Can You Get Sick from Toilet Seats?

The answer will have you second-guessing taking the time to protect your bum.

Some of you may use a toilet seat cover or some toilet paper on public toilet seats in an effort to ward off any germs. Sorry, but a flimsy piece of paper isn’t going to protect you against germs. But don’t worry too much; there’s little chance you’ll catch anything from a well-used public toilet.

Why Do We Even Use Toilet Seat Covers?

People began using toilet seat covers because it was once believed you could catch gastrointestinal and sexually transmitted infections from toilet seats. But according to TIME Magazine, there is little actual evidence supporting that claim. Still, those liners remain available in some public restrooms so people feel a little bit cleaner when relieving themselves.

Here’s why you should always close the toilet lid when you flush:

Can You Get Sick From Toilet Seats?

“Toilet seats are not a vehicle for the transmission of any infectious agents — you won’t catch anything,” Dr. William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told HuffPost.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t any germs on toilets. The majority of the bacteria on toilet seats are common skin microbes that most people already have, so they don’t pose a risk.  (Whenever you flush the toilet, germs are released into the air; they can travel as far as six feet!)

If the restroom lacks toilet seat covers, relax. It wasn’t likely to stop germs anyway. “Toilet seat covers are absorbent and bacteria and viruses are tiny, able to pass through the relatively large holes in the cover’s paper,” Kelly Reynolds, a public health researcher at the University of Arizona, told USA Today. More important for you to know: Stop believing this toilet myth.

That said, germs are essentially lurking all over the restroom. The best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands. Using soap and warm water to scrub your hands can go a long way.

Can You Get the Coronavirus From Toilet Seats?

It’s unlikely you would catch the coronavirus from a toilet seat. Diarrhea is not a common symptom of COVID-19. Even if the virus could be transmitted this way, you wouldn’t catch it from sitting on the seat. Touching the seat and then not washing your hands is another story. There is still a lot to learn about this virus so it’s extremely important to wash your hands regularly and disinfect items that you touch regularly.

How to Properly Use a Toilet Seat Cover

Toilet seat covers do provide a barrier of sorts, however slight. But people make several key mistakes that compromise the effectiveness of the toilet seat cover, Lifehacker reports. Here’s what to avoid:

  1. Tearing off the flap in the middle and throwing it out.
  2. Putting the cover on wrong, so the flap hangs down in the back, not the front.
  3. Not poking the flap out. The point is to have the flap dip into the water, so it will be whirled away when you flush, no hands needed.

So next time you go to the bathroom, feel free to skip the toilet seat cover. Besides, there are other things you touch every day that you don’t realize are crawling with germs.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest