Bathroom Germs You Really Can Catch

"mold and mildew" of bathroom cleanser fame. "They don't cause
infection, but they can exacerbate asthma and allergies," says Tierno.

But before you evacuate your bathroom and call Hazmat, here's the good news:
if you clean regularly and practice basic hygiene, there's very little risk
from the bathroom germs you'll find there. "Only about 1%-2% of all germs
are pathogenic -- meaning they can make us sick," says Tierno. "There's
a possibility you can catch something, but if you practice good personal,
household, and food hygiene, you're at pretty low risk."

Bathroom Germs: Keeping the Bathroom Clean

If you follow a few simple rules for cleaning your bathroom, and cleaning
yourself when you use the bathroom, you can usually avoid transmitting
most of these organisms. Let's start with cleaning rules.

  • Clean regularly. This means cleaning all bathroom floors and solid surfaces
    with a disinfectant cleanser on a weekly basis, and "deep cleaning" --
    a more thorough scrubbing -- about once a month. If you or a family member or
    household visitor has had the flu or diarrhea, you might want to step up the

  • Use the right cleanser when tackling bathroom germs. Experts agree that the
    best household disinfectant is a 10% bleach solution (that means mixing one
    part bleach with nine parts water). Avoid buying already-watery "bleach

  • Pay special attention to the toilet bowl. "That's where all the
    excretions go," says Tierno. "A biofilm grows after just a few hours
    with any germ, even normal flora, which can allow household pathogens to
    survive even with chlorine tablets in the water. So scrub that bowl with soap,
    disinfectant, and a brush once a week." Let the bleach sit on the bowl and
    seat surface for a good 10 minutes before rinsing with soapy water, adds

  • Keep shower walls and floors free of mold and mildew. "Shower curtains
    should have a liner on the inside that's changed every three to six months,
    depending on how well you're cleaning," says Tierno. 

  • For spot cleaning bathroom germs, keep either a spray bottle of 10% bleach
    solution, or packaged cleaning wipes like Lysol or Clorox, within arm's reach
    in every bathroom. 

  • Don't reuse sponges, which can harbor bacteria themselves and leave
    surfaces more germy than when you started. "Instead, buy cheap disposable
    sponges or use old towels or clothes as rags," says

In the battle with bathroom germs, it's also important to practice good
personal hygiene.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet and before brushing your

  • Close the toilet lid when you flush. "Flushing aerosolizes all the
    organisms found in feces, and there are 3.2 million microbes per square inch of
    toilet bowl," says Duberg. That means that when you flush with the lid up,
    it's like pressing the nozzle on a spray canister full of infectious

  • Discard toothbrushes after you've been sick.

  • Use disposable bathroom cups instead of glasses.

If you and your family follow these simple steps, you're likely to stay
fairly safe from bathroom germs. "The bulk of germs are harmless to us;
they maintain our life and our immunities," says Tierno. "But it's
important to know where the harmful ones are and how to deal with them so as to
prevent unnecessary bouts of illness that waylay you for days."

By Gina Shaw
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario
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