Is it OK to wear socks in aircraft lavatories?

Sep 14, 2019

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Virgin Atlantic recently rolled out its new in-flight amenity kits for Upper Class and Premium passengers, featuring funky ‘sleep socks’ for each passenger. Some full-service airlines will also provide these socks to economy class passengers, especially for overnight flights.

Virgin Atlantic new Upper Class amenity kits. (Photo courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)

If you’re like me, you might change into these shortly after takeoff rather than attempting to sleep with shoes on. But when you need to use the lavatory during the flight, you know you shouldn’t walk barefoot in there. But is it safe to just wear socks on your feet, or should you be wearing slippers or proper shoes as well?

When the question was posed to crew in a Reddit forum, various cabin crew jumped in to overwhelmingly insist that shoes should be worn in aircraft lavatories, not just socks. They were horrified at the lack of knowledge of just how unhygienic the lavatory floors were, pointing out that if there were any liquids on the lavatory floor that would soak into the socks (and feet) without shoes on, those liquids probably weren’t water.

But what if you only wear those socks on the plane and either dispose of them immediately after or don’t even take them off the plane? Wearing socks in the aircraft lavatory is certainly better than nothing, but these socks are designed to allow your feet to breathe, so the loose fibres can let air in to your feet. This also means if there’s anything unpleasant on the lavatory floor it will breathe in through the socks to your feet, too.

Even if it doesn’t, if you return back to your seat and curl up, either putting your feet on an empty seat next to you or on a foot rest or flat bed in a premium cabin, whatever was on the lavatory floor will transfer to your seat. On a long-haul flight with limited lavatories in an economy cabin, dozens — if not close to a hundred — other passengers could have used the same lavatory and they might not have the same level of hygiene that you do.

Should you really not flush while seated on toilet? Photo by Stuart Dee / Getty Images
(Photo by Stuart Dee / Getty Images)

You will see cabin crew regularly going in and out of aircraft lavatory to check they are clean. They will always be wearing shoes, obviously. One crew member on Reddit said they believe aircraft lavatories to be so unclean that they don’t even wear the shoes they’ve worn on the plane in their own houses.

The bottom line is that while socks are better than bare feet, you really should be wearing proper shoes each and every time you visit an aircraft lavatory, as you really don’t know what’s on that floor even if it looks clean.

Featured image by Virgin Atlantic

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