Why you should care
They protect against almost nothing and use up precious resources.
It’s always troubling, that moment you’re hanging out at the park or a bar and realize, “Oh, no, I have to pee.” Some refuse to use a public toilet and just pray they make it home in time. The rest of us suck it up, hold our breath and make do with the nearest public convenience. Inside the stall comes the big decision: Sit, hover or cover?
If you shield your bum with a toilet-seat cover, two things: First, you’re probably American. Toilet-seat covers aren’t really a thing in other countries. Also, the covers are an exercise in futility! Unsavory bacteria may indeed lurk on public toilet seats, but most of those bacteria are the kind already found on human skin. In fact, there are more than 200 times as many bacteria on your desk at work as on that supposedly nasty public commode, according to Charles P. Gerba, a professor at the University of Arizona. At any rate, they’re far more prevalent on other surfaces of the bathroom — sinks, handles, doors — than on the seat.
Even those in the business concede as much. “It’s kind of like the ick factor, I call it,” says Paul Morris, a representative of toilet-cover manufacturer Sanitor, based in Portage, Michigan. There may indeed be more bacteria elsewhere, he concedes, but “it’s gross to have your bare skin touching” the seat, he says. And Sanitor’s covers, at least, prevent people from using paper towels or the like, wads of which could damage the plumbing if they were flushed. Mainly, he says, toilet-seat covers are about peace of mind.
Which is why we say to get over your irrational fear, help the environment and sit your bare butt down. If you still insist on hovering (I’m talking to you, ladies), then for the love of the porcelain god, at least don’t leave pee all over the seat.
Images of stuffed microbes: Giant Microbes