How to Stay Safe in a Public Restroom

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Public restrooms are not always the cleanest places to visit. Even a clean public restroom can harbor many, many germs just by dint of the fact that so many people use the same facility all day long. In a survey undertaken by Kimberley-Clark, it was shown that 39% of those surveyed worry about getting germs from public restrooms more than from any other source. [1] Here are some tips to avoid all of those nasty germs and bacteria and to make your experience of using a public restroom a more pleasant one.


    1. Use a toilet seat cover if one is available. Many pharmacies and outdoor stores now carry tiny packs of toilet seat covers and it can't hurt to toss a pack into your handbag or backpack to take wherever you go.
    2. Avoid toilets that have dirty or wet surfaces. If you cannot, do not sit on the seat but hover above it. If this is difficult for you, find something to hold onto such as a handle or the toilet paper dispenser. Ladies - try the Tyra method to keep your underwear clean.
    3. Avoid using a toilet that does not flush properly or at all. If the do-do is rising up in the loo, give this one a miss and put in a message to management to fix it quickly.
    4. Dispose of sanitary wear appropriately in boxes provided. Use toilet paper to lift the box and ensure that your sanitary item falls into the box properly. Not only is it unhygienic to leave a used sanitary item in the wrong place, it is also thoughtless to those who end up cleaning it out. It's your mess, pack it out properly.
    5. Use toilet paper to flush the toilet flusher. Only touch the flushing mechanism with toilet paper and quickly dispose of this piece of paper into the flushing toilet. If you are in a hurry, or don't want to lean over the toilet, push the flush handle with your shoe.
    6. Face away from the flushing toilet and exit quickly. Airborne particles could cause germs to reach your respiratory passageways, so it pays to leave quickly or put the lid down or face away.[2]
    7. Use toilet paper to open the toilet door. It stands to reason that the inside latch of the toilet door is dirtier than the outside latch. Use a small piece of toilet paper to open it with and dispose of this paper immediately in the bin upon exiting.
    8. Wash your hands - always. Wash your hands using soap for at least 20 seconds under running water, preferably longer. Although many places are stingy on hot water, use it if it is available as it is more efficient in destroying germs.
    9. Dry your hands using the dryer or paper provided. Some places use cloth towels that circulate in a dispenser - be sure to move the towel onto the next clean space, otherwise you will be wiping your hands on the previous person's space.
    10. Use a small square of toilet paper or hand-drying paper to open the door that leads out of the toilets. It may sound finicky but after all your hard efforts to wash your hands, do you really want to touch a door handle when the person before you who didn't wash his or her hands just turned the doorknob? No, didn't think so.[3]
    11. Tell management about poorly maintained restrooms. Unless you're traveling in a part of the world where toilet hygiene isn't exactly number one priority, these days most companies or local authorities responsible for managing public restroom facilities want to be told when their toilets are in disarray. Complaints from consumers do matter and the more, the better. If you don't get a response or the standard doesn't lift, contact your local health department and lodge a complaint.


    • The germs that you are most likely faced with in a public restroom are the salmonella and shigella bacteria, which come from contact with feces.[4] 'Flu, meningitis, streptococcus, staphylococcus, E. coli, common cold and hepatitis A are other possible lurking germs. The good news as pointed out by WebMD, however, is that a healthy immune system can destroy most of these germs by following the routine set out above, especially washing one's hands well. Be aware also that many germs, such as the common cold, die quickly on contact with air. [5]
    • Try to avoid using your bare hands to touch anything (i.e. faucet handle, toilet flusher, door handle, etc.).
    • According to some studies, almost one-third of infectious illness could be eliminated by proper hand washing. Hand washing works because the friction of rubbing your hands together loosens bacteria from your skin and traps them in lather. When you rinse away the lather, you're rinsing away the bacteria.
    • If another person's waste has been sitting in still water for any amount of time, then it more than likely is unsanitary.
    • If you must use a toilet that looks dirty or wet, properly line it with one or maybe even two rows of toilet paper. You could also try to "hover" above the toilet seat. If you don't have the muscles to "hover," try supporting part of your weight on the toilet paper dispenser, or handicapped bar if avaliable. Of course, you should put toilet paper on the surface you support youself with.
    • Always be sure to wear some sort of footwear, whether they are sandals, thongs (flip-flops), or your favorite pair of sneakers.
    • If you are changing a baby in a restroom, use the facilities provided. Lay down a sheet of paper or your own home-brought towel underneath baby. Always dispose of diapers (nappies) properly - baby feces is a major source of germs for other people, especially those with reduced immune systems.
    • Heads up guys! 90% of women wash their hands after using a public restroom compared with only 75% of men![6].


    • Some bathrooms have scary flushers that flush on their own and may splash your behind! If this happens, gently wipe with clean paper and have a shower as soon as you get home.
    • Never try to use any broken toilets or sinks, even if it's an emergency. They carry high risks of germs.
    • Always wear shoes. Never go barefoot into a public restroom, especially in a dorm restroom.
    • Don't believe all the hype; no, you cannot catch STDs from toilet seats.[7], [8]

Things You'll Need

    • footwear
    • anti-bacterial soap
    • toilet tissue
    • toilet seat cover