There are several cleanliness issues that keep some people awake at night, from leaving dishes in the sink to wearing shoes indoors, and even sitting on a clean bed while wearing dirty clothes. While those can be considered trivial issues, one, however, does remain that is important and often overlooked–leaving the toilet lid open.

The real problem with leaving the lid up is that almost everyone at one time or another has left the lid open. According to a recent Scrubbing Bubbles survey, 60 percent of respondents mentioned that they skip this very important hygienic habit. You may be asking yourself what the big deal is about leaving the lid open; allow us to paint a detailed image of what happens when you flush.

After doing your business, with a simple flick of the lever, the swirling water whisks your business away to the sewers and into the air, all over your counters, and even onto your towels and toothbrushes. Re-thinking your bathroom routine? You should be.

By leaving the lid up when you flush, germ-filled water particles, along with anything else in the toilet (otherwise known as toilet plume) can spray up to 15 feet high.

The initial study that brought this issue to light was published in 1975 in the journal Applied Microbiology by Dr. Charles Gerba, before the adoption of low-flow toilets. Gerba found that in a single flush, airborne E. coli and other bacteria can linger in the air for four to six hours.

Today’s low-flow toilets might not have quite the same effect, but a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found horrifying conclusions. “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,” said the scientists in the study. “The possible role of toilet plume in airborne transmission of norovirus, SARS, and pandemic influenza is of particular interest.” Fortunately, there is a simple solution: close the lid before flushing.

Recent studies found no evidence that diseases could be transferred through toilet plume; however, bacteria like salmonella and Shigella and viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A can be transmitted when fecal particles enter the mouth.

So instead of driving yourself crazy lying in bed thinking about the bacteria in the air, make sure to keep the toilet lid down at all times.

Related: 10 Foods That Help You Poop


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