An Important Lesson In Bathroom Etiquette

When you flush your business down the toilet, it’s not a good idea to watch it swirl into oblivion. Researchers say that if you neglect to close the lid before you flush, you’re unleashing countless particles of waste into the air.

A British doctor interviewed by the Daily Mail says toilet flushes can unleash a cloud of nastiness that can hover in the air and settle on surfaces, possibly spreading sickness.

An experiment found that a toilet flush sent infectious particles 10 feet into the air, and traces were still found 90 minutes later. Closing the seat still allowed the particles to escape when flushed, but greatly reduced the revolting cloud left hovering over the toilet.

It’s there for a reason! How flushing the toilet with lid up ‘could spread winter vomiting bug’ [Daily Mail]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Kate says:

    The johns in office buildings never have lids.

    • JoeDawson says:

      Which is why i will not use the can if someone else has just been in that particular stall…. Although the handicap stall has a lid…

      • DJ Charlie says:

        DO NOT get me started on handicapped stalls.

        At the store this weekend, I got shoved aside by some asshole wearing a wifebeater and a truckers cap on my way to the handicapped stall. “Wait your turn, damn gimp!”

        Next time, pepper spray!

        • Ihmhi says:

          I wouldn’t shove a handicapped person out of the way, but I’m a big guy – 6’5″ and around 300 lbs. I’m not round like a beach ball (thanks to my height I carry my weight fairly well), but my shoulders are wiiiiiiiide. More often than not regular stalls are torture for me.

          That said, had I seen a person do that to someone who is in genuine need of a handicapped stall, I’d introduce their face to the wall. The wall, of course, would retort by being very solid and hurting a lot. We would come to a resolution after a few minutes of negotiation between myself, the jackass, and the wall.

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          Sheesh, what an asshole. I will kick him with my ice skates on. They’re nice and sharp. I like the pepper spray idea too. :)

          I’ve used the stall when there is no one else in there (when I have luggage, need to change clothes, etc.) but the proper etiquette for the handicapped stall means if there is a handicapped person who needs it, you LET THEM GO FIRST. The only time I would go ahead is if I were about to pee my pants, barf, etc,, and they said “Oh you go, I can wait, you need it worse.” You don’t shove ahead of them!

        • Kuri says:

          If I saw that happen, well, next time they might ACTUALLY need that stall.

      • 44 in a Row says:

        As the saying goes, the only thing worse than a cold bathroom seat is a warm one.

    • Dallas_shopper says:


      In my office it’s even worse; they have automatic flushers and sometimes they flush while you’re still sitting on them. AFTER you’ve done your business. Yay, splashy.

  2. ThatTastesTerrible! says:

    So I guess if your toothbrush is near the toilet, you really can have a shit-eating grin.

    • Admiral_John says:

      I see what you did there…

      … and I approve. More so now that I see what your username is.

    • DarthCoven says:

      My basement apartment has a bathroom the size of a closet (technically called a 3/4 bathroom, i suppose, with just a shower stall, toilet and sink). We keep our toiletries in a cart just outside for this very reason.

  3. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    I remember this coming up on an episode of Curiosity: Microbiology as Told by Discovery’s Dirtiest Man (Mike Rowe)

    The microbiologist downplayed it to the effect of “Well this is what your immune system is protecting you from each and every day; if you -knew- the things you encounter all day, every day, you’d be terrified.”

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      I agree. I refuse to be taken in by this germophobic paranoia. I handle hygiene sensibly: I wash my hands after going, before food prep, before eating, and after handling anything dirty (like a pet or something). I don’t use those hand sanitizers, I don’t sterilize the handle of my shopping cart, I don’t use those little paper toilet seat covers, I store my toothbrush by the sink (across the room from the toilet) and don’t worry about it, etc.

      I also don’t get sick any more often than the germophobic masses at work. I think actually I get sick less often than they do.

      • Murph1908 says:

        Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. All the way down to not getting sick very often.

        • Murph1908 says:

          Forgot to add, I don’t take medicine to alleviate symptoms. There’s a reason my body aches and I don’t fee well. I am being told to stay in bed and sleep.

          When I do get sick, I just drink some OJ and sleep/relax all day. I am good to go in a day or so.

      • Saltpork says:

        +1. Most reasonable post.

        Same here. Combine a few rules of hygiene and realizing that humans are meant to have some level of germs around them and it’s really not that big of a deal.

        Shower on regular intervals. Brush your teeth. Wash your hands before you eat or after you make. Tada, you’ve just stopped most of the things that can make you sick.

        The only times I use hand sanitizer are in hospitals or camping.

      • bethshanin says:

        Same. Some of you may say I’m a dirty person because I shower every other day or sometimes every three days… or if I get dirty or sweat during the day/night. I do wash my hands a lot however…

        Humans were not built for daily scrubbing of your natural oils and killing 99.99% of every organism on their body’s.

        I find it funny that the same people who constantly strip their bodies of its oil are always the same ones complaining of dry/cracked skin. They then must buy and use copious amounts of moisturizers and cremes to put the oils right back on. $$$ I also heard that petroleum based products get you dependent on them because the only way to get “moist” again is with their product. Of course, I’ve also heard this is a myth and a load of crap so who knows.

        I only take medications when directed by doctor, no popping aspirin for minor aches and pains or headaches. When I do take an aspirin, it works wonders because my body has not built up a tolerance to them. I’m in my late 30’s and my doctor actually did a double take when I said I haven’t take any medication, not even over the counter stuff, in well over a decade.

        Something falls on the ground? Eat it. I eat my meat medium rare, my veggies raw or grilled, and tons of potatoes.

        I rarely get sick. When I do, it’s mild. A cold will go around the office and I’ll be the only one not affected or only mildly affected. If I get even a glimmer of a feeling that I’m going to get sick I hit the hay early and let my body heal itself, not just chug a gallon of DayQuil and Theraflu and keep working late like others do.

    • Hungry Dog says:

      I prefer to take the George Carlinian approach and swim in the Hudson river to boost my immune system and if I drop food on the floor I eat it.

      Those germs won’t stand a chance.

  4. Cat says:

    Hey, man, I don’t care how you do it. Just make sure it all flushes down.

    Also: for Gods sake, stop eating whatever it is that makes your ass asplode all over the place like that. And clean up after yourself ya pig…

    • milk says:

      Once at work someone dropped a deuce so big it wouldn’t flush; it just stopped up the toilet. News spread fast and people were actually going in to look at it.

    • Firevine says:

      I worked at Hobby Lobby for a bit, and I don’t know what it was about the place, but the bathrooms were total nightmare fuel every day. I guess people had severe gastrointestinal problems due to exposure to the lousy lead paint covered plastic garbage that place sells.

      Man, that was a shitty job.

      • ellemdee says:

        When I worked at Best Buy back in high school. someone managed to massively poo-spray all over the back wall of the stall. They had to have been standing up when they let ‘er rip because it was nowhere near the actual toilet. It sat there for hours because no one wanted to clean it up. I was very thankful that bathroom cleanup wasn’t part of my job, otherwise I think I would have quit on the spot.

        • Kuri says:

          I have no idea what it is about public restrooms. Some idiots believe they can abuse service employees all they like, some believe they can be total dicks so long as they won’t have to directly interact with anyone.

  5. Red_Eye says:

    The linked story says 10 Inches not 10 feet?

  6. Rachacha says:

    Please Please do a courtesy flush.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I tried searching for that definition a while ago to no avail – care to clue me in?

      • Rachacha says:

        You sit down to do #2. As soon as you make a “deposit” you flush removing the waste, and a substantial portion of the smell. Repeat the process as necessary after each deposit.

        This is especially helpful in public restrooms with poor ventilation.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        If you’re on the throne for a long time, it’s good to flush at least once while doing the deed, instead of waiting until the very end.

      • McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

        flush x2

      • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

        When you make a noisy poo or tinkle in a public restroom, it’s a courtesy to flush over the noise so other people are not offended/disturbed by your noisy evacuations.

        • Dallas_shopper says:

          Huh? You’re in a bathroom, not at the ballet. To me a courtesy flush is only for whisking away really smelly poops halfway through.

          But hearing someone pee or poop? Uh…it’s a BATHROOM.

          • SteveInConverse says:

            Yeah, its a bathroom and everyone knows what goes on there…they just may not want to listen to YOU going to the bathroom and I know I dont want to hear someone else dropping a bad Thai meal or whatever. To me its just courtesy to flush as you are going. God help you if you ever go to jail. Courtesy flushes are not only expected, they are demanded and if you fail in providing one (or more) you may end up with a pencil in your neck. :-)

            • Dallas_shopper says:

              Bathrooms are for peeing and pooping. I refuse to allow anyone to make me feel even a single SHRED of shame or guilt for peeing and pooping in a room that exists FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF PEEING AND POOPING.

              Courtesy flush my ass. You’ll get one if I’m taking a smelly shit. Otherwise, put your fingers in your ears.

      • Lethe says:

        It’s flushing twice for big/smelly jobs.

      • ovalseven says:

        From Austin Powers.


      • Potted-Plant says:

        The Japanese have sound files built in to their toilets for courtesy flushes without the wasted water. When you have thin walls you don’t want to hear Grandma’s business on the other side of the house.

        Scroll about a 1/4 of the way down:

  7. Costner says:

    So let’s say you don’t watch it and as you are walking away the toilet overflows leaving code brown all over your bathroom floor. How would that wet pile of nastiness compare to what could potentially come out of the toilet via air?

    Once the “material” is submerged, I somehow doubt much will become airborne. Yes microscopic particles might blow around, but the same can be true for every room of the house. Every time you open a trash can or change clothes or change a baby’s diaper stuff is floating around that you would rather not think about. That is life… adapt and get over it.

    • ancientone567 says:

      It basically means you have to flush more than once because you filled up the toilet and the whole bathroom reeks of death and decay. The flush will kill some of the smell.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Note to self: decline invitation to visit at the Costner’s.

  8. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    I used to participate in an online group where the phrase “swirling vortex of fecal mist” gained a bit of notoriety.

    Also, in the picture, is that a TP roll *in* the shower?

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Yes, yes it is.

      Poor design choice.

    • Nuc says:

      It is; but at least it is set to “over” and not “under.”

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      In the tub. Sometimes you know how it is when you REALLY gotta go…

    • caradrake says:

      That image has been going around as a “can you spot what is wrong in this picture” post. It looks to me like a very tiny bathroom and I would likely feel at least a smidge claustrophobic there.

  9. Emperor Norton I says:

    There’s nothing new about this.
    The Straight Dope column wrote about this almost 12 years ago.

    • msbask says:

      Unless every single Consumerist reader already knew all of this, then it’s still news (to someone).

      • Emperor Norton I says:

        It’s not Consumerist that I’m blaming, it’s the weaselly British researchers that think they’ve discovered something new.

  10. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Most public restrooms don’t have lids on toilets and get a lot of traffic. We’re not dying left and right, so it can’t be that big of a threat.

  11. Cat says:

    In the Mythbusters segment which has been cited to disprove the idea of particles of poo traveling outside the toilet, what they actually found was that bacteria from feces can be found everywhere – including on a pair of “control” toothbrushes they put away in a medicine cabinet in another room.

    • DWalk says:

      Beat me to it.

      Fecal coliforms bacteria can grow in toothbrush bristles.
      Fecal coliforms were indeed found on all the test brushes, including the control ones. However, none were of a level high enough to be dangerous, and experts confirm that such coliforms were impossible to completely avoid.

      We live in an over-sanitized nation – the sellers of cleaning products have been incredibly successful in making us fearful of our environment. Makes me wonder how the human race has survived for tens of thousands of years – oh, yeah – we’re built to handle this…

  12. Coffee says:

    Great…so every time I give a courtesy flush in the public restroom, my ass is spray painted with fecal matter…sounds like I’m going to have to stand as far away from the toilet as possible, kick the plunger with my foot, and dive to safety as if dodging a grenade.

  13. Straspey says:


    We’ve all been there but don’t like to admit it. We’ve all kicked back in our cubicles and suddenly felt something brew down below.

    As much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, the WORK DUMP is inevitable.

    For those who hate ‘taking the boys to the pool’ at work, following is the Survival Guide 2001 for taking a dump at work. Memorize these definitions and dumping at work will become a pure pleasure.

    ESCAPEE. Definition: a fart that slips out while taking a leak at the urinal or forcing poo in a stall. This is usually accompanied by a sudden wave of panic embarrassment. This is similar to the hot flash you receive when passing an unseen police car and speeding. If you release an escapee, do not acknowledge it. Pretend it did not happen. If you are standing next to the farter in the urinal, pretend you did not hear it. No one likes an escapee; it is uncomfortable for all involved. Making a joke or laughing makes both parties feel uneasy.

    JAILBREAK (Used in conjunction with ESCAPEE). Definition: When forcing poop, several farts slip out at a machine gun pace. This is usually a side effect of diarrhea or a hangover. If this should happen, do not panic. Remain in the stall until everyone has left the bathroom so to spare everyone the awkwardness of what just occurred.

    COURTESY FLUSH. Definition: The act of flushing the toilet the instant the nose cone of the log hits the water and it is whisked away to an undisclosed location. This reduces the amount of airtime the poo has to stink up the bathroom. This can help you avoid being caught doing the WALK OF SHAME.

    WALK OF SHAME. Definition: Walking from the stall, to the sink, to the door after you have just stunk up the bathroom. This can be a very uncomfortable moment if someone walks in and busts you. As with all farts, it is best to pretend that the smell does not exist. Can be avoided with the use of the COURTESY FLUSH.

    OUT OF THE CLOSET POOPER. Definition: A colleague who dumps at work and damn proud of it. You will often see an Out Of The Closet Pooper enter the bathroom with a newspaper or magazine under their arm. Always look around the office for the Out Of The Closet Pooper before entering the bathroom.

    THE POOPING FRIENDS NETWORK (PFN). Definition: A group of co-workers who band together to ensure emergency dumping goes off without incident. This group can help you to monitor the whereabouts of Out Of The Closet Poopers, and identify SAFE HAVENS.

    SAFE HAVENS. Definition: Seldom-used bathrooms somewhere in the building where you can least expect visitors. Try floors that are predominantly of the opposite sex. This will reduce the odds of a dumper of your sex entering the bathroom.

    TURD BURGLAR: Definition: A pooper who does not realize that you are in the stall and tries to force the door open. This is one of the most shocking and vulnerable moments that can occur when taking a dump at work. If this occurs, remain in the stall until the Turd Burglar leaves. This way you will avoid all uncomfortable eye contact.

    CAMO-COUGH. Definition: A phony cough that alerts all new entrants into the bathroom that you are in a stall. This can be used to cover-up a WATERMELON, or to alert potential Turd Burglars. Very effective when used in conjunction with an ASTAIRE.

    ASTAIRE. Definition: A subtle toe-tap that is used to alert potential Turd Burglars that you are occupying a stall. This will remove all doubt that the stall is occupied. If you hear an Astaire, leave the bathroom immediately so the pooper can poop in peace.

    WATERMELON. Definition: A turd that creates a loud splash when hitting the toilet water. This is also an embarrassing incident. If you feel a Watermelon coming on, create a diversion. See CAMO-COUGH.

    HAVANA OMELET. Definition: A load of diarrhoea that creates a series of loud splashes in the toilet water. Often accompanied by an Escapee. Try using a Camo-Cough with an Astaire.

    UNCLE TED. Definition: A bathroom user who seems to linger around forever. Could spend extended lengths of time in front of the mirror or sitting on the pot. An Uncle Ted makes it difficult to relax while on the crapper, as you should always wait to drop your load when the bathroom is empty. This benefits you as well as the other bathroom attendees.

    FLY BY. Definition: The act of scouting out a bathroom before pooping. Walk in and check for other poopers. If there are others in the bathroom, leave and come back again. Be careful not to become a…

    FREQUENT FLYER. People may become suspicious if they catch you constantly going into the bathroom.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      This was far more informative than was strictly necessary… o~O;

    • LizziePoo says:

      This made me laugh SO HARD at my desk at work. Because it is soooooo true.

    • El_Fez says:

      ASTAIRE. Definition: A subtle toe-tap that is used to alert potential Turd Burglars that you are occupying a stall.

      Also doubles as a signal that you are looking for gay sex.

    • AK47 - Now with longer screen name! says:

      This comment may be the most informative Consumerist post I’ve read so far this year.

      Thanks for the giggles!

    • ZombieWoof says:

      Laughed so hard, I sharted.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Note to self…NEVER read that at work again.

      Laughed so hard I farted.

    • EmanNeercs says:

      I really did laugh out loud on this, and was quickly embarrassed when everyone looked at me. This was hilarious though, and I had to log on just to tell you that.

      Thanks for making my afternoon a little better.

    • BensFlare says:

      I am so ashamed to say that this is the funniest piece (of sh…) I’ve read a very long time. Thank you for sharing (I think) , Straspey.

    • SG_Cleve says:

      Some people avoid taking a dump at work. Others insist on doing it on company time instead of wasting personal time at home.

      • jojobreckinridge says:

        No shit! There are a half-dozen people in my office I can name right now that believe the latter. One dude in particular lives literally 3 miles from the office (by himself, mind you), yet he takes a shit first thing every morning when he gets to work. I usually walk in right at the moment he’s leaving the bathroom, and the stench that follows him out the door is just unbearable.

        Sometimes you get a hold of bad lunch and just can’t help it but I have learned that, by and large, you CAN train your bowels so that work pooping is a rarity rather than the norm.

  14. Rachacha says:

    “Researchers say that if you neglect to close the lid before you flush, you’re unleashing countless particles of waste into the air.”

    My question to those researchers is this.

    If closing the lid minimizes the spread of these “dangerous” particles, I suppose it is safe to assume that these particles will settle on and stick to the toilet lid meaning that when the next person enters to use the bathroom, they will have to lift the lid, thus coming into direct contact with these dangerous particles. After lifting the lid and taking a seat you will likely come in contact with magazines, TP dispenser, cell phone, your face (blow your nose, scratch an itch) , the flush lever on the toilet and the faucet handles. These germs will also come in contact with your belt and clothing as you get dressed again to exit the bathroom. Washing my hands will remove the germs from your hands, but all of those items that you touched before washing your hands will now contain the germs.

    The fact is that the human body is fairly resilient and is able to fight off most human created germs.

    • failurate says:

      I have always been grossed out by people who use TP from a bathroom, especially at work, to blow their nose.

  15. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Already proven by Mythbusters. Yes, your toothbrush does indeed contain fecal particles.

  16. JGKojak says:

    This borders on the insane. Really? We’re worrying about this. Basic universal hygeine (i.e. wash your hands after using) should take care of 95% of any problems.

    And the rest? If you’re really that worried I’m sure you can find a used plastic bubble-boy bubble on craigslist.

  17. chiieddy says:

    Although you should wait for the flush to complete and confirm everything went down. My husband fails at this, miserably

  18. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I keep the lid down at home simply to keep the dog and cats out of the toilet. One of my cats seems to think it’s just a step stool to the countertop so she can stare into the sink, or lay in the sink. And you know how dogs are – oh boy – water to play with!

    I think the previous poster had it right – there are no lids in public restrooms, and we’re not dying from fecal contamination. I’m trying not to think about this too much.

    • yurei avalon says:

      Our cat used to like dropping items in the toilet when he was a kitten and batting at them so they would bob around and he could watch.

      Yeeeah we broke him of that real fast and started keeping the lid closed.

      He also went through a phase where he would come running over to the toilet as my stepdad would start peeing, prop himself up on his hind legs with his front braced against the side of the toilet and watch the golden stream intently. Thankfully he grew out of that one too.

      …Why couldn’t I have normal pets that just drink the toilet water? /sigh

      • Not Given says:

        I have one doing that now. We keep the lid down since the time a kitten fell in. The current one even tries to peer inside in the space under the seat.

      • sprybuzzard says:

        No worries, I have weirdo cats that are fascinated by the toilet flushing that they’ll stand there and look intently at the strange noisy thing. They used to play in the toilet water, so we keep the lid down now too.

  19. fischju says:

    Stop using the Daily Mail as a source, no news provider that wants to be taken seriously does. They are a tabloid.

  20. azgirl says:

    Sing it now–

    Poo is in the air

    It’s everywhere you look around…

  21. Judah says:

    Wasn’t this debunked on mythbusters?

  22. Kestris says:

    So. Since this was a Bones episode a few seasons back, I guess the Daily Mail is getting hard up for credible stories.

  23. taedium vitae says:

    Question: of what use to anyone is that roll of toilet tissue located in the shower?

  24. There's room to move as a fry cook says:
  25. no says:

    Forgotten tip: no talking in the men’s room.

  26. hmburgers says:

    If everything my ass touched had the potential to spread superflu then my whole house needs to be quarantined… my lav is the least worry..

    However… it does gross me out to see people who leave personal items like toothbrushes and eyeglasses right out in the open on the sink next to the toilet. We keep all our stuff like that inside the closed medicine cabinet. Those items can easy get splashed while a person washes their hands and it’s just not something I want to deal with…

    Frankly male urination while standing seems like a much greater problem than flushing… When I flush my toilet I feel no droplets hitting me… but it’s a far different story if I urinate while standing up… it doesn’t matter where you aim, how you stand, etc… when you’re wearing shorts you can literally feel droplets hitting your legs… it’s digusting. In fact, it’s disgusted me enough that I’m willing to lose man-points by being a guy who sits down (at home or friends homes) for “number one” to avoid the issue…

  27. gman863 says:

    It’s called a “courtesy flush”, people. Send the smell down the drain before it turns the bathroom into a Gas Chamber

  28. Invader Zim says:

    We keep a box of matches in the bathroom for eliminating poop smells. Works like a charm.

  29. lindsaycb says:

    Anyone wondering why the toilet paper is located in the shower in this picture???

  30. Jimmy37 says:

    YAWN!!!! This is old news.

    I wonder if there is a difference between residential and commercial flushes.

    Most residential toilets rely on gravity, so I would expect a lot of splashing. OTOH, commercial toilets seem to be connected to some kind of vacuum system, so I imagine this system would keep the nastiness down.

  31. nikalseyn says:

    Thanks to your friendly federal government and the fools who make the laws, flush toilets are now required to use far less water per flush than in years past. This has made toilet manufacturers devise pressurized flush toilets that flush rapidly and with much force—thereby sending even more infectious particles into the air than a regular toilet. Thank you big government!