Bathroom hygiene: keeping a lid on it

When it comes to public hygiene, many Brits are more paranoid about germs than ever before – and perhaps quite rightly, since washroom hygiene can pose a serious risk to your health.

A survey carried out by hand dryer manufacturer Sterillo suggests almost half of British people refuse to enter a public toilet unless it smells fresh, with many also trying not to touch surfaces where possible. Half refuse to touch a toilet seat with their hands in public lavatories, and many also avoiding touching toilet lids, door handles and toilet flush handles.

And no wonder, as salmonella, E. coli, MRSA and hepatitis A are just some of the germs you may be exposed to in a public convenience.

But many people may not realise there’s also a risk in their own bathrooms – no matter how clean they are – if they fail to put the toilet lid down before flushing.

According to the NHS, when you flush with the lid open, germs from the toilet bowl can travel as far as six feet, landing on the floor, the sink and even your toothbrush (one study showed that significant quantities of microbes float around your bathroom for at least two hours after each flush).

Experts such as Professor Mark Wilcox, clinical director of microbiology at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, confirm the risks of leaving the seat up as you flush, which can allow a ‘cloud of bacteria to explode into the air’. Tests by Professor Wilcox suggest that not closing the toilet lid could help spread C. difficile bacteria, which can affect the digestive system and in severe cases can be life threatening.

To reduce the risk of spreading potentially harmful bacteria, always put the toilet lid down before flushing, wherever you are. Washing your hands thoroughly after each visit to the toilet is also essential:

  • Wet your hands using running water (hot or cold)
  • Apply soap and make sure all of your hand surfaces are covered
  • Lather well then rinse with running water
  • Dry your hands thoroughly
  • Take your time – the whole sequence should take at least 15 seconds

For more information on hand hygiene – including an in-depth explanation of how to wash your hands correctly – visit the Wash Your Hands website.

And dont forget, you can buy hand hygiene gel and wipes at your local pharmacy for when youre out and about. Use our Pharmacy Finder to find a pharmacy near wherever you are.