Before you touch your airport’s self-service check-in kiosk, you might want to wipe it down with an alcohol swab. According to a study just released by the US insurance company InsuranceQuotes.com, the screens on self-service check-in kiosks are the dirtiest surfaces in most airports.
Researchers involved in this study used standard swab tests on six different surfaces in three of America’s busiest airports. In total, InsuranceQuotes.com employees gathered data from 18 tests and measured their results in the number of bacteria that formed colonies per square inch (aka CFUs).
So, just how bad is the check-in kiosk? According to the data, an average check-in screen has 250,000 CFUs. The worst check-in kiosk in this survey had well over 1 million CFUs.
The second dirtiest surface in the airport went to the armrests on chairs by various gates. These commonly touched surfaces had an average score of 21,000 CFUs.
Lastly, water fountain buttons came in third place. Researchers say these buttons averaged 19,000 CFUs, which is still significantly less than the touchscreen kiosk.
After completing their studies at the airport, investigators also wanted to see how different surfaces on planes fared. Unsurprisingly, they found that the plane’s bathroom had an average of 95,000 CFUs on the flusher.
Other germy areas on the plane include the tray table and the seat belt buckle. These two surfaces, however, had far fewer bacteria than the toilet button coming in at approximately 11,500 and 1,100 CFUs, respectively.
Just as a point of reference, this report also found that toilet seats in most airports have fewer CFUs than all the more commonly used surfaces listed above. Believe it or not, a toilet seat only has about 170 CFUs on average.
Everyone involved in this research hopes this will encourage anyone going to an airport to bring plenty of hand-sanitizer and to wash their hands thoroughly with soap.