Why Using Toilet Seat Liners is Pointless

Are you the kind of person who always grabs one of those seat covers before you plop your behind down on a public toilet so you don’t get a disease from other people’s, er, leftovers that might have been left behind on the seat?

If you haven’t heard, those paper liners are pretty much worthless and that the only thing they really provide is comfort and peace of mind.

But wait, you are saying, isn’t there a chance that you will have a close encounter of the “yuck” kind? Well, unless the seat is obviously dirty, (and if it is, then, of course, don’t use it), it’s more of our own heebie jeebie feeling than an actual fact that we will pick up some disease.

That’s not to say that public restrooms aren’t germy. At a meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, a study was presented that showed scientists who studied various sample from a wide variety of public restrooms ( imagine the fun of that job) found that there were so many types of bacteria that could cause illnesses to be listed. So it’s no wonder that as much as 60 percent of Americans say that they simply won’t sit on a public toilet unless they have a liner.

Woman in the toilet

Photo credit: bigstock

Experts will tell you, however, that your fears of catching something are overblown.  Yes, germs do live on the toilet seat, mostly in the form of fecal borne bacteria. Ugly bacteria such as E. coli, which causes bloody diarrhea or abdominal cramping, S. aureus, which has been linked to pneumonia and other serious skin problems, and streptococcus, that nasty bug that causes strep throat. However, merely being on the toilet seat doesn’t mean they are going to make you sick. That’s what your skin is for, friends. The skin on your tush makes a great barrier and keeps those nasty bugs out of your body. The only exception to this is if you had some kind of open wound on your butt.


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Ok, but what about HIV, herpes, or those other ugly sexually transmitted diseases? The organisms that cause these diseases only live a few minutes once they have left a warm, human body, and they die once they come into contact with a cold, hard plastic toilet seat. Even if they could live for a few minutes, they would still need to come into contact with either an open cut, or lesion, or from contact with a mucous membrane (such as your mouth, nose, or anus, for example, and we can only hope you don’t have plans to do mouth to mouth with the toilet seat) So all these factors mean that the odds of getting infected from just sitting down would be, oh, let’s say next to nothing.

But still, wouldn’t you be safer overall by using a liner? Experts say, not really. They are too thin to do much good, and if they rip or fall apart, then they are completely worthless as they just let the germs through. If you plan to use them, you would be safer if you doubled up or just put some double folded toilet paper over the seat. Those automatic, plastic covers are better, but they still aren’t necessary, except in your mind.  Of course no one wants to sit a visibly dirty or wet seat but use common sense. If it looks dirty, then don’t use it, but in general, you really aren’t going to pick up anything from sitting on the seat.


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Now where you find a whole lot of germs are the underside of the toilet seat because of the splash factor when you flush.  Also, how often do you clean the underside of your toilet seat? For most people, nowhere near as often as they do the bowl itself.  When flushing, some modern toilets can aerosolize the contents for as far as 5 feet. Older toilets without water saving devices can spray as far as 20 feet away! If you are using a public toilet and you find that it has no lid to close, open the stall door first, then flush and get out of the way quickly, closing the door behind you.

It might be due to those long reaching flushes that the dirtiest part of a public bathroom is the floor. One investigation found that the floors of public restrooms can have as many as 2 million bacteria living on it per square inch. Can you say ewwwww? So ladies, if you have a purse or are carrying shopping bags, don’t set it down on the floor!

Would you like to know where the real danger in coming into contact with germs and bacteria lies? Your hands. The 10 dirtiest things in a bathroom are your fingers. Germs that you pick up from contaminated surfaces such as office desktops, the computer mouse, keyboards, and phone receivers, are very easily transferred to other surfaces and to your eyes, mouth, or nose, where they can make you, and everyone else, sick as a dog. This is why washing your hands with tons of soap and water is so very important.

We are especially talking to you, fine gentlemen of the world. The American Society for Microbiology performed a study in 2010 and found that only 77 percent of men washed their hands before they left a public restroom. 93 percent of women do. Read also about hand sanitizers and what you should know about them.

So, here’s the bottom line: Don’t worry about your hiney, worry about those hands! Wash them and all will be well.






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