Toilet Germs: Can You Catch Anything from a Toilet Seat?

March 18, 2024

Going to a public washroom can feel gross sometimes. You don’t know who has used the facilities and if they have even washed their hands! A washroom can feel like a breeding ground for germs. So, what can you do to shield yourself from toilet germs? In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know about germs, where they can thrive in a washroom, and what you can do to protect yourself from germs on a toilet. Join us as we delve into all you need to know about germs from a toilet! 

  • What Are Germs?
  • What Germs Are Found in Public Bathrooms?
  • How Are Germs Spread in a Washroom?
  • The Toilet Sneeze Effect
  • How to Maintain a Clean Washroom
  • What You Can Do To Protect Yourself From Toilet Germs 
  • Equip Your Washrooms With Toilet Germ Fighting Tools

What Are Germs?

Germs come in all shapes and sizes. Whilst some germs are harmless and can be beneficial to humans, others can be harmful as they can cause infections or illnesses. Germs can be separated into four different categories: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa.

  • Bacteria: This germ comes in all shapes and sizes and can benefit humans. However, some bacteria can harm humans, causing diseases such as Strep Throat, Gonorrhea, and STIs. 
  • Viruses: Viruses need other cell structures to reproduce rapidly. This means they can only survive for a short period of time outside of the body but can spread very easily.  
  • Fungi: Preferring hot and humid climates, fungi thrive in damp conditions. Examples of fungal infections include yeast infections, Ringworm, and Athlete’s Foot. 
  • Protozoa: Like bacteria, this germ can survive in the harshest environments. However, diseases produced by protozoa are commonly transmitted through contaminated water. 

What Germs Are Found in Public Bathrooms?

Public bathrooms harbour many germs due to the number of people using a shared space. The most common germs you may encounter are: 

  • Escherichia coli (E.coli)
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus
  • Salmonella 
  • Influenza virus 
  • Rhinovirus (Common Cold)

But don’t worry, the chances of encountering any of these germs can be reduced with good hygiene and regular cleaning of washroom facilities! 

How Are Germs Spread in a Washroom?

The most common way germs are spread in a washroom is through poor hand hygiene. Approximately 80% of infections are spread through our hands. It also doesn’t help that some viruses, such as the Influenza virus and the common cold, are spread quite easily! By simply washing our hands properly with soap, we can reduce the chance of spreading different germs. 

Good hygiene is not the only way to tackle bathroom germs. Regular maintenance and cleaning will remove germs and prevent them from being spread. Bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella can survive on hard surfaces for up to 4 hours. Without regular cleaning, imagine how many people will have touched surfaces that contain this bacteria. More worryingly, Staphylococcus aureus can survive for days or even weeks! This emphasises the need to have scheduled cleaning to prevent the spreading of harmful germs. 

The Toilet Sneeze Effect

You may think infectious people touching different surfaces or coughing and sneezing are the only ways germs can spread. But there is another way: the Toilet Sneeze Effect! This is when people flush the toilet without closing the toilet seat first. 

Think about it: when you flush a toilet, a burst of air is released as water is used to flush waste away. This burst of air releases germs from a toilet in water droplets and aerosol particles that can settle on nearby surfaces and be breathed in by either the person using the toilet or anyone who follows. 

You may be wondering if a toilet can still harbour germs after flushing. The answer is yes! Even after multiple flushes, germs can stay in the toilet bowl and be released back into the air every time the toilet is flushed. 

How to Maintain a Clean Washroom

With everything you now know about toilet germs, here are some steps you can take to ensure your washroom is kept clean and free of germs. 

Regular Cleaning Routine

This is the most important step to follow! As we mentioned earlier, the hard surfaces of a washroom can be infected in a number of ways. From infected people not washing their hands and touching various surfaces to coughing and sneezing and the Toilet Sneeze Effect, surfaces in a washroom can be covered in germs if they are not regularly sanitised. 

Where Can Bacteria Be Found? 

Common hotspots in a washroom for germs include sinks, flush handles/buttons, mirrors, toilet roll holders, rubbish bins, taps, soap dispensers, floors, door handles, and essentially any other hard surface in a washroom. These are areas you should target when cleaning a washroom!

Can You Catch Anything From a Toilet Seat?

You may think the toilet seat must be the most infected washroom area, but it’s not! There is a very low chance you will actually catch anything from a toilet seat. For that to happen, germs on a toilet would have to directly touch either your urethral or genital tract or any cuts and sores. Additionally, this contact would have to be back to back. The chances of that are minimal. 

So, Can You Catch HIV From a Toilet Seat?

This is even more unlikely! An infected person’s genitals would have to touch the toilet seat. Then, the next user would have to sit in exactly the same position as the infected person, with their genitals touching the exact spot of infection, in very quick succession. For HIV, the infected area must have contact with an open wound so that the virus can get into the bloodstream of a new person. This shows there’s no need to worry about catching HIV from a toilet seat! 

Touch-Free Measures

From hand dryers to soap dispensers, there are more and more ways to create a touch-free washroom environment to keep surface contact to a minimum. For example, having a touch-free hand dryer will allow anyone using the washroom to simply dry their hands without touching a button that may be covered in germs. It’s no secret that not everyone washes their hands properly. Some people quickly rinse their hands and dry them using a hand dryer. This means the hand dryer button may be covered in germs, making it a hotspot. 

Another example of a touch-free measure that can be implemented is automatic soap dispensers. A soap dispenser could be riddled with germs as clean hands don’t typically touch the soap dispenser. An automatic soap dispenser can remove the need to touch a hotspot, reducing the spread of germs around a washroom.  

Air Purification and Fragancing 

Air purifiers are a great method of removing germs from the air. This tackles any airborne particles that have been released through coughing and sneezing or the Toilet Sneeze Effect. This leaves your washroom with minimal toilet germs, providing a clean and safe environment for your washroom users. 

Air fragrancing is an area that can be overlooked. Nobody wants to use a washroom that has an unpleasant smell, so why not implement an air fragrancing system? This creates an inviting environment for all washroom users, contributing to a positive first impression. 

Good Hand Hygiene Education 

To tackle hand washing at its source, educating all washroom users on how to wash their hands properly is a good idea. Having infographics and step-by-step guides on good hand hygiene practices will ensure everyone knows how to effectively wash their hands, minimising the risk of spreading germs. 

What You Can Do To Protect Yourself From Toilet Germs 

As a washroom user, you can do several things to reduce your chances of catching an illness from a public bathroom. Here are our top tips: 

  • Wipe Public Toilet Seats: Using some toilet paper may be a good idea to give the toilet seat a wipe before using the toilet itself.
  • Only Touch Essential Surfaces: Minimise the number of surfaces you touch in a washroom. Hopefully, your washroom has some touch-free features, but if not, you could use your shoe to flush the toilet! 
  • Use Tissues to Open Doors: Once you have finished using the washroom facilities, you need to tackle getting out of the bathroom with clean hands. One way to do this is to grab a clean tissue and open the door to leave rather than using your freshly washed hands. 
  • Leave the Stall After Flushing: With the Toilet Sneeze Effect, germs are released into the air when you flush the toilet. To avoid breathing in any re-released germs, try to leave the toilet stall as soon as you have flushed. 

Equip Your Washrooms With Toilet Germ Fighting Tools

The best way to avoid the spread of toilet germs is to implement preventative measures. By equipping your washroom with touch-free hand dryers, soap dispensers, air purification, air fragrancing, and maintaining regular cleaning, you can have peace of mind that your washroom will no longer be a potential breeding ground for all types of germs. Get in touch with Woosh today to see how we can help you tackle toilet germs! 

Toilet Germs FAQs

What do germs look like?

Germs come in all shapes and sizes, but you can’t see them with the naked eye. Using a microscope, we can see that germs are in the shape of balls, rods, or even spirals, depending on the type of germ. Bacteria and viruses are typically more spherical, rod-shaped, or helical-shaped. In contrast, fungi and protozoa come in various shapes, from a cap and stem structure (fungi) to flagella or cilia (protozoa). 

Where can bacteria be found?

Bacteria can be found just about anywhere. From soil to water, plants, animals, radioactive waste, and even in ice and glaciers, bacteria are all around us. To survive, bacteria must get nutrients from their environment, so anywhere that contains nutrients is a favoured breeding ground for bacteria. In a washroom, common places you can find bacteria are sinks, flush buttons, door handles, and any other hard surfaces. 

Where might a microorganism (germ) live?

Germs are everywhere. Germs surround us in the air, food, soil, water, and any surface. But don’t be alarmed. Not all germs are bad! Some germs are actually beneficial, so there is no need to worry about the number of germs surrounding you. 

What are germs vs bacteria?

Bacteria are germs! Germs is the overarching word used to describe all types of microorganisms. Other types of germs include viruses, fungi, and protozoa. Additionally, the term “germs” doesn’t necessarily mean bad pathogens but rather all beneficial or harmful microorganisms. The term “pathogens” can be used to describe harmful microorganisms that have the ability to cause infectious diseases. 

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