Toilet Seat Covers: Do They Work?

My husband runs every day with a jogging group. Often in the course of their runs they have a need for a Porta Potty. One day the guys in the group were laughing about how one of the female joggers used the outdoor facility and they could hear her putting down the paper toilet seat cover. They thought that was hilarious. That made me wonder, do paper toilet seat covers actually protect us from anything?

When I looked at the research that’s out there, I found that there is nothing to protect against: Toilet seats are relatively safe. When it comes to public bathrooms, the places that have the most bacteria include the floor, the faucet handles and the toilet handle. Interestingly, the hot air hand dryers use bathroom air to blow your hands dry. The air contains bathroom bacteria.

If you are worried and wondering how to stay relatively germ-free in a public restroom, do this: Wash your hands well, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet, and use paper towels to dry your hands. Keep your purse off the floor. You can use your foot to flush the toilet.

Most people are worried about catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from the toilet seat. However, the organisms that cause these infections do not live long enough to cause a problem. The only way to get an STI on a toilet seat is to have sex with an infected person on it. So don’t do it!

Now back to my original question, do we really need those paper toilet seat covers? Regardless of the fact that they are unnecessary, if those little covers offer peace of mind, why not use them—along with the real germ-fighting advice above!

Want to know all the other hotspots where germs live? Take our germs quiz.

Do you use paper towels to turn off the faucet or open the door in public restrooms? Let us know in the comment box below.

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Robin Miller

Dr. Robin Miller, Sharecare Editorial Advisory Board Member, currently practices Internal Medicine and serves as the medical director of Triune Integrative Medicine, a highly innovative Integrative Medicine clinic in Medford, Oregon. She has produced the award-winning health series, “Is there a Doctor in the House,” which is shown nationwide on the GE-sponsored Patient Channel, and is the author of "Kids Ask the Doctor" and the co-author of “The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife and Beyond: A No-Nonsense Approach to Staying Healthy after 50".

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