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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

Bacteria? Microbes? The public toilet seat is not where they flourish like you may think… What’s true and what’s not? A Canadian study reveals that bacteria lurk in the most innocent places, not always where you might expect. As for the traveller, the truth about evil microbes in public spaces, airplanes and hotel rooms is finally brought to light.

Public toilets

public toilet

Myth: We’ve been told for years to never to touch a public toilet seat, it’s the dirtiest place on earth. Sitting down without covering it with a mile of toilet paper will definitely lead to contracting diseases with unpronounceable names.

Truth: The toilet seat is (gasp!) the cleanest part of any public washroom since it is regularly cleaned. Where are the bacteria lurking? On the handle for flushing, the latch on the door (which is rarely ever cleaned) and in the air post-flush (to avoid microbes getting into the air, put the lid down before flushing). The most bacteria is found in the sinks; the collected water makes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.


airplane interior

Myth: Many travellers believe that you can get sick just by simply breathing the air in an airplane since it’s obviously over-circulated and brimming with tiny microbes waiting for their next victim.

Truth: Most aircraft are outfitted with highly sophisticated air filtration systems which purify the air before it is recirculated into the cabin. A traveller’s best bet at catching a cold during the flight is from the person sitting next to them. The bug responsible for causing the common cold is only spread through contact so wash your hands often while in transit.

Hotel rooms

hotel room

Myth: Common misconception at hotels is that the culprit is always the bed linens. How can you really tell whether they’ve been cleaned between guests or not?

Truth: Most hotels (of course there are exceptions) clean the rooms sheets for every guest. Even if they don’t, the linens dry out bacteria, making it a harsh environment for them to survive. The biggest concerns are places that don’t often get cleaning like the remote for the television, light switches, thermostat, door knobs and worst of all… the hotel Bible. Avoid cheap hotels with low ratings, chances are they can slash their room prices because they’re cutting back on cleaning.



Myth: Backpackers will always need to do laundry. With so many people’s clothes go in and coming out of the washing machines, they’re bound to be crawling with who knows what.

Truth: The machines at the laundromat are actually much cleaner than the washers in your own home. The reason: the machines at the laundromat are industrial and are thus able to heat the water to a much higher temperature than at home, killing off most if not all bacteria in your clothes. They’re also cleaned regularly because honestly, when is the last time you cleaned the inside of your washing machine?

Imgs: toothbrush: nnova / toilet: justgrimes / airplane: Marc_Smith / hotel: espensorvik / laundromat: doo, Flickr cc.

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2 responses to “Travel Myth Buster: hygiene myths and bacteria legends

  1. Nice!!! It’s really very informative article, I really appreciate your thoughts.I obviously enjoying and I also bookmarked & i will visit again in future updates.

  2. Is it not the case that too much hygiene (e.g killing 99% of household germs) is actually doing more long term harm than good in that exposure to bacteria builds up a resistance to infection. That and the over prescribing of anti-biotics is destroying our natural immunity.

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