Toilet Seat Covers Don’t Prevent Disease, But I’ll Use One Anyway, Thank You Very Much

Toilet Seat Covers Don’t Prevent Disease, But I’ll Use One Anyway, Thank You Very Much

Toilet Seat Covers

filadendron / iStock

An article titled “Why Using Toilet Seat Liners Is Basically Pointless” has been making the rounds. It was written in 2014 by Huffington Post‘s Amanda Chen, but it seems like social media archaeologists have unearthed it, and now I can’t seem to avoid it in my Facebook feed. USA Today even made a classy little video about the article’s subject.

Chen interviewed William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center who told her this, “That’s because toilet seats are not a vehicle for the transmission of any infectious agents — you won’t catch anything.” Then she points out that the original reason seat covers were invented were to prevent the transmission of gastrointestinal or sexually transmitted infections, but that idea has since been refuted in research.

Ultimately, using a toilet seat cover is basically a psychological thing now. It has nothing to do with preventing the spread of infections. The best protection you have is your butt skin. So now we are all left with a question: Do we stop using them because they don’t work, or do we keep layering paper on toilet seats because it makes us feel better about using public toilets?

This is a hard one for me, and I have to assume for others too. I’m actually addicted to these things. Sometimes I use two, depending on the nature of the toilet. When you pair two covers together like that they slide around a bit, but it’s cool. I end up with a pretty good core workout. And yes, I know that there are some environmentalists reading this right now who are not going to like that, but honestly, a naked public toilet seat feels like rubbing my bare ass against a complete stranger’s bare ass, and I just can’t live with that.

There are just certain things I am not ready to change, regardless of science. I’m not going to poop in a squatting position, regardless of how many Squatty Potty commercials I see showing me how crimped my lower intestines are. I’m not going to stop drinking diet soda regardless of how many people post articles on my Facebook page about how many tumors I’m probably developing. I’m not going to take my shoes off in the house even though there is hard data showing me all the nastiness I’m tracking into my home. And despite this information on toilet seat covers, I’m not going to stop using them. In fact, I have a little boy at home, and I’ve strongly considered getting some toilet seat covers for me to use in his bathroom because the kid can’t aim worth a damn.

What I can say about all of this is that unless my children are peeking in on you while you are doing your business in a public restroom (sorry about that, we are working on it), no one has to know whether or not you use a seat cover. It’s basically a guilty pleasure now.

Please keep in mind that this is just my experience that has lead me to a personal preference for paper-lined seats — my personal hang-ups. And women out there, I assume you have some real hard thinking to do because you spend a lot more time in the saddle than men.

Now here’s the really scary part. The more I think about this revelation concerning toilet seat covers, the more I wonder what this says about me. Usually, I’m a pretty big believer in scientific discovery, but this little slice of facts I can’t handle, and I wonder what else I can’t handle. Perhaps it’s because I’m in my 30s, and I’m starting to get stuck in my ways.

I’m not sure.

But what I do know is this. Amanda Chen ended her article with this very important message: “What does help to tamp down on the spread of gastrointestinal illness is hand-washing.”

Now, this I can get behind. Regardless of where you stand (or in this case, sit) on the toilet seat cover argument, please wash your hands. For the love of humanity, wash your damn hands.

Clint Edwards is the author of the humorous book on parenting This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things and No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.