New findings about catching COVID-19 in public restrooms

• Public restrooms pose little risk for COVID-19 infections, according to a new study.
• They have approximately the same risk as any indoor space.
• Maintaining good hygiene is the best way to protect yourself from viruses.

Public restrooms may be your last resort when you’ve really got to go, but they cannot be blamed for the spread of COVID-19.

Despite fears that bathrooms were breeding grounds for the coronavirus, an Australian-led study found that they showed no evidence of airborne transmission of pathogens such as COVID-19 in them — meaning the chances of getting infected are extremely low.

How they tested 

The research, published in the journal Science of The Total Environment, scanned 38 separate studies from 13 countries published from 2000 to 2020 to understand the relationship between public restrooms and viral and bacterial transmission.

The authors said that public toilets pose little to no risk if you follow good hygiene habits, like washing your hands, and if bathrooms’ surfaces are properly cleaned, disinfected, and ventilated.

“We realize people are worried about using public washrooms during the pandemic, but if you minimize your time in the bathroom; wash and dry your hands properly, and don’t use your mobile phone, eat or drink; then bathroom use should remain low risk,” Australian National University environmental health professor Sotiris Vardoulakis said in a statement.

Vardoulakis noted that the study didn’t find evidence that airborne transmission is a potential route of transmission of COVID-19, which goes against what previous research found. He said one of the reasons why bathrooms are low risk is because people typically don’t spend a lot of time in them and don’t interact with others.

“Importantly, the aerosols you may inhale when you flush the toilet come from your own human waste,” he said. “The risk of cross-contamination is not very high.”

How to stay safe

People should, however, continue to keep a safe distance from each other and wear a face mask, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two of the concerns regarding public bathrooms are amount of space and ventilation. A report published by the Harvard Medical School said that air quality remained a concern in bathrooms because flushing creates an aerosol spray and the virus can exist in feces.

However, public restrooms pose the same risk that other indoor spaces provide. They’re possibly even safer, especially if you’re comparing it to going to a bar or wedding where more people are around you in a tighter area.

You should also continue to disinfect your hands and try to not touch your face — or even your iPhone, which most people forget to clean regularly.