General Question

Ansible1's avatar

Is this bathroom myth true?

Asked by Ansible1 (4836points) July 5th, 2009

I’ve heard that if you don’t close the lid when you flush the toilet microscopic particles will fly up in the air and possibly land on your toothbrush so brushing your teeth would be like putting poo in your mouth

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29 Answers

applesaucemanny's avatar

some things are better left unknown… trust me

Jayne's avatar

You’re still alive, aren’t you? Clearly it’s not a big problem. The amount of contamination from something like this is certainly insignificant compared to all of the other things you inevitably come across every day, so there’s really no point in worrying about it.

ragingloli's avatar

What does not kill you makes you stronger. Stop worrying so much.

also according to studies, the bathroom is the cleanest place in a home. Your refrigerator is probably more contaminated than your toilet.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Meh, so what if it’s true?

Facade's avatar

I close the lid before I flush, just in case

Darwin's avatar

Well, technically it is true, but in reality you can get just as many or more germs from doorknobs, so let your immune system do what it is supposed to do and don’t worry so much about it.

btko's avatar

It’s mildly true – another option is to put your toothbrush in a drawer

Harp's avatar

From here:

In 1975 Professor Gerba published a scientific article describing the little-known phenomenon of bacterial and viral aerosols due to toilet flushing. The more you learn about it, the scarier it sounds. According to Gerba, close-up photos of the germy ejecta look like “Baghdad at night during a U.S. air attack.” The article ominously depicts a “floor plan of experimental bathroom with location of gauze pads for viral fallout experiments.” A lot of virus fell on those gauze pads, Gerba found, and a lot of bacteria too. In fact, significant quantities of microbes floated around the bathroom for at least two hours after each flush.

As Professor Gerba’s research would later determine, however, the bathroom was hardly the most dangerous part of the house, microbe-wise. The real pesthole: the kitchen sponge or dishcloth, where fecal coliform bacteria from raw meat and such could fester in a damp, nurturing (for a germ) environment. Next came the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, and the kitchen faucet handle. The toilet seat was the least contaminated of 15 household locales studied. “If an alien came from space and studied the bacterial counts,” the professor says, “he probably would conclude he should wash his hands in your toilet and crap in your sink.”

jrpowell's avatar

Think about your sense of smell. Smell is just you tasting microscopic particles. Like farts. Yup, you just got some shit in your mouth.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

Who cares.. people fart all the time and when you smell it you are ingesting fart particles anyway.

Jayne's avatar

Incidentally, when you smell a fart, you are smelling hydrogen sulfide molecules, which are much to small to carry germs. Bacteria and viruses are, after all, living (sort of) creatures. So at a decent distance I doubt you would be ingesting any contaminants when you smell a fart. However, the fact remains that potential sources of disease, far more virulent than toilet splatter, abound all around you.

Ivan's avatar

It’s true, but it’s inconsequential. That’s probably not even the worst thing on your tooth brush.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Doesn’t everyone have a poothbrush?

filmfann's avatar

heads out to buy a new toothbrush and a shitload of ziplock bags

Jeruba's avatar

Were we attacking Baghdad by air in 1975?

susanc's avatar

I’m with Jeruba. We weren’t. Something is fishy about this Straight Dope.

chelseababyy's avatar

Actually the particles from the toilet can fly like 10 feet or something like that.

MacBean's avatar

Mythbusters tackled this one:

Fecal coliforms bacteria can grow in toothbrush bristles.


Fecal coliforms were indeed found on all the test brushes, including the control ones*. However, none were of a level high enough to be dangerous, and experts confirm that such coliforms were impossible to completely avoid.

*The control toothbrushes were kept in a kitchen area, as I recall…

funkdaddy's avatar

the original article was written in 1975, the interview that yielded the quote was post Baghdad air attacks

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@Jayne I’m glad there are people out there who over think things. It counter balances my ability to under think them. xD

Jayne's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater, thanks, I am (probably) honored :)

Aethelwine's avatar

Even if it’s not true, it is common courtesy to put the lid down! I doo.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I’ve been known to leave the toilet in all manner of crazy arrangements.. I have yet to get sick from it to my knowledge… there are bigger things to worry about in life than poo flakes… I mean.. get a toothbrush cover or something.. lol

MacBean's avatar

@jonsblond: Everybody doos.

Jeruba's avatar

That was good for a midnight lol, @MacBean.

Resonantscythe's avatar

there’s propably more to worry about in the water you’re washing your hands with, depending on the age of the pipes in your house. the water you bathe in, wash your food with, boil your food with, traveling through those how old? pipes. But I do it anyway because the alternative of being a paranoid fear-consumed shut in is much worse. And anyway, if you wash your underwear with other clothes, your probably wearing a more significant amount of those microscopic droppings anyway.
Of course we can always say that people these days are Germaphobic and need to watch dirty jobs more often. Especially the episodes about people who more or less jump into poo.

Harp's avatar

@Jeruba and @susanc the quotes from Gerba are based on this 1999 press release from University of Arizona, where he works.

Judi's avatar

I put my toothbrush in a whole other room.

krose1223's avatar

You know, knowing this makes me a little… nervous about waving bye bye to my sons poo poo every day. Gotta love potty training!

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