Public and private bathrooms are notorious for attracting all sorts of germs. The list of disease inducing microorganisms that are lurking on your toilet bowl, your bathtub, on your hand towel or on your shower door would surprise you: E. coli, hepatitis A and streptococcus are but a few of the more common germs that flourish in a bathroom. Public restrooms are likely to be more germ-infested, but even your own private bathroom is likely to be more unhygienic than you’d care to believe.
1) Avoid touching surfaces
It doesn’t make much difference whether you are using your own bathroom or a public restroom—you should avoid touching the toilet seat, bowl and tank. Most people understand why the toilet, itself, will be the source of a huge host of different germs. It isn’t just the bowl or the seat about which you need to be cautious, though. If you are using a public restroom, you will also have to worry about the possibility of cross contamination on any of the surfaces, including the toilet handle and the walls. If you are going to use a public toilet, it is better to get some paper to cover your hand when you touch the toilet bowl. You can also cover the seat with toilet paper before you sit on it – many restrooms provide paper seat covers expressly for this purpose. At home, it is also best to remember to clean the toilet handle, as well as the bowl and seat, at least once every week or so, especially if a lot of people use the same bathroom.
2) Avoid touching faucets
This might not be as important in your own bathroom, but if you’re using a public restroom, it’s a must do. Faucets and soap dispensers are great surfaces for attracting germs. The excess water, in addition to the residual grime left behind, provide wonderful conditions for germs to multiply. Many of the newer public bathrooms will have non-touch faucets which operate on sensors when you put your hands under the tap, and many also have automatic dispensers for soap. If you do have to turn the faucet on and off, though, it is best to use your elbow to turn off the faucet rather than touch it. Follow the same guidelines for hand dryers and paper towels, too. If they aren’t automatic, use your elbow to manipulate them. Remember that even in your own bathroom, the tap is likely to be in need of a good clean every week or more frequently.
3) Flush with the toilet seat down
This tip comes with scientific evidence that has been around since the late 1970’s. When you flush the toilet, the spray from the water and the contents of the bowl can be dispersed some 6ft into the surrounding atmosphere. Walls, clothes, counter surfaces and ceilings can all be contaminated. The research also has shown that the bacteria can stay in the air and then settle to form a thin layer of germs. The easiest way to prevent all this is to put down the toilet lid before you flush. The newer types of low flush toilets and dual flush toilets have you using less water, and hence, there will be less spray. Regardless, though, if you leave the toilet seat up, you are unnecessarily filling the environment around you with germs. Do yourself a favor and close the lid. You will keep your bathroom a lot more hygienic if you do.
4) Wash your hands
This is the simplest way to avoid most of the germs hiding out in any public or private bathroom. Yet, a lot of people either do not wash their hands, or fail to wash their hands long enough to be effective. It is obvious why you wash your hands after you use any toilet; although, you are likely to get exposed to a lot more germs from a public toilet, given all those other users. Washing your hands, though, can drastically reduce your chances of carrying germs out of the bathroom, and that means lowering the likelihood that you will contaminate your mobile phone, hair, steering wheel or whatever else you touch after relieving yourself. The key is the amount of time. Medical experts suggest that you wash your hands for at least 15 seconds and that make sure you wash all of your hands, including the sides, tops, and palms.
5) Avoid touching door handles
This is one of the best ways of protecting yourself from coming into contact with those nasty bathroom germs. The door handle of any bathroom stall is going to be one of the most germ-ridden surfaces simply because it comes into contact with the soiled hands of multiple users. But, the exit door will also be unhygienic. Remember, most people don’t wash their hands properly, and some don’t wash their hands at all. So, the exit door handle is likely to be one of the best places to spread the little bathroom nasties to other surfaces, like food, or your face. After you wash your hands, you should use either a paper towel or some toilet paper to open the exit door. You might also want to remember to wipe the door of your own bathroom every once in a while, especially if you’ve had guests who may not have washed their hands very well.
6) Change bath sponges
Many people use bath sponges, like loofas, in their regular ablutions. While there is no doubting the benefits of giving yourself a good scrub, it’s important to remember that these items often give germs the ideal environment to grow and multiply. The loofa, in particular, is a ripe breeding ground. All the dead, scraped skin that is removed by your loofa unfortunately gets trapped in all those holes. The wet and damp conditions of the bathroom—the shower, the bathtub—enhance the possibility of any bacteria growing further. In fact, some microbiologists suggest that when you use your loofa, you are actually spreading your dead skin cells all over yourself, in addition to anything new that might have grown since you last bathed or showered. As a rule of thumb, make sure to you change your loofa regularly, about every three or so weeks; and leave it out to dry properly.
7) Spread out your towels
Here is a potential germ hazard that lurks in every face, hand, and bath towels. Towels are obviously going to collect dirt and grime from use, and you should never use the same towel for more than three weeks. Even if you change your towels regularly, though, you will create a germ friendly environment if you hang your towels on hooks, or holders. The folds in the towels will trap moisture and detritus, like residual soap. These are the ideal conditions for bacteria and other nasty microorganisms to thrive. The best solution is to spread bath towels out on rails or washing lines until they have dried completely. The same applies to any wash cloths you use while bathing. In fact, if you’re anticipating a lot of people using your bathroom—like at a party—you could get disposable hand towels just to reduce the chance of your guests spreading germs.
8) Clean the shower curtain/door
Most people understand why it’s important to clean the bathtub or shower. But surveys, like those conducted by Scrubbing Bubbles, show that over 40% of people never clean their shower curtain, or shower door. Shower curtains or doors primarily serve the purpose of stopping the other parts of the bathroom from getting wet. Of course, both the curtain and the shower door get sprayed by the water, soap, shampoo and whatever else you are using while bathing or showering. These residuals form the basis for mildew and mold, especially for shower curtains that are often pushed to one side. If you have a shower curtain, you’re advised either to wash it, or at least leave it open until it dries to prevent excess moisture accumulating. For shower doors, it is a good idea to wipe them down, so that water does not get trapped in the grooves of the door.
9) Change personal hygiene items
This includes all sorts of things you use on your body, such as toothbrushes, razors, soap, footstones, virtually any object you use regularly when bathing or showering. There can be no surprise that the items you use to clean your body are going to have residual body “bits” left on them. So, your toothbrush is likely to have bacterial molecules sticking to the bristles, and the handle of the brush itself will be covered with whatever germs you have had on your hands. Your razor will harbor dead skin cells, and left over soap, and bar of soap may be housing a whole community of germs (especially if you don’t let it dry out). The best way to avoid all of these possible nasties is to change your personal hygiene items regularly. For example, many dentists suggest that you should change your toothbrush, or head, at least once every 3 months.
10) Let your toothbrush dry out
It is essential that you brush your teeth regularly and daily in order to maintain good hygiene. It is equally important, though, to make sure you let your toothbrush dry out properly, if you want to avoid introducing some pretty nasty bacteria into your mouth. You may think that it is a good idea to protect your toothbrush from all those harmful germs in the bathroom by putting it away, say in a medicine cabinet. Electric toothbrushes not only have their own containers, they also have plastic caps that you can put on the head of the toothbrush, to keep it from becoming dirty. The problem, though, is that bacteria love a contained, warm environment. So, instead of preventing germs, you’re actually helping them out. It’s best to follow the guidelines suggested of the American Dental Association: leave your toothbrush to air by standing it up, and away from other toothbrushes.
11) Use toilet paper from dispensers
One of the biggest problems in a public toilet is cross contamination between users. Toilets, walls, doors—all of these things are likely to be covered in germs left behind by other people. Equally unclean, though, is the toilet paper, especially uncovered rolls. Users will take their hands and touch more than they use, introducing germs that are then passed on to the next user. This means that whenever you touch a roll of toilet paper, you are touching the germs of pretty much everyone else who has used the toilet before you entered. So, it is always a good idea to use paper that is in a container, rather than use a roll that has been left out. Don’t forget that the spray from the open toilet is going to get everywhere, too; so the unprotected toilet paper will also be covered in residuals elements from all the flushing that has occurred.