Let’s be real: having to use a public toilet is never as good as using your own. The one in your home. The one where you generally know what’s been going… um, anyway.
And we all have our preferred ways of using said public toilets, whether it involves covering the whole seat with toilet paper or choosing to squat so no part of your body has to touch the damn thing. (Thank goodness for toilets with automatic flushes.) (On second thoughts, when they don’t work, it’s the worst.)
It turns out there is a right and wrong way to use a public toilet according to ~science~, and this could mean you’ve been emptying your bladder incorrectly this whole time. The folks at BuzzFeed spoke to three loo experts about the best way to use a toilet to prevent the spread of germs. Their responses were interesting. And also kind of concerning.
Here are the main takeaway points – do with it what you will.
Covering the seat in toilet paper is not a good idea. Um, WHAT? According to Raymond Martin, the managing director of the British Toilet Association, “placing toilet paper on the seat actually increases the surface area for germs to multiply and therefore is considerably less hygienic.”
The toilet roll might be as bad as the toilet. Or WORSE. Laura Bowater (great name for a toilet-related expert), who is a professor of microbiology at the University of East Anglia, told BuzzFeed, “If it is an exposed roll that might have encountered hands that are gripping it while a strip is being ripped off and those hands aren’t very clean then there is a chance that they may have transferred germs to the roll.” Also, flushing means there’s more chance for water – and other stuff in the toilet (OMG, gross) – to splash out of the bowl and onto the toilet paper. Insert sick face emoji here.
Squatting is the key. In short, the less you come into contact with the toilet, the better.
Hovering is kind of recommended, and kind of not. Hovering means you have less chance of touching the toilet. But according to Raymond Martin, hovering “just leads to accidents and discomfort.” And due the potential mess hovering can create, it’s not great for our bodies because our bladders aren’t able to relax properly. Far out, how do we win?
Antibacterial wipes or wiping down the toilet seat with hand sanitiser is ideal. There are some public toilets lovely enough to offer antibacterial spray you can use to wipe down the toilet seat, but they’re not readily available everywhere. You could get into a habit of taking hand sanitiser every time you use a public toilet, if you can be bothered.
And for goodness’ sake, always flush with the toilet seat down. As someone who’s wary of any toilet I see with the seat down (WTF am I going to find in there?), this is a habit I have to ease myself into. But toilet seats were designed for more than just giving us a place to sit when we’re depressed/tipsy and on the verge of throwing up. They are there to prevent “toilet plume” – yes, that is the official term for all the shit that can potentially splash out during a flush – and should be used accordingly. So remember: flush with the seat down.