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Author Topic: Close the lid before you flush?
Esprise Me
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First, my apologies if this has already been covered; a cursory search of the archives turned up nothing, but it wouldn't be the first time I've missed something here.
On to my question. I've heard many times in many ways over the years that you should close the lid on your toilet before you flush, because a process (sometimes called "aerosolization") takes place, meaning microscopic bits of excrement get vaporized and sprayed everywhere in your bathroom, so you might as well brush your teeth with your own crap (or that of anyone else who uses the bathroom.) This seems, well, just a little bit paranoid to me.
I've heard it from people who should know, like in this CNN interview with Philip Tierno, but of course, I still hear doctors parroting the line about the necessity of drinking eight glasses of water a day, even though that seems to have been soundly debunked.
My questions are:
1) Does aerosolization occur as a result of flushing a toilet?
2) If so, does this mean urine and fecal matter come into contact with faucets, mirrors, toothbrushes, etc.?
3) If so, does this pose a significant health hazard, or is this one of those basic germ facts o' life--you come into contact with them every day, and they're not gonna kill you?
4) If aerosolization occurs and poses a significant health risk, would closing the toilet lid actually do anything to reduce the risk? (It's not like it forms an airtight seal!)
5) Would any risk reduction be significant enough to justify badgering my roommate to start closing the lid when he uses the toilet, or should I confine this to my own neurotic tableu of habits?

Any biologists or persons with superior Google skills are invited to weigh in. Thanks!

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munkin65
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I have read that yes, fecal matter has been found on toothbrushes and water glasses that are too near the toilet. The recommendation was keep your toothbrush and water glass in the medicine cabinet and to close the toilet lid when you flush...

Don't ask me to quote my source though... I can't remember where. Maybe it was here on Snopes?

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AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
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Uncle Cecil's take

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Em
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This page, which may be the one Munkin remembers seeing in a previous thread (posted by Tagurit), says to keep your toothbrush in the medicine cabinet.

Another group has done some experimenting and say they've busted it. I think Mythbusters did a segment to it, too, but I can't remember if they busted or confirmed it.

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Nion
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Mythbusters did do a segment on fecal matter being on toothbrushes. The sad truth that they discovered is "poo is everywhere!" lol

They had control toothbrushes in a part of the shop a fair distance from the bathroom. You guessed it, they still ended up with poo on them.

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Esprise Me
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Hmmmm...seems Cecil got much of his information from Dr. Gerba. The Straight Dope article and the Germ Patrol article contained several of the same statistics. The Germ Patrol article (the one Em linked to) begins with a portrait, as it were, of Dr. Gerba, including this gem:
quote:
He [...] hands a visitor a biography of Thomas Crapper, inventor of the flush toilet, saying, "He doesn't get nearly enough respect."

If this microbiologist fell for the biography of Thomas Crapper, how reliable is his research, I wonder? And while I have a great deal of respect for Cecil's writing, if he used an unreliable source in writing that article, it calls his whole conclusion into question.
What makes me suspicious about the "GAH!!! HIDE YOUR TOOTHBRUSH AND CLOSE THE LID!!!" school of thought/paranoia is the nagging suspicion that if the situation were really so dire, we would all be a lot sicker. If feces are ripe with E. Coli, and toilets send our crap flying everywhere, and we brush our teeth with it, why isn't the human race extinct yet? I think that Iowa Lakes group may have hit the nail on the head: germs are indeed everywhere, but lethal germs are another story.
Relic-any way we could find that Mythbusters episode?

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Four Kitties
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quote:
Originally posted by munkin65:
I have read that yes, fecal matter has been found on toothbrushes and water glasses that are too near the toilet. The recommendation was keep your toothbrush and water glass in the medicine cabinet and to close the toilet lid when you flush...

But you're not supposed to keep your toothbrush in the cabinet, because it's dark and moist and therefore a happy environment for all the other bacteria (the non-poo ones).

Barring single-use toothbrushes, I think we're all dead.

ETA: In this house, the lid is closed before flushing. Since the lid is going to be closed anyway (to keep the kitties out), may as well close before flushing and possibly do some good.

Four Kitties

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arluquin
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quote:
Originally posted by Esprise Me:

Relic-any way we could find that Mythbusters episode?

It's in episode 12, which is in the first season.
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Molasses Cellany
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I close the lid before flushing simply because the flush in the toilet here has a bit of a kick to it. It's more about the immediate "yurgh!" effect of seeing little droplets of pee-water splashing around than worries of microscopic poo bits hitting the toothbrush, which is on the opposite side of the bathroom anyway.

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Roofus
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Yeah RelicMan is right. Mythbusters already did it. IIRC, their answers are as follows:

1) Does aerosolization occur as a result of flushing a toilet?
Yes

2) If so, does this mean urine and fecal matter come into contact with faucets, mirrors, toothbrushes, etc.?
Yes

3) If so, does this pose a significant health hazard, or is this one of those basic germ facts o' life--you come into contact with them every day, and they're not gonna kill you?
No

4) If aerosolization occurs and poses a significant health risk, would closing the toilet lid actually do anything to reduce the risk? (It's not like it forms an airtight seal!)
No

5) Would any risk reduction be significant enough to justify badgering my roommate to start closing the lid when he uses the toilet, or should I confine this to my own neurotic tableu of habits?
No

You know, come to think of it, it might be a good idea to have a "Mythbusters already did it" section on the site, assuming of course the Discovery Channel would be OK with it. [Razz]

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medtchva
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quote:
Originally posted by RelicMan:
Mythbusters did do a segment on fecal matter being on toothbrushes. The sad truth that they discovered is "poo is everywhere!" lol

They had control toothbrushes in a part of the shop a fair distance from the bathroom. You guessed it, they still ended up with poo on them.

Was it fecal 'matter' or fecal bacteria? If it's fecal bacteria, that can come from just about anywhere... like unwashed hands, contaminated tap water, etc. etc. and not just a flushing toilet.
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Latiam
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Just for the record, I bring my toothbrush, toothpaste, and cup into the bathroom to use them. I do this in a little caddy that also holds my soap and floss. The caddy does not touch the toothbrush.
We also keep the lid down.
I think the toothbrush has less bacteria on it than it would if I left it in the bathroom. I hope.

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have yourself a Merry Little Galaxy
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quote:
4) If aerosolization occurs and poses a significant health risk, would closing the toilet lid actually do anything to reduce the risk? (It's not like it forms an airtight seal!)
No

I'd also heard that the water particles produced are so fine that they would take a couple of hours to settle - so that if you do flush with the lid shut, the next person who lifts the lid will just release it anyway.

Little Galaxy

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Singing in the Drizzle
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Drive my wife nuts that I shut the lid on the tolet. I do not do it because of the above, but it just looks cleaner in the bathroom and while fumbling for that toothbrush in the morring, I can't drop and bounce it into the tolet. She hates to have to lift the lid in the morning.
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FrogFeathers
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Our lid is always closed because of the kitty-cat thing as well. But... there's a bonus-


The seat is always down. [Big Grin]


And, back on topic, I saw the Mythbusters episode, and I've also heard about the bacteria etc mentioned above. We studied it back in the olden days of high school.

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YeeMum
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quote:
Originally posted by Roofus:
You know, come to think of it, it might be a good idea to have a "Mythbusters already did it" section on the site, assuming of course the Discovery Channel would be OK with it. [Razz]

I concur we ..I mean me and the other people in my head.. often go straight to mythbusters when I read some of these things

Yee-Snopes and Mythbusters-Mum

ETA George Carlin does a bit on germs that has a great perspective IMO

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
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quote:
Originally posted by Roofus:
Yeah RelicMan is right. Mythbusters already did it. IIRC, their answers are as follows:

3) If so, does this pose a significant health hazard, or is this one of those basic germ facts o' life--you come into contact with them every day, and they're not gonna kill you?
No

I assume the "no" answer applies to the first part of the question--whether it poses a significant threat.

Seaboe

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NobbyNobbs
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Some things to point out.

a) I keep my toothbrush out in the open, no more than 5 feet from the toilet.

b) I flush the toilet with the lid open.

c) I brush my teeth regularly.

d) I'm not dead.

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WildaBeast
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quote:
Originally posted by YeeMum:
quote:
Originally posted by Roofus:
You know, come to think of it, it might be a good idea to have a "Mythbusters already did it" section on the site, assuming of course the Discovery Channel would be OK with it. [Razz]

I concur we ..I mean me and the other people in my head.. often go straight to mythbusters when I read some of these things

Yee-Snopes and Mythbusters-Mum

ETA George Carlin does a bit on germs that has a great perspective IMO

Don't get me wrong, Mythbusters is one of my favorite shows, but I don't really consider them to be the final authority on a lot of the things they test. A few times I've notices major flaws in the way they do their experiments.

As just one example, on the episode where they tested whether you get better gas milage with the AC on or the windows down, they did one test with a computer measuring fuel consumption at 55 mph, and one where they ran two SUVs out of gas at 45 mph. They got different results for each test, and they declared the second test to be correct. However since wind resistance is a function of speed, and the tests weren't both performed at the same speed, you really couldn't counlude anything about which test was correct.

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Brandi
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One thing I like, though, is that if they get enough people pestering them about experiment design they'll try repeating an experiment to correct problems (mind you, the redesign may introduce new errors but at least they'll concede problems or inconclusive results).

It's hard to come up with a good experiment that also makes good TV, however.

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Squishy0405
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I saw this on Oprah and I do it...For some reason it seems that the bathroom doesn't get as dirty as fast? They said it can project up to 20ft...I also don't touch the handle with my hand unless absolutley necessary in public toilets...

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medtchva
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quote:
Originally posted by Squishy0405:
I saw this on Oprah and I do it...For some reason it seems that the bathroom doesn't get as dirty as fast? They said it can project up to 20ft...I also don't touch the handle with my hand unless absolutley necessary in public toilets...

I know a lot of people that are cautious about things like public toilets, etc.. but the truth is, the handles of the doors we opened all the time without thinking about it are probably far more germ covered than a public toilet handle. I work in microbiology and don't take any extra precautions anywhere.
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Mad Jay
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The toilet in my house has a seperate room inside the bathroom that stays firmly closed when I make stinky.

Just thought that I'd brag.

ETA: brag about the toilet, not the stinky

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Roofus
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quote:
Originally posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker:
quote:
Originally posted by Roofus:
Yeah RelicMan is right. Mythbusters already did it. IIRC, their answers are as follows:

3) If so, does this pose a significant health hazard, or is this one of those basic germ facts o' life--you come into contact with them every day, and they're not gonna kill you?
No

I assume the "no" answer applies to the first part of the question--whether it poses a significant threat.

Seaboe

Right it does not pose a signifiant risk, because it is "one of those basic germ facts o' life." [Smile]
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Seaboe Muffinchucker
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Grammatically, an argument can be made that the answer to the second question ("Aren't they going to kill you?") should be Yes rather than No.

Which is why I clarified. [Big Grin]

Seaboe

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Esprise Me
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Looking back, it seems the way I worded all those questions invites that sort of misunderstanding. Sorry about that.

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curlygirl
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[hijack]

Oh WildaBeast I absolutely agree. The Mythbusters have absolutely no idea of the meaning of the term "scientific method" and have only a basic grasp of the meaning of a control. While they produce some very entertaining viewing I am sometimes tempted to throw a munchkin at them.

One of the worst was the chicken gun experiment. They did redo it after criticism but the second experiment was just as bad.

They really do need to have a science advisor so they actually use terms like voltage and mass in the right context. (Sorry major munchkin there).

[/hijack]

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LeaflessMapleTree
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quote:
Originally posted by Singing in the Drizzle:
Drive my wife nuts that I shut the lid on the tolet. I do not do it because of the above, but it just looks cleaner in the bathroom and while fumbling for that toothbrush in the morring, I can't drop and bounce it into the tolet. She hates to have to lift the lid in the morning.

Perhaps some people hate having to lift it up. But I do it when necessary. It's really not such a big deal. I've never understood why people (comedians?) make such a big deal about it. No one gets pissed off about having open a door, but a toilet seat is really just a sideways door...the doorway to relief.

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Squishy0405
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quote:
Originally posted by medtchva:
quote:
Originally posted by Squishy0405:
I saw this on Oprah and I do it...For some reason it seems that the bathroom doesn't get as dirty as fast? They said it can project up to 20ft...I also don't touch the handle with my hand unless absolutley necessary in public toilets...

I know a lot of people that are cautious about things like public toilets, etc.. but the truth is, the handles of the doors we opened all the time without thinking about it are probably far more germ covered than a public toilet handle. I work in microbiology and don't take any extra precautions anywhere.
After the hand washing segment I think the women were taped at the sink to see how many actually washed for 20 secs or Happy Birthday. Even after being a part of it live, very few actually did it.

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