By Leanne Shelton
I think we can all agree… public restrooms are gross. No one likes to use them. It’s bad enough when you walk into an especially dirty restroom and see nasty filth all over, but it’s even worse thinking about the germs and bacteria that we cannot see lurking on the surfaces.
In a study done by the American Society for Microbiology, researchers found that some bacteria lasted for months on restroom surfaces, despite regular cleaning. As part of the study, they sterilized a bathroom with bleach, and within one hour, it was recolonized with microbes mostly of fecal origin. The restroom floor, toilet handle, toilet paper dispenser, and purse shelf are the areas with the highest concentration of bacteria. So if you drop your phone on the bathroom floor (the horror!) it’s a good idea to disinfect it. (Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.)
Despite the illness-causing bacteria covering everything you see in public restrooms, there are precautions and safe hygiene practices that we can use to help keep us clean and germ free.
- The best stall to choose is usually the first one. Most people don’t use the first stall because they want more privacy, so it’s usually the cleanest.
- It is best to sit rather than squat when you go to the bathroom. This ensures that urine goes where it’s actually supposed to instead of all over the seat and floor.
- Before you flush, make sure you are fully clothed and ready to walk out the door. Germs can fly out of the toilet up to SIX feet.
- Be sure to properly wash your hands for the recommended time of 30 seconds. Don’t forget in between your fingers!
- Try not to touch anything. Use paper towels to touch stuff rather than your bare hands. The faucets contain lots of bacteria so grab a paper towel to turn the water off if you can. (Aren’t automatic everything bathrooms the greatest?)
- When you are leaving the restroom, grab a paper towel to open the door. There are usually trash cans near the door that you can throw it in right before you walk out. If it’s a bathroom with no paper towels, either use hand sanitizer after you exit or cover your hand with your clothing.
If you have to use a public restroom, it’s a good bet that some of the cleanest ones are in restaurants, hotels, cafes, and bookstores. Following the tips above will help reduce your risk of contracting a cold, the flu, e-coli, norovirus, or some other fecal-borne disease.
For more information, contact Shoen Safety and Training. To learn CPR and First Aid and become American Red Cross certified, register for a CPR/First Aid class with Shoen Safety and Training. There are a lot of options available to fit your schedule. The peace of mind that you’ll get from knowing how to respond in an emergency situation is priceless.