Having to use a public restroom canbe unpleasant. And, in many cases, unsanitary. But there are some things you can do to reduce your exposure to the filth and germs that linger near the places where the masses relieve themselves.
One of the most important decisions you can make is which toilet stall to use. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to determine which stall is statistically most likely to be the cleanest one. And it doesn’t involve inspecting them one by one.
Open the door to the stall that’s closest to the bathroom entrance. If it looks clean inside, use it. This stall-selection strategy may at first glance seem arbitrary. But in fact there is sound science to back it up.
The reason why it’s wise to choose the stall closest to where people enter the WC is because that’s the one that tends to be least chosen. In a quirk of human psychology, people tend to be drawn to the middle or end stalls. Researchers have found that only 5% of people opt for the front stall.
Therefore, the front stall should theoretically be more sanitary than the others. One study put that hypothesis to the test. Its findings: A typical public toilet came in with 85,000 bacterial colony units per sample. Yikes! But a toilet nearest the entrance door had just 2,610 units of bacteria. Far more sanitary.
3 Steps to Germ-Free Hands: Wash, Dry, Sanitize
In addition to favoring the front stall, be sure to wash your hands with soap after taking care of your private business. Since wet hands pick up germs, it’s important to dry them thoroughly. Paper towels work better than air dryers.
You can also use a paper towel to grasp the door handle as you leave. (Bathroom doors, as you might imagine, pick up lots of germs – including from people who don’t wash their hands.) If no paper towels are available, then grab some toilet tissue.
Finally, once you’ve physically exited the lavatory, apply a small amount of hand sanitizer. It’s a good idea to carry a small bottle with you in your purse/briefcase/pocket when you’re out in public.
Hand sanitizer isn’t a substitute for hand washing and should be used only sparingly. Excess use can dry out your skin and make it more vulnerable to infection. Hand sanitizers that contain triclosan can disrupt the body’s endocrine system and may do more harm than good. Opt instead for alcohol-based sanitizing gels or wipes.