Germs are unavoidable during travel, but don’t bring them into your home! Follow these tips for disinfecting your luggage before you walk back in the door.
According to the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, more than 43,000 flights carrying more than 2.6 million passengers take place every day. With all those people passing through, there’s bound to be a lot of germs at airports.
One of the most germ-ridden spots is the security checkpoint — specifically those plastic bins. In a recent germ meter test conducted by Today’s investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen, the bins scored frighteningly high, with some harboring E. Coli and other harmful bacteria.
While placing your luggage in security checkpoint bins is inevitable if you’re flying, spreading germs into your home when you return is not. Here’s how to thoroughly clean your luggage after your trip.
Exterior Hard Surfaces
Plastic handles, wheels and protective bottoms are a great starting point when cleaning your luggage. These areas come in direct contact with everything from terminal walkways to airport bathrooms to the dreaded security checkpoint bins. Scrub these hard surfaces with disinfecting wipes or a paper towel sprayed with all-purpose cleaner to kill any bacteria that may have hitched a ride. If you have a hard-shell suitcase, you can use these products to wipe down the entire exterior.
Exterior Fabric Surfaces
Many travelers opt to use lightweight nylon bags and backpacks due to their ease of hauling and ability to withstand the wear and tear of travel, but that does not make them immune to germs. Luckily, these pieces are easy to clean, too, with a simple solution of warm water and dish soap or laundry detergent. Use a clean rag or paper towel to dip into the solution and scrub the nylon surfaces. This process also works for cotton canvas bags.
If your luggage picked up a stain, spot treat it with a stain remover first and then follow up with the warm water and soap method above.
Exterior Leather Surfaces
Leather luggage is not immune to picking up germs during travel, but it does require special leather cleaning products to prevent damage and to keep the material in good shape. Use leather wipes or a rag with leather cleaner to wipe down the entire surface. It’s also a good idea to follow up cleaning with a leather protector.
Though the interior of your luggage likely won’t come in contact with any airport surfaces (let’s hope all zippers and clasps hold tight!), it does touch your dirty laundry, shoes and other items that could spread germs.
First, vacuum the interior of your luggage using an upholstery attachment. Remember to clean out those pockets as well! Next, use a rag dipped in warm water with laundry detergent to wipe down all of the interior surfaces. If you notice an odor, sprinkle some baking soda inside and leave it for a day or two. That should absorb the odor, and then you can just vacuum up the baking soda.
Be sure to store your now germ-free luggage in a well ventilated area, away from pests and moisture, so it’ll be ready for your next trip.
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