There are a handful of things in this world I am extremely thankful for, yet also quite grossed out by. Public bathrooms are one of them. (Also: colonoscopies.) My disgust peaks around this time of year, when everyone around me seems to be coughing or sneezing or both, sometimes in the next stall.
What, if anything, can we do to minimize our exposure to germs when we have to relieve ourselves in public? I called a handful of experts — it’s fun to ask total strangers about toilet bacteria and dug up some pretty nasty research to find out. You’re welcome.
Wash and dry your hands, and do not touch anything after you do.
As for hand dryers versus paper towels: When it comes to hygiene, towels win. That is because if you or other bathroom users have lingering hand germs, they will get blown all over the bathroom by dryers. In a 2012 review of 12 studies, researchers in Australia and China concluded that compared with dryers, paper towels “cause less contamination of the washroom environment.”
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