7 Places You Shouldn't Touch in Public Bathrooms (That Aren’t the Toilet Seat)

Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui
Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui

Forget the toilet seat. Compared to these germ-crusted spots, the toilet seat in a public bathroom is so clean you could eat off it.

Probably don't do that though! When you’re using a restroom that’s pretty much open to anyone, worry less about the relative cleanliness of the toilet seat, and pay more attention to avoiding contact with these seven really dirty places.

Flickr/Jesus Rodriguez

The toilet flusher

Let's start with the worst offender: The flush mechanism on a toilet is the number one dirtiest place in the bathroom. Think about it -- you go about your business, wipe, reassemble yourself and your clothing, and then reach around to flush the toilet. With that same hand you just used to wipe your rear end. Yeah. Next time, consider using your foot.

Then consider all the other shoes that have been used to flush that toilet.

The stall walls

If you're familiar with the term “aerosol effect,” then you already know why the interior walls of public restroom stalls are covered in literal shit. If you don't, oh boy, you're in for a treat! The aerosol effect, also known as toilet plume, describes the particles that become airborne when a toilet is flushed. Yup, it's flying shit! Teeny, tiny shit particles, but shit nonetheless, which lands everywhere and means that the walls, which are probably never cleaned, are coated in poop.

The stall door handle

This is probably a little more obvious, but well worth pointing out anyway. The lock and/or handle on the stall door is another place that comes in constant contact with unwashed, germy hands.

Flickr/Kate Ter Haar

The sink faucet

Before you can wash your hands you have to turn on the water, which means turning knobs that thousands of other hands in need of washing have turned before you. Combine that with the excess water that tends to pool up around faucets and you have the perfect breeding grounds for mold, mildew, and bacteria to thrive. It's enough to make you grateful for those annoying auto-turn-on faucets.

The soap dispenser

The manual soap dispenser is another bathroom objet d'art that will make you thank whatever higher power you're into for the modern technology behind sensor-operated soap pumps, because ugh, are the lever mechanisms on soap dispensers ever gross. Not only are your filthy hands getting all over it, but you've probably already added some hot water to the mix, turning your paws into germ soup.

The bathroom door handle

Sure, you washed your hands before heading out of the bathroom. (You did, right?) But let's level with one another: Not everyone is as diligent about proper hygiene as are you. Which means that Bob from Accounting, or whoever the notorious not-washer in your office may be, is blowing out of the restroom after his morning blowout and putting his disgusting, unwashed hands all over the doorknob, handle, or push plate. Just like with the toilet flusher, the door is a good place to opt to use your foot, rather than your hands, to do the work.


The floor

There's a great little vignette in an early episode of The Sopranos in which resident neatnik and germaphobe Paulie Walnuts describes one of his pet peeves thusly, "I can't stand touching my fucking shoelaces. Ever go to tie your shoes and you notice the end of your laces are wet? Come on why would they be wet? You go in the public bathrooms. You stand at the urinals…"

Gruesome though it is, there's a point to be found amid the cries of, "Eeeeew gross, so gross, just so so so so so gross, ewww." And that is this: There's probably pee on the floor of a public bathroom. Don't put your bag down, is what I'm trying to say to you.

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Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert who doesn't actually avoid using public bathrooms, even though she knows how gross they are. Follow her @joliekerr.