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Which Stall in a Public Restroom Is the Cleanest?

Public restrooms can often seem like a "perfect storm" for spreading germs. E. coli, salmonella, coliform, rotavirus and even MRSA, the potentially deadly staph bacteria, could be lurking anywhere. But when you've got to go, you've got to go, even if it means using a public bathroom. At least germaphobes can now take comfort in a study that says the stall closest to the restroom door is usually the cleanest.

Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, has made it his life's work to study parasites and bacteria, and that's the stall he'd use. He says the middle stall tends to have the most bacteria. However, you're actually more likely to pick up something nasty by touching things in the bathroom with your hands than by sitting on a toilet seat. Dr. Gerba found that the highest concentrations of germs in public bathrooms were on the floor, on the outside of the sanitary waste disposal bins and on the sink's water control knobs.

Dirty little secrets about bathrooms:

  • Dr. Gerba says the cleanest public facilities are usually found in hospitals, while the most vile are found at the airport and on airplanes.

  • In a 2007 study, the American Society for Microbiology found that about 77% of men and women wash their hands after using a public restroom.

  • If you really want to protect yourself from germs, use a dry paper towel on the door handle when exiting the restroom. People who didn't wash their hands have probably touched that door, possibly leaving nasty bacteria behind.

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