We’ve all been there. Whether you’re using the facilities in your hospital during your break, on a long road trip, or at a crowded concert venue, you’ve probably been presented with a… ahem… less-than-clean public toilet.
And when this happens, it’s common for many people – nurses included – to take matters into their own hands, and ensure that they don’t come into contact with harmful bacteria.
This is why so many people choose to “hover” over public toilets when using them, or turn to toilet seat covers that promise to keep harmful bacteria away from your more… delicate regions.
However, there are quite a few myths surrounding public toilets, toilet seat covers, and the bacteria which call public bathrooms “home”.
And we’re here to bust them! In this article, we’ll take a deep look at toilet seat covers, public bathrooms, and what you (actually) can do to keep yourself safe and clean when using a public facility.
Toilet Seat Covers Don’t Actually Prevent The Spread Of Germs
Yep, sorry – if you think that toilet seat covers are preventing nasty bacteria from spreading when you use the bathroom, you’ve been misled.
It’s easy to see why most people think this, though – after all, a fresh toilet seat cover has to be better than simply sitting on the bare plastic of a public toilet, right?
And you would be correct – in a way. If you’re looking to avoid sitting on the general grossness that’s present on a public toilet, a toilet seat cover is a great way to put a barrier between you and the toilet seat.
However, toilet seat covers don’t do anything when it comes to preventing the spread of germs. Because they’re relatively absorbent, most toilet seat covers are permeable – and most viruses and bacteria are so small that they have no trouble at all getting through the protective barrier of a toilet seat cover.
But don’t despair! Because…
You Probably Won’t Catch Anything From A Toilet Seat, Anyway
Yep! Your risk of contracting some deadly disease or STD from a toilet seat is about as low as getting struck by lightning, or eaten by a great white shark.
In fact, there are no medically verified cases of an STD passing from a toilet seat to a person who used the toilet – that’s a myth, through-and-through.
This is because toilet seats are actually quite inhospitable to most microbes. They’re exposed to the open air, and are usually of smooth plastic or porcelain, offering nasty bacteria and viruses nowhere to shelter.
In addition, your intact skin is a very strong barrier against disease – so there’s really very little risk of catching a disease from a toilet seat.
So if that toilet seat looks clean, use it! It’s not going to hurt you! And don’t even think about covering it with toilet paper!
Using Toilet Paper As An Impromptu Cover Is Actually Worse!
Shocked? You should be! But if you use toilet paper to cover a toilet seat, you’re only increasing the surface area where microbes can multiply – and because “toilet plumes” caused when flushing are mostly responsible for spreading disease (we’ll talk about that soon), toilet paper can often already be covered in nasty bacteria.
So unless there’s some serious grossness on a toilet seat that needs to be covered before you can use it, ditch the T.P. cover, and use the toilet like it was meant to be used!
Most Germs Only Spread After You Flush
Bathrooms aren’t clean – and despite the fact that contact with a toilet seat is relatively harmless, any bathroom can harbor thousands of dangerous viruses and bacteria such as strep, MRSA, and staph.
However, these microbes are usually not spread by the toilet seat. Instead, the “toilet plume” caused by flushing launches millions of microbes into the air – and they can settle on most of the surfaces inside the bathroom.
This is the most common vector for infection in bathrooms. So, how can you avoid it? Wash your hands!
The single biggest risk factor for disease in public restrooms is fecal matter coming into contact with your mouth.
So instead of taking a minute to craft an artisanal toilet paper seat cover, take an extra 30 seconds to ensure that your hands are clean and sanitized – and you’ll be able to protect yourself from most public-bathroom nasties!
Don’t Fear The Seat! Follow These Tips To Stay Safe In Public Bathrooms!
There you have it. Despite the nastiness often present in public bathrooms, you’re unlikely to contract any kind of bacterial infection from a toilet seat – so if you can’t find a toilet seat cover, don’t freak out.
Simply using a relatively clean bathroom and making sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward will protect you from 99.99% of all nasty bathroom viruses and bacteria.
So don’t fear the toilet seat – just make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after sitting!