There are some things that you often wonder but never ask because you are just too embarrassed, and this is one of them. I have often found myself wondering if the toilet seat covers provided in public restrooms are effective in protecting you against those nasty bathroom germs. And guess what?! They aren’t.
I reached out to Matthew Wellock, MD, who let me know that while most people consider toilet seats the vilest of surfaces in public restrooms, studies have found far fewer germs on toilet seats than anywhere else in the restroom. While using paper seat covers or toilet tissue as a barrier between the seat and skin may relieve a person's germ anxiety, it likely protects more against fear than actual germ threats.
Good to know. So, where are the germs we need to be worried about in the bathroom?
“Far more infectious are other surfaces in the stall and sink areas, including toilet tissue dispensers, sanitary napkin receptacles, and the most unsanitary surface--the floor. Faucet handles and door handles generally harbor fewer infectious organisms than the floor, as well.”
Because many public restroom floors are not sanitized regularly with cleansers caustic enough to destroy the myriad germs that congregate there, including strep, staph, E-coli, coliform, rotavirus and the especially dangerous Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), among others, the bathroom floor is one nasty germ filled place. To make matters worse actual fecal matter seems frequently detected in floor-swabbed lab tests, even on a seemingly clean looking floor.
Now that you are officially freaked out, Dr. Wellock explains what you can do to stay clean in the bathroom. “I advise never setting anything on a restroom floor or any flat surface in a public restroom, if possible, and to sanitize bags, hands and anything that touches those surfaces.
The use of paper products as toilet seat protectors can serve as a mental reminder of all the infectious surfaces in public restrooms and can be an effective teaching aid with children to raise their germ awareness as well, so I find it does no harm.”
So there you have it. Toilet seats are not where the germs are hanging out at, and the best way to stay clean in the restroom is to avoid setting things down and washing your hands! Thanks to Dr. Wellock for getting to the bottom of this dirty issue.