In an idyllic world, all the washrooms would be clean and have automatic entrance doors with No-Touch Hand Disinfectant Dispensers, which would allow us to have clean and safe hands. The toilets would flush automatically, and we would find No-Touch soap dispensers, hands-free faucets, air-jet dryers, and well-placed paper towel dispensers. In that way, we could get in and out without having to touch any surfaces. But unfortunately, this is not the case, and sometimes going to the bathrooms feels like a dangerous adventure.
According to a study, bacteria can survive for months, even if the area is cleaned multiple times a day. In public toilets, 45% of found bacteria were of fecal origin, not only including toilet seats but also soap dispensers. The searchers found genetic traces of more than 77,000 distinct types of bacteria and viruses, fortunately, most of them were likely dead or dormant. But when they tried growing cultures from the different surfaces in each room, they found one set of live bacteria in overwhelming abundance: Staphylococcus, also known as MRSA. Other studies also reported that, even if bacteria normally does not survive long outside of the body and are not any more dangerous than the germs at home, public facilities do tend to contain several kinds of harmful bacteria like E.coli, Salmonella, Coliform, Rotavirus, and cold viruses. Public bathrooms can be a hotspot of bacteria, and we need to be extra careful.
Let’s learn 8 good pieces of advice that will make your experience in public restrooms safer, and not feel like a dangerous adventure into the wild.
In order to locate a suitable public restroom with the biggest chance to be clean, keep in mind that the best are in hospitals, hotels, and restaurants, which normally have higher cleaning standards. If feasible avoid the ones at the airports, as they are in high traffic areas with bathrooms that may not stay clean for long due to the high volume of people using them throughout the day. Once you are there, try to take the stall that looks the cleanest. It seems that people tend to use less the first stall due to the feeling of being less “private”, so it’s safe to bet that it will be less exposed to germs and bacteria.
A study reports that the highest concentration of germs in public bathrooms are found on the floor. If you place your bag on the floor, dirt and germs from your shoes would then be transferred to it and then eventually to your hands. If there is a hook available, just hang your belongings there. Otherwise, it is always better if a friend can hold your bag and or coat, which could funnily explain a lot why women always go to the toilet with a friend.
A study says that you are more at risk of picking up germs and bacteria through touching bathroom surfaces with your hands and then not washing them, rather than through your skin on your bottom while sitting on the toilet seat. It is obvious that skin contact with urine or fecal matter on the toilet seat is not desirable, but they are actually not clear health hazards, so it’s not that vital to cover the toilet seat with toilet paper. Still, in order to avoid unpleasant situations, perform a visual inspection of the toilet seat before sitting down on it while choosing your stall. In recent years, you can also find toilet seats sanitizer dispenser to easily sanitize the toilet seat with some toilet paper, so don’t be afraid to sit down. In fact, sitting down on the toilet would avoid you to hover on the toilet seat and let it cleaner for the next people coming.
You should avoid touching the flush handle with your hands, as you can easily transmit bacteria from your hands to your face or your mouth in no time. The best solution is to use toilet paper to touch the handle and to just throw it away in the bowl as it’s starting to flush.
We will never repeat it enough, but washing your hands with soap is your best weapon against bacteria and germs. So during a minimum of 20 seconds properly rub your fingers with soap and then rinse well your hands. The best option is an automatic faucet but if there are none, turn off the tap with a paper towel if available.
Once your hands are washed, don’t forget to dry them thoroughly as bacteria multiply faster on wet hands than dry ones. You can learn more about its importance in our recent article on the differences between paper towels and dryers to dry your hands.
If it is feasible, try to restrict your contact with surfaces as much as possible in order to not get bacteria or germs on your hands. Use automatic dispensers and taps if available, and if possible don’t touch the doors. If you are forced to touch a handle to exit the restroom, then you can also use some paper towels to avoid contact.
If you are lucky, a hand disinfectant dispenser may be located at the entrance of the public facility, so do not hesitate to disinfect your hands before and after going to the washroom, as it will allow you to kill reluctant bacteria. You could also put in your bag a small bottle of hand disinfectants to carry with you everywhere, which will always be handy.
With these basic and easy tips to follow, going to public bathrooms will go from a dangerous adventure, where you are fighting your fear to get in contact with germs and bacteria, to a smooth and safe journey.