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Are Toilet Seats in Public Restrooms Covered with Germs?

Ah, the quest for a clean restroom. Some world travelers say the most important phrase to learn in a local language is "Where is a clean bathroom?" Many people assume that the toilet seat must be the dirtiest part of any restroom, but oddly enough, it's not. The sink is usually the worst offender for germs, according to Dr. Lisa Bernstein, assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine. She theorizes that this is because people generally do take care to keep a toilet seat clean.

While we may tend to think of toilet seats as harboring the foulest germs in the bacterial world, Dr. Bernstein says they aren't any worse than the germs we run into on a daily basis in other typical locations. We're frequently exposed to E. coli, salmonella, coliform, the rotavirus, the cold virus and even MRSA, not only in public restrooms, but in many other public places. Dr. Bernstein and other experts say that washing one's hands after using the toilet is the best way to keep from spreading germs to other people.

Tips for staying sanitary in a public restroom:

  • If the restroom has motion-activated toilets, faucets, soap dispensers and hand dryers, use them. It will decrease the number of times you have to touch anything.

  • Keep your belongings off the floor. Using the hook on the inside of the door for a purse or shopping bags is the best way to avoid taking home unpleasant germs.

  • Use the stall nearest the door. For some reason, this is the least-used stall in a bathroom, so it is usually cleaner. Don't use the middle stall; it generally sees the most use.

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