Stop Believing This Toilet Myth

Creating this barrier between your skin and the seat isn’t actually helpful, in fact, it could be exposing you to more germs!

toilet paper on toilet seat aSuruwataRi/Shutterstock

Public toilets aren’t anyone’s favorite place to go. Your imagination can conjure up some disturbing thoughts when you consider the germs that could be floating about. Consequently, many people lay down toilet paper on a public toilet seat in an attempt to distance themselves from the germs. But, creating this barrier between your skin and the seat isn’t actually helpful, in fact, it could be exposing you to more germs!

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Germs cling to the light, thin paper in public restrooms, so each time the toilet is flushed, germs from the toilet disperse and float over to the exposed roll of toilet paper. Meanwhile, the toilet seat is much harder for germs to cling to, making less germy than the toilet paper.

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“In most public restroom surfaces, human-associated bacteria dominate,” says Dr. Nilka Figueroa, an Infectious Diseases Chief Fellow at Harlem Hospital Center. “This bacteria are skin microbes that most people already have, so they pose almost no risk of infection.”

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So what should you really be doing to protect yourself?

You could bring your own toilet paper. You could squat over the toilet. Or you could just sit your bare skin on the toilet seat and use the toilet paper. According to a 2011 PLOS (Public Library of Science) study, most of the bacteria found in bathrooms are skin-associated and pose little threat.

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Additional studies have backed up the reality that surfaces in public restrooms aren’t harming your health, like this 2016 Filtrated study that found gym equipment has more bacteria than toilet surfaces.

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Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer, currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty and scientific news. Follow her traveling adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected] and check out her website: livingbylex.com