Today, November 19, is a day set aside by the United Nations to address issues relating to proper sanitation. This article, therefore, is to help you stay germ-free when using a public toilet.

Most people wince at the thought of using a shared toilet, with door handles potentially riddled with germs and dubious looking stains on the seats.

Now, however, experts have revealed the best ways to try and remain as germ-free as possible.

Investigators from the American TV show The Drs took swabs from inside public toilets and sent them to a laboratory for analysis.

They found that contrary to popular belief, the cubicle closest to the toilet door is the cleanest – probably because most people avoid using this one.

And surprisingly, they found that the toilet seat is actually the cleanest part of most public toilets.

This might be because people put tissue down on the seat before sitting on it, or they might dab the seat before they leave so as not to embarrass themselves, guests on the show suggested.

Toilet paper dispensers, however, were found to be riddled with bacteria.

There was 150 per cent more bacteria on the toilet paper dispenser than on the toilet seat, the checks revealed.

This may be because people with faeces on their hands reach for toilet paper and touch the dispenser.

Investigators found acinetobacter and enterobacter on the dispenser, which they said could cause illnesses including UTI infections, pneumonia and womb infections.

Despite this, the doctors said people needn’t be scared of public toilets.

Washing your hands after visiting one can get rid of bacteria, they said.

They advise using a paper towel to turn on a screw top tap, so as not to touch it and pick up bacteria.

People should ensure they wash with water and antibacterial soap, and dry their hands with a towel or some paper tissues, they said.

Then, people should use the paper towel rather than their hands to turn off the tap.

For the super careful, they advise opening the bathroom door with a towel or using their elbow, to avoid bacteria spreading to the hands.


  • There can be more than 1,000 resident bacteria per cm2 on your hand
  • By encouraging hand washing, illness can be reduced by 30 – 50 per cent
  • Under optimal conditions, bacteria can grow extremely rapidly and can double every 20 minutes
  • Damp hands spread 1,000 times more bacteria than dry hands
  • Contaminated hands regularly transfer viruses to many different surfaces or objects
  • Bacteria can stay alive on hands for up to three hours
  • Many bacteria grow best at a temperature of 37°C – our body temperature
  • The typical office worker’s hands come into contact with 10 million bacteria per day
  • Face or hand cream tubes in handbags can have more surface bacteria than the average toilet seat
  • Handles of handbags are home to more bacteria than the average toilet seat

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