What Flight Attendants Suggest You Have On Hand To Make Airplane Bathrooms Less Disgusting

Before you ask the two passengers sitting between you and the aisle to move so you can go to the bathroom, make sure you have everything you need with you. You might have grabbed your hand sanitizer, but did you bring a mask? If the bathroom develops foul odors over the course of the flight, your mask might prevent you from having to smell it, but that's not why it's a must. Believe it or not, just using a mask when you use the bathroom during flights could keep you from picking up a virus.


From how to handle a kid kicking the back of your seat to figuring out how to get an in-flight meal more quickly, flight attendants have all the best travel tips. Using a mask in the bathroom may be the most important one they've shared. According to one former flight attendant interviewed by the luxury bathroom supplier Sanctuary Bathrooms (via Gulf Insider), whether or not the airplane bathroom smells dirty, it probably is. "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."

Why you should consider wearing a mask in an airplane bathroom

Wearing a mask to the bathroom on an airplane but not in your seat might sound strange; however, a 2020 study published in Physics of Fluids concluded that you could benefit from wearing a mask in any public bathroom. Toilets and urinals release a plume of tiny droplets when they flush, meaning that you can breathe dirty toilet water. "From our work, it can be inferred that urinal flushing indeed promotes the spread of bacteria and viruses," one of the researchers stated (via ScienceDaily). A 2022 study published in Building and Environment showed that closing the lid before you flush helps prevent this nasty toilet mist from getting on everything. However, research from 2024 observed that closing the lid didn't make much difference.


A mask might be your best bet — especially on an airplane. While airplane toilets work differently than most public bathrooms, unfortunately, the 2022 Building and Environment study determined that they also release airborne particles into the air. According to the former flight attendant who spoke with Sanctuary Bathrooms (via Gulf Insider), the tiny, space-efficient cubicle also works against cleanliness. "The airplane bathroom is essentially a closet, with no clean air. There is no window and the air ventilation is poor."

Other ways to protect yourself

There are plenty of things flight attendants want you to stop doing, but one action they want you to start taking is washing your hands. In addition to wearing a mask, you should always wash your hands — and be aware that, according to one flight attendant who spoke to Afar, not everybody else does. Unfortunately, that means that if you touch a surface in the airplane bathroom, even the knob to turn off the sink, you might need to use hand sanitizer afterward. Another good solution can be as simple as using a paper towel to open the door.


The cabin crew works hard to follow sanitation rules set by their particular airline, often based on guidelines determined by the CDC. The crew regularly disinfects germ-prone locations like the bathroom, so you probably will not see anything nasty when you open that little folding door. However, the former flight attendant who spoke with Sanctuary Bathrooms confided that if the cabin crew has many other responsibilities to take care of, cleaning the bathrooms during the flight might not be their highest priority — so you should do whatever you can, such as wearing a mask, to ensure you don't pick up any germs while there.