Is Anything Cleaner than a Toilet Seat?

Even in a society preoccupied with cleanliness, one might expect the restroom — in particular, the toilet — to be slightly unclean. We wouldn’t want to eat off of a toilet seat, for instance, or do anything with the water but flush it. But unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years, you’ve heard at least one “dirtier than a toilet seat” study. Here is a compilation thereof, and you don’t even have to wait for the news at 10:00.

ABC News reports that fast food ice is dirtier than toilet water! Jasmine Robert’s award-winning middle school science project proved that “70 percent of the time, ice from fast food restaraunts was dirtier than toilet water.” Ironically, E. coli was among the bacteria. It’s a cold, hard fact that these machines are not cleaned, and neither are the people scooping ice.

Not convinced? Maybe I can steer you in the right direction by informing you that steering wheels are almost three times dirtier than toilets! AOL Motoring finds 41,600 germs on the average steering wheel compared to 17,400 on a toilet seat. “If food or dirt is transmitted on to the wheel and not regularly cleaned, then the germs multiply and pretty quickly you can be left with an area more unsanitary than a toilet.”

Hold the phone – ABC News informs us that cell phones are also dirtier than a toilet! Microbiologist Chuck Gerba explains “You put it in a warm place, you hold it in your hand, you put it in your pocket…bacteria like that. It can grow in these types of places.” Half of the phones Gerba tests are home to staph bacteria.

You think you can go to work and escape the filth? Chuck Gerba has that covered too – or more specifically, it too is covered… in bacteria! The average desk is houses 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Gerba enlightens us again: “For bacteria, a desk is really the laptop of luxury…They can feast all day from breakfast to lunch and even dinner.” Next time you’re at your desk, know that your hand is resting on “10,000,000 bacteria”. A later University of Arizona study by Dr. Ingram contrasts the toilet’s “49 microbes per square inch” against the office phone with “25,127 microbes per square inch”

From these consistent results, it seems that these studies are approaching the problem from the wrong angle. If all of these things are dirtier than toilets, then what is cleaner than a toilet?

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4 Responses to “Is Anything Cleaner than a Toilet Seat?”

  1. Dean says:

    I don’t take these tests too seriously. The thing I never understood about these “tests” were the variables surrounding the “cleanliness” of the toilet. Are we comparing these things to a brand new, just installed, never used toilet? Has it been peed in? Pooped in? How many times? Over how long of a timespan, since it was new, has it been used? When was it last cleaned? With what was it cleaned? How many restaurants’ ice had E Coli? How many of the 10,000,000 bacteria on my desk are as potentially hazardous versus those in my toilet?

    It’s almost a new motto for me, but I’ll say it again – we live in fear. What scares me the most is that we don’t stop to ask questions anymore; we just accept whatever we’re told as the truth.

    Good ending question – if all of this other stuff is dirtier than a toilet then what’s cleaner and why aren’t we doing more things around our toilet if they’re so clean?

  2. Bunny says:


    I guess it’s true that common sense is definitely not common.

    Why would they perform these tests on a brand new toilet? That would be pointless.

    Also, most people (hopefully) clean their toilets every two weeks to a month. When I clean my toilet, I clean it with bleach. Granted, I wouldn’t want to eat off of it. When is the last time you bleached your cell phone? The car steering wheel? When is the last time you took a sanitizer to your desk?

    I think the most important thing to keep in mind is: When is the last time you got E. coli from your cell phone?

    I have yet to.

    I think it’s because my body has this function called an immune system.

    I think the point of these stories is just to bring to the front of people’s minds that there are things dirtier than a toilet seat. It’s just trivial information that you might be able to use someday on Jeopardy or to win a radio contest with. It’s novel. It’s interesting. Something to break the ice with at parties.

  3. Steve says:

    LOL Great Post, I realize that Fast Food Ice may be dirtier than toilet water, but for some reason I would rather drink that then sit on a bare toilet seat. Must be the skid marks inside the toilet bowl.

  4. Hard to imagine how ice could get that dirty, but I guess the employees don’t read those signs in the bathroom instructing them how to wash their hands. People these days are so lazy…

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