How Sanitary Are Public Bathrooms?


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public restroom.jpgI'm sure I'm not the only person out there who dreads the thought of public restrooms. Maybe that makes me mysophobic, more commonly known as a "germaphobe". It might seem a little dramatic, so I decided to find out just how unsanitary the average public bathroom really is. According to abcNEWS this phobia is one I share with many American women. It is even passed down from mothers to daughters. Dr. Charles Gerba tested the germ levels on multiple surfaces in the bathroom at the abcNEWS station. Dr. Gerba says that typically the floor is the dirtiest surface, with approximately 2 million bacteria per square inch. That's roughly 200 times more bacteria than on a sanitary surface. As the abc station, the sanitary napkin disposal was rated as the most germ-covered surface. Something that especially surprised me was that the toilet seats were the cleanest surface in the entire bathroom; they even had less the 1,000 bacteria per square inch, classifying them as sanitary and clean enough to eat off of! For as long as I can remember, I have heard myths and rumors that it is possible to catch all kinds of diseases and infections from sitting on toilet seats. WebMD breaks down this myth. Organisms and bacteria that could cause disease and may be lurking on toilet seats can't actually survive for very long. Also, most viruses and common cold germs will die fairly quickly. However, mysophobia kicks in again for me: what if the person who just came out of the stall infected the toilet? Could I still catch something within those few minutes? Chances are no, since the few organisms on the surface of the toilet seat wouldn't be enough to infect you. This doesn't mean that public restrooms are clean and no precautions are needed. Here are some common sense tips for my fellow germaphobes out there: 1. Do not, under any circumstances, place your purse/backpack/coat/anything else on the floor. The floor is covered in germs, including fecal bacteria, that you will end up bringing home with you. 2. Just because something looks clean, doesn't mean it necessarily is. I gag at the idea of a public men's restroom, but they typically have less bacteria than the women's room. 3. abcNews claims that the sanitary hand dryer can blow bacteria onto your hand, but a study by Mayo Clinic in 2000 revealed that 15 seconds of drying your hands with the paper towel is just as effective as a 30 second use of the hand dryer (as reported by

4 Comments

I have the same thoughts as you when I enter a public bathroom. It seems to me that since they are the place where all the bodies waste goes, they would be the dirtiest, especially since a huge amount of people use them. It is nasty how dirty the floors are but I guess it makes sense. Many people don't respect public bathrooms and get their waste all over the floor. Also, they use mops which doesn't clean the bacteria, it just moves it around. I will always be aware of how unsanitary these places are and never let my guard down.

I think it is no surprise that public restrooms are all around some of the dirtiest places in the world. I think this is a problem that isn't as stressed as it should be because public restrooms have the potential to breed potentially harmful bacteria. I think this problem does not get addressed because it is mostly a female problem and thus business and places don't want to take the money hit since it only affects 1/2 of the people that use it. that isn't to say that I as a guy I actually LIKE dirty bathrooms because I don't, it just does not affect us as much since I guess we don't have to sit down to do our business unlike women.

I'm 100% on your side with this whole situation. When you told me this fear is hereditary, I immediately thought of my Clorox-obsessed mother. When I came home for Thanksgiving break, I swear the porcelain throne was shining like no other. I was scared to sit down and smudge its shining glory. But on a serious side, I've always been taught to hover over the seat in opposition to actually plopping down in public restrooms, and the habit has stuck with me. If toilet seat covers are offered, I may use them, but most likely not. I also picture a million little germs living on the surface, even if this information may be false. You'd probably be surprised that toilet seats are not the dirtiest object in public restrooms. It's actually the floors that create homes to million of germs. Here's an article that supports that claim: http://channels.isp.netscape.com/whatsnew/package.jsp?name=fte/germsinrestrooms/germsinrestrooms

You are not the only one that finds public restrooms revolting... I am not really a "germaphobe", but when it comes to bathrooms in public places I can not stand them! It actually is so bad that I refuse to chew gum in the bathroom. I always feel like since there is so many chemicals that float around in the bathroom, I am scared that I will inhale them and chew them in my gum, is that weird? I just hear so many negative things from the dirtiness of them all! Even washing my hands makes me feel dirty, because I have to touch the sink, then the paper towels where everyone else has touched them after going to the bathroom! Back to the gum talk, just like chewing gum is forbidden during chem labs due to the chemicals possibly being ingested in your mouth and then sticking to your gum, why can't that happen in bathrooms too? http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_dangers_of_chewing_gum_during_a_science_lab#slide1

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