practices should now be implemented when traveling, especially at times like using airplane restrooms.

The former cabin crew member explained: “Most flight attendants have always carried pocket-sized bottles of hand sanitizer with them on flights, to use when needed and I encourage passengers to do the same.” 

“Especially before and after using the bathroom (other than washing your hands with soap).”

7. DO NOT: Use the restrooms at the beginning or end of a flight

According to the former airline steward: “The worst time to use the airplane bathroom is right before takeoff and at the end of a flight, especially if it’s a long-haul flight.”

They explain that in-flight toilets are just as bad after a patchy turbulence point during which the seatbelt signals would have to be on. 

As soon as the signs go out, an influx of people who need to go to the bathroom, as well as those who feel they may be sick, will rush to the bathroom. 

The former flight attendant also described how you should try to use the bathroom on the flight before food is served. 

They said: ‘Airplane food is not nutritious. It can be oily and rich in salt and fat; things that don’t tend to be good for gut health or bowel movements.

“If a meal doesn’t sit well with a passenger and they need to use the bathroom because of it, they don’t want to be there right away.”



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