Public restrooms! Dirty, wet, odorous endurance trials—never fun, sometimes necessary.
Most of us detest public restrooms and we all have certain rituals we perform when we have to use them: piling on a liberal amount of toilet seat covers, hovering over the seat, using an elbow to open and close doors. Sometimes we just “hold it” until a more appealing option comes along.
Public restrooms are said to harbor an unhealthy mix of microbes. This may be true, but we were surprised to find those germs waiting in unlikely places.
Myth #1: Toilet seats are the germiest places in a public restroom.
Not so, say the experts. The germiest place in a public restroom is the floor. Also in the running are routinely touched objects: latches and sink handles.
Myth #2: The womens’ restroom is usually cleaner than the men’s restroom.
While it may smell better (due to the lack of urinals) and be more appealing (due to male grooming habits), women’s restrooms usually have higher bacteria counts than men’s restrooms, due to women spending more time in the restroom and often bringing their children with them to take care of business.
Bonus disgusting fact: germs are transported from the restroom when women set their bags and purses on the restroom floor and then take them back outside. What do the experts suggest? Use a hook or, if possible, have a traveling companion on the outside hold onto it for you.
Myth #3: The farther away a stall is from the door, the less used it is.
Actually, most people believe this and use the stalls that are farthest from the door. The cleanest stalls are usually the ones closest to the door.
Myth #4: Air dryers are more sanitary because you don’t have to push a lever/button.
Surprisingly, not so! Air drying machines blow germy air directly onto your hands, your clothes, and into the air you breathe.
Myth #5: Squatting is safer than using a cover or just using a bare seat itself.
Maybe, but squatting doesn’t allow the bladder to be fully emptied, putting you at risk for a urinary infection.
Myth #6: I can hold it, I guess! No big deal.
Holding it for too long also puts you at risk for a urinary infection.
Myth #7: Bathrooms harbor germs you don’t find in normal settings.
Bathrooms have the same germs you come into contact with everywhere else by shaking hands, touching rails, and opening doors.
Myth #8: All my rituals are useless and unnecessary.
There’s nothing wrong with turning off the faucet and opening the door with paper towels. No one is going to laugh at you for using a paper toilet seat cover. Rituals are there for comfort and do contribute to your health. You don’t need to pretend a public restroom is the same as the one you have at home, but it might be easier to “go” if you aren’t thoroughly disgusted by your surroundings. Just be sure to lather those hands after you’re done!