Self-cleaning airplane bathroom makes flying less germy

Boeing wants to assuage your fear of entering the dangerous realm of the airplane lavatory with a touchless, self-sanitizing restroom experience.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Boeing lavatory
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Boeing lavatory

This could one day be the cleanest airplane restroom ever created.


Ah, flying. There's nothing quite so enjoyable as squeezing into a metal canister with wings, snuggling up close to a stranger in a cramped seat and sharing a bathroom with a couple hundred other passengers. You might not get any help with your seating arrangements, but at least airplane manufacturer Boeing wants to make your restroom experience more enjoyable.

Boeing announced a self-cleaning lavatory for planes on Thursday. It has touchless features, including a hands-free faucet, trash can, toilet lid, soap dispenser and hand dryer. The real star of the show is ultraviolet light. According to Boeing, bathing the bathroom in FAR UV light kills 99.99 percent of germs. "FAR ultraviolet" describes a wavelength that's different than UVA or UVB, the kind of UV light you get from tanning beds.

"We're trying to alleviate the anxiety we all face when using a restroom that gets a workout during a flight," Jeanne Yu, Boeing Commercial Airplanes director of environmental performance, said in a statement. Yu notes that the sanitizing light "even helps eliminate odors."

Even though Boeing states that the light is not harmful, you don't have to worry about getting a face full of UV. The cleaning only kicks in when the restroom is unoccupied and takes about three seconds to disinfect the area. Boeing built a prototype in which the light is designed to flood the toilet seat, sink and countertops.

Don't expect to book a flight tomorrow and step into the beauty of a UV-sanitized restroom right away. Boeing is the midst of "further study" before offering the futuristic bathroom as an option to airlines.

In a world where airplane manufacturers are teasing us with frightening concepts like saddle seats, it's nice to hear some good news about a small part of the flying experience getting a welcome upgrade.