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Do Toilet Seat Covers Actually Protect You from Germs?

airport bathroom with a paper toilet seat sanitary cover in place

When nature calls, you answer—but what if there’s no seat cover to protect you? The truth is, you don’t need to worry. That thin piece of paper doesn’t work, and the chances of contracting something harmful are non-existent.

No doubt about it: Public restrooms are ridden 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 that’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 it allows the tiny little microbes to get through the holes and reach your skin.

While that might sound a little unsettling, experts say you have no need to worry. In fact, contrary to popular belief, toilet seats are not carriers of infectious diseases, so the chances of contracting a nasty bug are zero to none. Even if traces of disease-causing bacteria like E.coli rested on the surface, it’d be nearly impossible to catch them.

The only thing that could put you at risk of contracting an infection would be having an open wound on your buttocks that would allow the microbes to enter your system. In fact, our skin is the best protective barrier we have. Just as long as your skin is healthy and intact, you can rest assured that no harmful microorganisms will get you sick.

There’s no denying that entire colonies of bacteria inhabit the surface of any public toilet seat. However, if the thought of coming in direct contact with them gives you the chills, a reassuring (and perhaps equally terrifying) fact is that your phone is coated with ten times more bacteria than a toilet seat. If you’ve never fallen ill from taking a call on your cell phone, the chances of you getting an infection from using a public restroom are even smaller.

So while they might give us a sense of safety and comfort, toilet seat covers can’t really do much for us—they’re more of a decorative piece than a protective barrier against germs. Nevertheless, prevention should never be overlooked. Maintaining a healthy habit of washing your hands with soap after using the toilet and before every meal is a simple way to keep diseases away and give you peace of mind.

Carla Cometto Carla Cometto
Carla has been writing professionally for five years and blogging for many more. She's worked as a journalist, photographer, and translator. She's also an avid traveler who hopes to inspire a sense of curiosity and adventure in others through her writing. Read Full Bio »
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