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Bathroom and toilet hygiene – WHY?

Where in the bathroom would you expect the most microorganisms?

It’s not the toilet seat! Research findings showed the bathroom sink to be the most contaminated bathroom site, followed by the shower drain and frequently-touched surfaces such as the toilet flush and taps. (Source 1)

Bathroom Bacteria

Bathrooms and toilets can contain large numbers of pathogens:

  • Human faecal matter contains pathogens from the gut.
  • Pathogens are shed from the skin especially when you take off clothing, have a shower or towel off.
  • Saliva, mucous and nasal secretions all contain pathogens.

Microorganisms can multiply rapidly in the moist bathroom environment. Damp towels and bathmats can encourage microbial growth. Mould which builds up on the shower, shower curtain or bath can trigger respiratory allergies in some people. Soap residue and mineral deposits (from hard water) also encourage microorganism growth.

Bathroom and toilet hygiene – HOW?

Hand Washing

The most important aspect of good bathroom hygiene is washing your hands after using, or cleaning, the toilet. This helps prevent cross-contamination of surfaces with pathogens from your hands. There are many different hand hygiene products to suit different tastes and requirements. Click here to read more about hand hygiene.

Toilet Hygiene

Toilet hygiene also means closing the toilet lid before flushing - and avoiding splashing during use! Clean the toilet bowl regularly with a specialised toilet cleaner. Toilet blocks can be attached to the rim of the toilet bowl for automatic dispensing with each flush of the toilet. If someone has diarrhoea or vomiting, the toilet should be disinfected after each use as an extra precaution.

Keeping bathroom surfaces as dry as possible will help combat the growth of microorganisms. Ventilating the bathroom by opening the window or using an exhaust fan, especially when taking a bath or shower, will help dissipate moisture. Hand towels, bath towels and bathmats need to be re-hung after use, and frequently laundered.

Surfaces should also be cleaned regularly. Bathroom cleaners remove grease, soap scum and mineral build-up. Some also contain antimicrobial agents targeting mould or bacteria, or bleach-based products that kill a broad spectrum of microorganisms. Bathroom cleaners are available as liquids, sprays and gels. Disinfectants should be used for areas which become contaminated with bodily excretions, as well as frequently touched surfaces including the toilet flush, toilet seat and taps, or where microorganisms build up such as the shower curtain.

Make sure you don’t use the same cleaning cloth or brush for the toilet as you do for the bathroom sink – or the kitchen!

Source 1: Rusin, P., Orosz-Coughlin, P. and Gerba, C. 1998, “Reduction of faecal coliform, coliform and heterotrophic plate count bacteria in the household kitchen and bathroom by disinfection with hypochlorite cleaners”, in Journal of Applied Microbiology, Vol. 85, pp. 819-828

useful stuff...

Flushing the toilet sprays bacteria and viruses into air, which may float around for two hours after each flush.21 In 2006, women spent an average of 29 minutes and men 5 minutes per day on laundry & clothes care, and women spent an average of 69 minutes and men 29 minutes per day on food and drink preparation & cleanup.9 Australians experience approximately 15.9 million episodes of gastroenteritis every year.10
In 2006, Australians spent approximately 73% of their time at home or at someone else's house.9

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