Toilet Seat Covers Are Pointless, But Please Sit Down Anyway

by Lindsay Wolf
Originally Published: 
public restroom and toilet srat cover

I wish there was another way to say this, but there isn’t. I have spent the vast majority of today on the toilet. My daughter brought home from preschool a vicious stomach bug and transferred it right to me. It’s been a pooping marathon in my house, yet unlike other races, I don’t get a certificate of achievement at the end of it all. Mom life at its finest, if you ask me.

So you can imagine the hilarious level of irony I experienced from forcibly sitting on the crapper all day and coming across a particularly gross, but informative Shape article about how toilet seat covers don’t actually work.

I think we’ve all been raised to believe that this modern invention is the only way to cover our asses on the loo – and for good reason. It’s no surprise that toilets are inherently dirty. People pee, poop, and who knows what else in them. Public bathrooms are a shit show many folks avoid for fear that some butt disease will certainly be contracted from sticking our bare asses down on a seat shared by many.

Douglas Sacha/Getty

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those seat covers you’ve been loyally using for years aren’t helping you at all. Apparently, experts now believe they do jack shit in effectively protecting us. Since they’re naturally absorbent, the bacteria and viruses that loom on the surface can easily make their way through the paper and onto your rump.

Before you write off toilets forever, let me offer some slightly good news, a little more bad news, and a teeny bit of additional good news.

The actual likelihood of contracting a disease of any kind from sitting your tush down is minimal at best unless you have an open wound down there, in which case the odds are slightly against you. Instead, we need to be freaking out about something entirely different in our bathroom – a disgusting substance known as “toilet plume.”

What is the plume from a toilet, you might be innocently wondering? Well, it’s the invisible cloud of shit-filled air that wafts up after we flush. In fact, this plume is so insidious that it has the potential to float on over to our sinks and even onto our toothbrushes. This germ and fecal-filled air can be shot up to 15 feet with all the power that a toilet flush brings. Yuck.

In fact, the American Journal of Infection Control found out just how deadly this air can be. “Research suggests that this toilet plume could play an important role in the transmission of infectious diseases for which the pathogen is shed in feces or vomit,” the scientists wrote in their 2013 study.


So what the hell can we do about it? If you’re at home, put the toilet seat down before flushing. If you’re out in a public bathroom, leave the stall immediately after you flush. And for the love of health, wash your goddamn hands with the passion of a thousand suns after you do your business.

In case you may need any more convincing that putting the lid down is the way to go, a 2012 study found that when we leave it up, twelve times the amount of diarrhea-inducing bacterium Clostridium difficile is produced in the air. So, it’s safe to say that sticking the lid down and some good old-fashioned hand washing should do the trick.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cry my weight in tears as this stomach bug keeps dragging me back into our bathroom. I wish I could say this was all an April Fool’s joke, but it’s only fucking February.

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