When you enter a public bathroom and, on the wall, you see a dispenser filled with toilet seat covers… do you take one of them?
If you are like most Americans you probably do, but those liners may have more to do with providing comfort and reassurance to the user than actually doing anything to prevent disease.
Experts say that toilet seat covers are too thin to stop the transmission of germs, and it’s unlikely that you would catch an infection from a toilet seat — unless there is a cut on your skin, and it’s unlikely that the bacteria will be able to enter the body.
Public health professionals are continually emphasizing that it is virtually impossible to catch an STI from a toilet seat. It would require the perfect storm of bacteria (i.e. you would have to sit down on the exact place where the virus was deposited, immediately after it was deposited, and it would have to be a super virus that could survive outside the body).
“That’s because toilet seats are not a vehicle for the transmission of any infectious agents — you won’t catch anything,” says infectious disease specialist Dr. William Schaffner, M.D., a professor of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
As humble as they appear to be, toilet seats have been specially designed to repel against bacteria. The way they are shaped and the overall smoothness of the seats make it difficult for germs to latch onto them.
Covering the seat with paper might only make things worse as paper is a porous material and only increases the surface area for germs to multiply on.
Our skin provides enough protection to keep our bodies safe from whatever is lurking in and around the toilet. It’s our own natural barrier that protects us from micro-organisms and besides that, much of the bacteria found on seats is already present on our bodies.