What's the real risk of using public toilets? Scientists answer.

Most of us would prefer to avoid public toilets altogether. Unfortunately though, the mood may strike at inopportune times. The New York Times asked scientists to respond to the question: "What is the real risk of public toilet seats?"


  1. Most pathogens aren't "butt-borne diseases" but a disinfecting wipe to the toilet seat helps minimize risk.
  2. Don't put your purse or bag on the floor.
  3. Don't use your phone while in a public bathroom.
  4. And, duh, wash your hands—really, really well.

From the New York Times:

Most of these pathogens find their way onto bathroom surfaces via the toilet bowl, because feces and even urine can contain many bacteria and viruses, said Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. Flushing the toilet then disperses the tiny microbes in an aerosolized plume, which can reach five feet into the air and remain suspended for an hour or more before settling on surrounding surfaces, studies show. "All public toilets really get contaminated to some degree just because of the flushing action of the toilet," Dr. Gerba said[…]

After all public restroom visits, "the best option is to wash your hands, and then use a hand sanitizer on the way out," he said.