We never fail to be amazed at how worked up people get about public restrooms and toilet seats. A wet toilet seat grosses most people out.
Nobody Wants a Damp Toilet Seat!
Q. I hate sitting on a damp toilet seat. People who leave public restrooms in this condition are selfish and thoughtless. They don’t want to sit down themselves, but don’t have the decency to clean up their own mess.
I have never been able to “hover” over the seat, so I’ve just put up with this unpleasantness. Fortunately, I’ve never caught anything this way.
A. There is actually a medical condition called toilet phobia. However, we know of no reason why people should worry about sitting down in a public restroom.
A disposable paper seat cover makes this more comfortable. While they are available for free in some restrooms, a concerned person could also carry a few in a handbag. Some people choose to clean the seat with a disposable alcohol wipe before using it. Again, this is strictly to reduce the “gross-out” factor.
According to Dr. Charles Gerba, microbiologist at the University of Arizona, toilets can spread germs all over the bathroom when they flush. That affects much more than the seat. As a result, people might want to carry their own soap or hand sanitizer if the dispensers in the restrooms they frequent aren’t always well stocked.
Denise shared her anger about wet seats:
“Women who pee on seats are doing so because they do not want their bare bottoms (mostly thighs, actually) to contact a surface – even a dry surface – that has been sat on – or peed on – by others. Perhaps they should go in the men’s room and use a urinal.
“When I unsuspectingly sit on a wet seat (rare now that I look first) I am not so much worried about germs as I am wet and uncomfortable and put out that I now have to dry off my entire backside before I’m done. The preceding offender should wipe off the seat so I don’t have to. Come on, people!”
What About Germs?
Then there’s the whole issue of germs. Some people are convinced that they caught “something” from a toilet seat. One older woman reported that her husband contracted herpes from the facilities at their gym. She was adamant that her husband did not “mess around.”
Dermatologists insisted that was impossible and that no one ever caught herpes (or any other STD) from a toilet seat. STD experts such as Dr. Ina Park agree. Nevertheless, some people are convinced that they caught herpes from gym equipment or bathrooms.
A nurse shared this experience:
“I was taught in nursing school that one could not get herpes from a toilet seat. I have contracted herpes and my husband of 36 years remains free of the disease. Since I have had only one partner in my 57 years and he remains clear, I must assume that I caught herpes from a toilet seat.
“Intact skin makes it hard for a person to catch this disease. But I get occasional splits in the skin near the base of the spine, and this is where my herpes has appeared. I do not have vaginal herpes.
“Those of us who have the disease and have not had sex with more than one person in our entire lives are devastated to learn that we are carriers. Thank goodness for a wonderful physician and an understanding husband.”
Flushing Toilets with the Lid Down
Q. Your discussion of germ contamination from flushing toilets should be a non-issue. All people have to do is close the lid before flushing. Of course, covers are not air tight, but I doubt if much airborne spray would get out and cause infections in a normal home.
A. At the risk of reigniting the great bathroom battle, we have to disagree. Dr. Chuck Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, has singlehandedly reinforced America’s fear of public restrooms. He found that when a toilet is flushed, germs from the bowl are thrown into the air in a fine, invisible mist that eventually settles out on bathroom surfaces.
When we asked him the obvious question about closing the lid, he informed us that this would not solve the problem. The mist apparently lingers and the next person to lift the lid may get it in the face.
Of course in a normal home, where people are healthy, there is little risk of transmitting infection. But in a public restroom, flush handles, taps and door knobs may be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. Readers have suggested using a paper towel when touching these surfaces after washing hands.
Other Sources of Bacterial Contamination
Without becoming paranoid, consider that toilet paper dispensers can be a source of nasty germs. So can cell phones, kitchen sponges, counter tops and cutting boards. Money is dirty. So are light switches, computer keyboards, remote controls for TVs (in hotels and hospitals) as well as shopping cart handles. The best advice: wash hands carefully!
Many visitors to this website say we should not worry about germs. But norovirus can spread easily and cause severe diarrhea. This viral infection is NOT restricted to cruise ships. The CDC estimates about 20 million people suffer gastroenteritis each year. Most cases are caused by norovirus (symptoms include severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea) and occur on land.
What’s your opinion? Share your own bathroom experiences below in the “ADD MY THOUGHTS” section. And please vote on this article at the top of the page.