If you hover over the seat, flush the toilet with your foot, or use a paper towel to avoid touching the doorknob with your freshly washed hands, the germs are probably following you home anyway. However, it’s not all bad, because bathroom germs are unlikely to make you sick.
The Atlantic‘s CityLab spoke with two biologists about common germ-avoidance behaviours, and found that many are pointless. To name a few:
- Flushing the toilet with your foot may avoid getting germs on your hands, but weren’t you going to wash your hands anyway? Even if there were some deadly germ on the flush handle, it would still be riding around on your shoes (and onto your floors at home).
- Hovering over the toilet seat — besides increasing the risk of leaving puddles for the next person — doesn’t protect you from anything either. Toilet seats aren’t that dirty, but when you flush, some of that toilet water is going to splash nearly invisibly all over you, whether you hovered or not.
- Using a paper towel to open the door after you’ve washed your hands sounds like a good idea, but if you just crumple the towel afterwards (and especially if you then stick it in your pocket), the germs will still get on your hands.
The good news is that bathroom germs aren’t a real health hazard; there are germs everywhere in your life, and the ones in bathrooms aren’t significantly more numerous or more dangerous than the rest. The experts that spoke to CityLab agreed that the best ways to steer clear of cold and flu germs (the most likely threats anywhere) are to wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and support your immune system by not smoking and by exercising, eating and sleeping well.