Public restrooms and toilet seats can be the stuff of nightmares.
Try as you may to reduce your exposure to bacteria, nearly every surface in a public washroom is crawling with harmful bugs just dying to test out your immune system.
We all have our little tricks to keep things as clean as we can: some people carry tissues to create a barrier between their hand and the various handles in the restroom, others hold on to hand sanitizers or use their feet to flush the toilet (1).
For nearly 50% of women, though, their washroom habits revolve around the toilet seat. That’s right: women are taught by their mothers to either hover over the toilet seat or cover it with toilet paper before doing their business.
But covering up the seat doesn’t protect your bottom, it exposes it to even more bacteria than what’s found on an exposed seat (2).
Believe it or not, the toilet seat should be the least of your worries. In a bacteria test conducted by ABC News, a toilet seat at the news’ stations office was so clean that food could safely be eaten off the surface. In comparison, it was even cleaner than some of the desks tested. What wasn’t too clean, though, was the floor and the sanitary napkin disposal unit.
One of the reasons this is the case may be due to the fact that toilet seats are regularly cleaned with antibacterial products in public restrooms. Plus, they’re also designed to be unfriendly to bacteria.
No Lids, Big Mess
However, public toilets don’t have lids, meaning that every time they are flushed, bacteria and water are sprayed around the stall in a 6-foot radius (3).
One of the surfaces that gathers the most of this bacteria is toilet paper.
The popular TV show, The Doctors, conducted their own bacteria test and found that toilet paper dispensers were among the top dirtiest surfaces in the washroom, testing positive for the bacteria that causes urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and womb infections (4). Since toilet paper is made to be absorbent, who knows how many bacteria can live on a single sheet.
The best ways to protect yourself from dirty surfaces is to wash your hand frequently after using the restroom and carry your own tissues. If you’re still concerned about the seat, use a non-toxic antiseptic wipe to clean the area before use.
Most importantly – do not let your purse or bag touch the floor, as the billions of bacteria present there will hitch a ride and end up in your home.
Now that you know how to protect yourself in public restrooms, you might want to take the time to clean your own at home.