Do Toilet Seat Covers Actually Protect You from Germs?

airport bathroom with a lid in placeaSuruwataRi / Shutterstock

When nature calls, you answer, but what if there is no seat cover to protect you? The truth is that you do not need to worry. This thin piece of paper does not work and the chances of getting something harmful are nonexistent.

No doubt about this: public toilets are filled with bacteria of all kinds, which is why many people choose to use a toilet seat cover to prevent skin-to-seat contact; after all, dozens of strangers have used it before you, and it's not a comfortable thought. However, to the dismay of germaphobes, using a sheet of paper as a protective layer against germs is essentially useless. Paper is a very porous material and allows tiny microbes to pass through holes and reach your skin.

While this may sound a bit confusing, experts say you do not need to worry. In fact, contrary to popular belief, toilet seats do not carry infectious diseases. The risks of contracting an ugly virus are therefore zero. Even if traces of pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli were on the surface, it would be almost impossible to catch them.

The only thing that could expose you to the risk of getting an infection would be to have an open sore on your bottom that would allow microbes to enter your system. In fact, our skin is the best barrier of protection we have. As long as your skin is healthy and intact, you can rest assured that no harmful microorganism will make you sick.

It can not be denied that entire colonies of bacteria inhabit the surface of any public toilet seat. However, if the thought of getting in direct contact with them gives you chills, a reassuring (and perhaps equally terrifying) fact is that your phone is covered with ten times more bacteria than a toilet seat. If you've never got sick after taking a call on your cell phone, the chances of getting an infection using public toilets are even smaller.

So while they give us a sense of security and comfort, toilet seat covers can not really do much for us. Nevertheless, prevention should never be neglected. Keeping a healthy habit of hand washing with soap after going to the bathroom and before each meal is a simple way to keep diseases at bay and give you peace of mind.

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