Public Restroom Ettiquette

One of my biggest pet peeves is lack of consideration for others in women’s public restrooms.

There is nothing worse than sitting down on a toilet seat to find belatedly that someone has urinated all over it. Because our mothers told us never to sit on a toilet seat in a public restroom, women and children squat over the toilet and urinate all over the seat and floor. Then I come along, pull down my jeans, and sit in urine while trying to hold the legs of my jeans out of the urine on the floor (though there’s no help for my shoes). You can bet that I utter a few expletives when I feel that familiar dampness on my behind. Even if I’ve discovered the wet seat prior to sitting down, I have to wipe the seat with toilet paper, being careful not to get it on my hands. which is disgusting to say the least . So by trying to avoid germs on their behinds, these “spritzers” are exposing the next person to their germs. Go figure.

Now we come to those who refuse to flush because they don’t want to get germs on their hands from the flush handle. Really, really gross! However, they will unlock the stall and open the door with their hands so what about the germs on the lock and door? Aren’t the same hands that flush the toilet going to unlock and open the door? O.K., so they wash their hands, but they use their germy hands to turn the water on and then use their clean hands to turn the faucet off so don’t the germs jump back on their clean hands when they turn the water off?

Then there’s the purse. There is usually a hook on the inside of the door to hang your purse but then the germy hands are used to remove the purse off the door and after hands are washed, there go the clean hands on the germy purse.

And of course, there’s the door leading out of the restroom. The germ-a-phobes don’t want to touch the door because it just has to have germs on it, so they use a paper towel to open it but what to do with the paper towel?  Yep, throw it on the floor.

Web MD says restroom paranoia might be a bit overdone. They say simple hand washing should be enough to knockout familiar and unfamiliar suspects like Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, E. coli and Shigella bacteria, Hepatitis A virus, the common cold and various sexually transmitted organisms if one’s immune system is healthy. Also that many people consider the toilet seat to be the playground for organisms responsible for STDs like Chlamydia or Gonorrhea. However, the toilet seat is not a common vehicle for transmitting infections to humans. Many disease-causing organisms can survive only a short time on the surface of the seat and for an infection to occur, the germs would have to be transferred from the toilet seat to your urethral or genital tract or through a cut or sore on the buttocks or thighs, which is possible but highly unlikely.

Abigail Salyers, PhD, President of the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) says to her knowledge, no one has ever acquired an STD from the toilet seat – unless they were having sex on the toilet seat. Most viruses and/or bacteria would have to be contracted in amounts large enough to make you sick according to Judy Daly, PhD, Professor of Pathology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The organisms that cause the Herpes virus or HIV don’t survive outside the human body especially not on a cold, hard toilet seat and to infect you, they need to enter through an open cut or sore or via a mucous membrane such as your mouth or rectum. We won’t go there.

“What about those paper seat covers?” you ask. Maybe if you fold them to increase the thickness so they don’t rip and fall apart or if you use double folded toilet paper it would at least make you feel safer, either of which will probably end up on the floor. In actuality, your skin is a very effective barrier to keep germs out if you don’t have a wound or lesion on your behind.

I did find out that germs in feces can be propelled into the air when the toilet is flushed. For that reason, it is advisable to leave the stall immediately after flushing to keep the microscopic airborne mist from landing on you. The greatest dispersal of the mist doesn’t occur during the flush but after most of the water has left the bowl says Philip Tierno, MD, Director of ClinicalMicrobiology and Diagnostic Immunology at New York University Medical Center and Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

The real danger in picking up and carrying around germs comes from your hands, warns Tierno. “The 10 dirtiest things are your fingers.” Germs left on your hands can be easily transferred to surfaces you touch or to your eyes, mouth or nose. The best way to scrub your hands is to rub your hands with soap lather for at least 20 seconds (the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice) and be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. So you might want to use a paper towel to turn the faucet off. But please please dispose of the paper towel in the trash bin.

Now I am going to list 11 things more germy than toilet seats:

  1. Hotel/Motel Bedspread
  2. Purse Bottoms
  3. ATM Keypad
  4. Office Telephone
  5. Restaurant Menu
  6. Condiment Containers
  7. Grocery Carts
  8. Steering Wheel
  9. Kitchen Faucet Handle(s)
  10. Gym Equipment
  11. Swings and Monkey Bars

So even though my mother told me not to sit on a public restroom toilet seat, I refuse to squat in the air. I never have and never will. Nor do I use paper or my foot to flush or open, close or lock the door. I certainly don’t use my foot to turn on or off the faucet nor do I use paper (I do, however, wash my hands) and guess what – I have never gotten sick or caught infectious or sexual diseases from sitting on a toilet seat.

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