5 Tips For Using A Public Restroom During The Pandemic

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: January 11, 2021

We know public restrooms are germy places on an average day, but a public restroom during a global pandemic can become a petri dish of pathogens. While we can’t always avoid using them when we are in public, we can adopt some behaviors to help protect ourselves when using public toilets.
  1. Wear a mask.
    Not all restrooms are large enough to allow for proper social distancing. As a result, you are vulnerable to an infected person’s breathing, coughing, and sneezing if they are in the restroom with you, especially if the room is smaller with a high density of people. A mask will protect you from an infection or transmitting the virus to another person, who may be as close as the next stall.
  2. Choose your restroom carefully.
    Sometimes you have a choice of restrooms, so look for one that is out of the way. The less traffic through the restroom, the better. Also, look for a larger one with multiple stalls. Larger rooms allow for more airflow, which can dissipate the virus. If the restroom is crowded, you may want to wait outside until others leave the restroom so you can use it when fewer people are in it.
  3. Touch as few surfaces directly as possible.
    Infected aerosol droplets, whether from a person or a flushed toilet, may have contaminated surfaces in the restroom, including high-touch surfaces such as toilet and sink handles and doorknobs. So, use toilet paper to flush and open doors whenever possible.
  4. Rush after the Flush.
    A study in the Physics of Fluid found that flushing can force as much as 60 percent of produced aerosols high above the toilet seat, a phenomenon known as “toilet plume” It isn’t yet known if these aerosols can infect you with COVID-19. The study also found potentially infectious aerosols continue to be airborne for roughly one minute after each flush. Research also showed toilets could continue to create an infectious plume several flushes after the contaminated flush.
  5. Avoid the hand dryer.
    Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from the COVID-19, but using a hand dryer in a public restroom could undo the benefit of the handwashing. A study from the University of Connecticut shows that hand dryers shoot bacteria from bathroom air directly onto your hands. Use a disposable paper towel instead.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.