How Dirty Are Public Restrooms?
In a study by Kimberly-Clark Professional, 39 percent of survey respondents feared picking up germs in public restrooms more than any other place. Is there good reason for the fear or are people overly concerned? Can you reduce the risks?
What’s in There and Can It Harm You?
Without getting too specific, there are many germs that can thrive in restrooms. Bacteria live off of moisture and organic food (or waste), which can be quite plentiful in a public restroom.
Fears of contacting STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) from a public washroom have more to do with the fear of the disease than the likelihood of picking it up in a washroom. Many of these bacteria and viruses do not live long enough outside the body to be easily transmitted; however, some experts admit there is a theoretical risk of herpes or crabs being contracted under certain – but unlikely – conditions.
Some public facilities provide flushable toilet seat covers, antibacterial cleansers or you can line the seat with toilet paper. You can also “air sit” to avoid contact.
Of greater concern are salmonella and shigella bacteria which can be transferred by contact with feces. The infected person can transmit the bacteria on their hands which can then be transferred to flushing handles, door handles, and faucets. Make sure you also soap the faucet handles then rinse it before closing and touching it again after washing!
Battling Bacteria in Dirty/ Nasty Public Restrooms
Foul odors, lack of supplies, and puddles on the floors can all be signs of improper toilet maintenance. Odor that comes from public washrooms can be caused by urine in tile grouting. If the floors aren’t properly cleaned daily (or more), then the uric acid salts will not be removed with regular cleansers. These salts provide a food source for bacteria whose digestive processes give off the foul odor.
Products like MicroGuard from AllDura and even stainless steel can reduce the maintenance required to keep bacteria growth to a minimum.
A lack of supplies (toilet paper, hand drying towels, or soap) can also increase the unhygienic conditions of a restroom. Overly crowded restrooms can suffer from a lack of supplies or a lack of available sinks, soap dispensers, or dryers.
The Magic Weapon: Wash Your Hands!
It is the simple truth that hand washing will drastically cut the chance for germ transference. A study done by Scott Papers found that more than nine out of ten respondents claimed to wash their hands when using public restrooms. However, only 67 percent were actually observed doing so!
As manufacturers of paper products, including paper towels, the company also states that drying hands thoroughly is imperative in practicing proper hygiene. The moisture left on hands can still carry bacteria. Because of this, air drying machines may not be enough protection since many individuals do not use them long enough to thoroughly dry their hands.
The knowledge that proper washing and drying can protect you from the worse public restrooms is comforting. The fact that public washrooms still need to provide the basics for good hygiene, as well as good maintenance, is something that needs work. Thus, carrying an antibacterial gel for emergency use is also recommended when visiting a public area.
10 Tips for Using Public Restrooms
*How to Avoid Germs in Public Restrooms:
Washing your hand is the single most effective way to keep bacteria at bay.
2. Use the first stall.
If the bathroom has multiple stalls, use the first stall. The first stall is observed to be the least used stall.
Most people go for one of the middle stalls and because they’re used more often, they are have more germs.
3. Check for supplies before you go.
Check to make sure there is enough paper towels and toilet paper available to you before you go.
4. Try to hover instead of sitting.
If you can, “air sitting” will help you to avoid coming into contact with germs that are on the toilet seat. (If you make a mess, be sure to clean up after yourself!)
If you must sit, line the toilet with toilet paper or sheet liners provided in the bathroom. You can also purchase toilet seat liners and carry them with you to use as needed. They are especially good to have on hand for road trips.
5. Wear shoes/ closed footwear.
It might sound silly but be sure you have shoes on when you’re in a public restroom. There is plenty of bacteria on the floor that can be picked up into your bare skin from the floor if you don’t have shoes on.
6. Check the soap.
Believe it or not, a soap dispenser can be like a petri dish harboring loads of bacteria. This is so because people touch it with unclean hands throughout the day. You are likely to pick up more germs by using the soap if it is a dispenser you have to touch to get the soap out.
Automatic dispensers are the best because people don’t have to come in contact with them to get the soap. If the dispenser is not automatic, consider simply rinsing for a longer period of time with just water and no soap.
7. Don’t touch the handles after you wash.
Tons of bacteria are harbored in the handles of the sinks in a bathroom. They’re touched by people after they use the bathroom while they’re hands may have germs on them. If you can, after you wash your hands, don’t touch the handle again.
Grab a paper towel to turn the water off so you avoid coming back into contact with the germs left behind on handles. You can also wash the handle as well before touching it again.
8. Carry Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer.
While using a hand sanitizer should be minimized for a number of reasons, it is good to carry and use antibacterial hand sanitizer with you for times when you have to use an especially dirty bathrooms or if one or more of the conditions listed above exist.
9. Be careful when touching the door handle upon exiting.
Many germs remain on the door handle of the bathroom and you can pick them up by simply opening the door when leaving. Grab a paper towel to open the door so that your hands remain clean when you leave.
10. Check your surroundings.
In addition to avoiding bacteria, make sure that your surroundings are secure and safe. Go with a buddy, be aware of what is going on around you, and take the location of the restroom into consideration before you go!