Public restrooms are confined, high-traffic spaces that will probably contribute to the transmission of COVID-19. When out and about or at work, the safest restrooms are ones with the least traffic, the fewest occupants at one time, and the greatest distance between people at stalls and sinks.
- Wear a mask when in a restroom (especially one that gets a lot of use).
- Wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer) after using a toilet. Studies have demonstrated that a majority of people do not wash their hands after using a toilet.
- There are many surfaces you might not think could be contaminated, but in reality could be.
- You still need to wash your hands when changing a baby. Don’t just use a wet wipe as these are not sanitizers.
Flushing the Toilet
Viral RNA is detectable in fecal samples from cases of COVID-19, which means that the virus sheds into the stool. It continues to do so even after the virus is no longer in the respiratory tract.
We don’t know yet whether fecal-oral transmission of COVID-19 is common or uncommon. So there are some basic precautions to take–whether you are using a public restroom or sharing a bathroom at home with someone who has COVID-19.
- Do flush the toilet!
- To reduce the chance of dangerous toilet plume–virus and bacteria escaping from the toilet into the air–always close the lid of the toilet and then flush if there is a top lid present.
- 80% of particles that escape from fecal matter into the air can be prevented by closing the lid of a toilet when flushing.
Drying Your Hands
Researchers at the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University in 2018 confirmed that hand dryers suck in bacteria from the air and deposit them on your freshly washed hands.
Petri dishes exposed to bathroom air for two minutes with the hand dryers off grew no more than one colony of bacteria. Petri dishes exposed to hot hand-dryer air for 30 seconds grew up to 254 colonies of bacteria.
Studies have also shown that air dryers can spread infective aerosols. Hot air dryers recirculate washroom air and can spread bacteria to a distance of 3 feet. Jet air dryers often have an air filter, but they can still spread hand contaminants to a distance of at least 6 feet.
- Use touchless paper-towel dispensers if possible.
- On your way out, after drying your hands, use a fresh paper towel to open the restroom door.