5 surprising ways you’re going to the toilet wrong

Rarely feel the urge to analyse your toilet habits? This list of common boo-boos in the bathroom may get you thinking twice.

Toilets – particularly of the public variety – are not exactly the cleanest places to spend a wee bit of time in.

But avoid these common mistakes with your toilet habits, and future visits to the restroom should leave you in good health.

Mistake 1: Using your phone on the throne

Griffith University senior lecturer in infection prevention and control Dr Peta-Anne Zimmerman says mobile phones are filthy.

“But it’s not so much from it (the phone) just being in the environment, it’s because our hands are filthy touching the phone,” Dr Zimmerman says.

Apart from it being icky, Dr Zimmerman says taking your phone into the loo increases the risk of hands – and devices – becoming contaminated.

That’s because there are all sorts of pathogens that could potentially cause gastrointestinal infections, for example.

However, University of South Australia head of microbiology Associate Professor Rietie Venter says if you observe proper hygiene and clean your phone with an antibacterial wipe occasionally, everything should be OK.

Mistake 2: Failing to close the toilet lid

If you flush the toilet with the lid open, the resulting aerosols can contain tiny particles, including poo particles, Assoc Prof Venter says.

But, she says, that’s not always a huge issue: “It’s when some of those organisms are multidrug-resistant, or really resistant against antibiotics, that you want to prevent the spread.”

Meanwhile, one study found that a lidless loo can disperse contaminated droplets beyond a metre, which can remain airborne for 30 minutes.

Mistake 3: Not washing your hands properly

While thorough handwashing was all the rage during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s possible some of us may have grown a little lax.

“People potentially wash their hands, but not necessarily correctly – I think for most people it’s a bit of a quick in and out,” Assoc Prof Venter says.
She says to always use soap and running water (or an antiseptic gel), and rub hands together well for 20 to 30 seconds.

And don’t forget the backs of hands, wrists, between fingers and your fingertips, before rinsing well.

Mistake 4: Not drying your hands

Dr Zimmerman says while it’s vital to wash your hands properly, it’s also important to dry them.

“If you don’t dry your hands, because you’ve got a nice warm, moist environment, the pathogens can still sit on your skin,” she says.

“Even though you may have washed off basically all of them, if there’s still some there, they’ll just proliferate.”

Mistake 5: Using a hand dryer

“Hand dryers are problematic,” Dr Zimmerman says.

“Again, it’s because they become contaminated because of aerosolised pathogens from flushing toilets, and whatever else.”

She says paper towels are a much better option, which is why you’ll always see them in hospital wards.

And while you’ll likely use a hand towel at home, Assoc Prof Venter says it’s important to keep standards up.

“Especially if they are staying a bit wet, they can harbour lots of microorganisms – so if you use them, you want to replace them very frequently, like daily, and make sure you hang them properly,” Assoc Prof Venter says.

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Written by Larissa Ham.