Toilet Seat Covers and Cell Phones

cellphone in bathroom

I have had a great deal of time to think about toilets in the last several days. Having just recovered from a rather wretched bout of gastroenteritis, or the stomach flu, I have spent many hours examining the toilet from different perspectives. One thing I have pondered at great length, is whether or not those paper toilet seat covers are really effective in protecting one from other people’s foulness. So…I did a little research.

According to my research, such that it is, Americans seemed to be worried most about covering the toilet seats with those annoying paper covers. Of course, I don’t think that it is completely true.  I remember being at a rest stop in Italy and for a Lira coin, the toilet automatically dispensed a tube of plastic around the toilet seat.  I went through quite a few coins watching that.


And when I was in Japan, the majority of the public restrooms simply had holes in the ceramic floors, over which one would squat.  So there was nothing to sit on and soil one’s bum.

japanese toilets

Why are we so nutty about protecting our bums from toilet seats? The fear of microbes, sexually transmitted diseases and the fact that another person’s posterior has touched the same seat. Apparently, however, we are completely deluding ourselves.  Toilet seat covers do nothing but provide us with a peace of mind.  And for those of us that are not very coordinated, the flimsy pieces of paper may actually increase our chances of being exposed to microbes, by fiddling about with the paper toilet seat cover (especially if one doesn’t wash one’s hands carefully afterwards).

What one needs to most concerned with, when in any toilet, is what is being aerosolized into the air when the toilet is flushed. Toilet contents can be aerosolized up to 6 feet in distance.  This I have known for a while, so whenever I am in a public toilet, I always pull my shirt up over my nose and hold my breath while the toilets are flushing.  I was thinking, perhaps donning a face mask prior to entering a bathroom makes more sense than messing around with a toilet seat cover.

One rather fascinating and slightly revolting thing I did discover, is that we should be less concerned with the microbes we could potentially expose ourselves to by sitting on a toilet seat because there is something so much worse than a toilet seat. It is an item a large percentage of people carry in their hands, eat with, sleep with, and go to the toilet with – our cell phones.  Yes, the studies show there is approximately 18 times more bacteria on a cell phone, than on a toilet seat.


And I see women go into the toilet stalls with their cell phones in their hands, I am sure they place it down on the toilet paper dispenser, spend a minute or two carefully placing the paper toilet seat cover on the seat, do their business, flush the toilet, pick up the cell phone, leave the stall, put their cell phone down on the counter so they can wash their hands and then pick up their microbe-riddled phone and carry it out of the bathroom. Think about that for a minute – nothing has been accomplished at all by using the toilet seat cover, or for that matter by washing one’s hands, because the item with the most microbes goes straight back into the hand.  It is kind of disgusting when I really start thinking about it.

bacteria on cellphone


And speaking of public toilets (or restrooms as they call them here in the States) I have a little game that I like to play. I will stand at the sink and really wash my hands, almost as if I am preparing to scrub in to go into an Operating Room.  I have discovered that if I stand there long enough, washing away, I can guilt other people in the bathroom, to wash their hands for a longer time.  Try it.  Most people do not wash their hands well after using the toilet, but when they see others really scrubbing away, they feel inclined to do the same. Oh, and remember to use a paper towel to turn the taps off, and cover the handle of the bathroom door when exiting the public restroom.  That’s very important.  And it might be in one’s best interest to clean their cell phone on a more regular basis rather than use one of those fiddly toilet seat covers.


PS. I did try and find a picture of someone holding a toilet seat up to their ear – but there were none to be had, which was a bit disappointing.

Photo credits:


37 replies »

  1. I clean my phone with a clorox wipe once a week. And 99% of the time I wash my hands and give those that don’t the stink eye. I mean, that’s just disgusting. I would much rather use paper towel than those air dryers.

    Of all the silly things to worry about, it’s a toilet seat cover.

      • Most of the time we don’t have any in the stalls. If they’re that worried, use the toilet paper!
        Being in Healthcare for 15 years toughens one up. I’m way less worried about a toilet seat.

      • I don’t worry about the toilet seats. I think the only time a person should be concerned is if they have an open lesion on their butt, and then it really should be everyone else that follows after them into the stall that should worry.

      • I don’t either. And if you have an open source on your tushie, then you don’t need to be using a public bathroom. AND WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS! That’s worse than anything.

      • So true. I guilt people into washing their hands. I will just stand there and scrub away, like I am getting ready to go into the OR and they stop, and start washing their hands too.

  2. I dont wantchur toilet bug! My phone done be clean cuz I only touch it with my hands after not washing em all days but they’re my bugs an not ur filthy toilet bugs! -most idiots.

  3. I absolutely agree with you and have been meaning to write on this topic – ladies should not find pleasure in shaking hands with men often (as many of us don’t even wash them after holding our part and peeing).

  4. Hooray! I virtually never use my phone so my chances of getting sick from it are very low. If I ever do and then get sick, though, it may be a puzzle for doctors since I think the most recent microbes on it are probably rather historical. (I’m guessing from the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918).

  5. Omg, that toilet that dispenses plastic! Love it.

    I’m glad you mentioned using something to open a door on the way out. I get looked at like I’m weird as hell for that.

    Glad to see you posting, sorry you’ve been sick!

    • I’m better now, thankfully. I see your family suffered from a similar illness. Hope all is well now. The automatic plastic covering seat thingy was ultra-cool. I don’t ever touch the door handle, because I have seen the poor hand-washing techniques in public restrooms. It’s a scary world out there for us germaphobes.

  6. Hey – Thanks for freakin’ out this germ-aphobe. Ack! I do clean my phone, but not as often as I should. I’m a freak in public bathrooms. Don’t like to use those air dryers either, especially when they don’t provide paper towels for me to use on the tap and door handle. Then I usually grab TP. Hotel rooms freak me out too. I bring Lysol wipes and disinfect handles, light switches and most especially the remote control.

    So sorry you had the flu. From past experience, I don’t wish that on anyone. I hope you are feeling all better now.

    • I am better now, thank-you. I am a major germaphobe as well. I think being a germaphobe in today’s society is like driving in LA, you have to assume everyone is out to get you and be defensive (in terms of germaphobes – assume no one else has ever washed their hands). It is the only safe way. Door handles and grocery cart handles freak me out, oh and elevator buttons.

  7. When I arrived in France on 2003 from the US I was shocked by the toilets…
    People were not even washing their hands
    I homes the room containing the toilet would not contain a sink, people this have to go to the bathroom to wash their hands (if they wash them) or often times they will wash them in the kitchen (I have been told to do so quite often), not so good after going to the toilet.
    In public and school toilets there often were no toilet seats
    Very often there was no paper

    Many things are better now. At least the swine flu scare has led more people to wash their hands.
    But toilets in apartments and homes are still often times located far away from the bathroom sink (sometimes that is on another floor)

    • Hi Solveig. I can’t imagine having to walk somewhere else to wash my hands, especially to another floor. I would probably get distracted on the way there and forget.
      Incidentally, I heard we should not even leave our toothbrushes uncovered in a bathroom where the toilet is located, because of the aerosolized contents of the flushed toilet. Now that conjures up some disgusting images for me.

  8. Funny post!

    Some of us females were taught to lift the lid with the edge of our shoe and squat over the bowl. If you leave it like that, it’s highly disturbing to women who haven’t been taught to do this. 🙂

    The worst bathrooms are the ones that have air dryers and nothing to grasp then door handle with — no paper towel. Somehow, the idea of taking toilet paper to do that just isn’t very appealing..

    • I have been known to use the sleeves of my sweater or the bottom of my shirt to open bathroom doors, only option when no paper towels are available.

      • In fact, I had to do that at Golden Corral during dunch (lunch and dinner) with my best friend, Vickie. About once a month, on average, we go into the restaurant around 2 or 3pm and stay until closing (9pm). You’d think I’d remember to take a napkin with me so I don’t have to use the bottom of my sweater to open the door. 🙂

      • Thanks. 🙂

        We take turns being the one to treat the other to dunch. That’s the beauty of Golden Corral…no one throws you out. We like to start out with a piece of chocolate pie…

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