It's probably no big surprise that germs, bacteria, viruses, and other nasty bugs love to hang out in the places that we humans (and our animal friends) like to frequent. Not only that, but once they find a place they really like, they have a tendency to multiply like crazy. For example, some bacteria have the ability to double in quantity every 20 minutes. This can turn a relatively clean surface into a disease-ridden, bacterial soup in less than a day.

Despite the efforts of airlines to clean all the nasty stuff out of the interior of their airplanes, they usually give a higher priority to turning a flight and keeping it on schedule than to making sure every surface you'll encounter is as clean and sanitized as it could be. Every once in a while, I'll run across someone's half-eaten lunch in the magazine holder in front of me, or a semi-dried spilled drink or sauce on the tray table.

Travelmath recently pulled together a list of the dirtiest places on an airplane and in an airport. The good news is that at least one of the places you probably thought was the worst is actually among the best. However, the bad news is that at least one of the locations you probably thought was the best is actually among the worst. And none of them are exactly great.

The 4 Dirtiest Places on Airplanes

1. Tray table (2,155 colony-forming units (CFU)/

2. Overhead air vent (285 CFU/

3. Lavatory flush button (265 CFU/

4. Seatbelt buckle(230 CFU/

The 2 Dirtiest Places in Airports

1. Drinking fountain button (1,240 CFU/

2. Bathroom stall lock (70 CFU/

For comparison purposes, here are the bacterial counts that you can expect to find on a variety of common household items, from worst to best:

  • Pet bowl (306,000 CFU/
  • Pet toy (19,000 CFU/
  • Kitchen countertop (361 CFU/
  • Home toilet seat (172 CFU/
  • Mobile phone (27 CFU/
  • Money (5 CFU/

Oh--and there was one more bit of good news in the Travelmath results--none of the airplane or airport samples showed the presence of the particularly deadly E. coli bacteria.