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Are Public Restrooms Dangerous?

Are Public Restrooms Dangerous?

Q: How concerned should I be about getting diseases from using public restrooms?

A: Germs are EVERYWHERE, but you shouldn’t let that fact make you paranoid. (In fact one study showed that there were more germs on the handles of a grocery store shopping cart than there were in a public restroom).

The most important safety measure you can follow is to wash your hands frequently, and especially any time after they have come in contact with surfaces that many other people have also handled.

Using warm water and soap, hands (all the way up to the wrists) should be scrubbed vigorously for at least 15 seconds.

Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting

Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at

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Dr. Brent

As an undergraduate, Dr. Brent Ridge majored in public health and environmental science, studying the way the state of the natural environment impacts our health choices. As a physician, he specializes in the field of aging. Send your health questions to Dr. Brent at


+ add your own
12:54AM PST on Dec 1, 2010

Thanks for the article.

6:54PM PDT on May 21, 2010

The TravelChannel has an episode called outrageous bathrooms, and one is a self cleaning/sanitizing public loo. What a marvellous idea, no worrying about who preceded you, their cleanliness or lack thereof, all no more worries. Wonderful, would that there were more.

12:36PM PST on Feb 1, 2010

I think that washing up is all ya really need. I'm not scared of public restrooms, pit toilets or the great outdoors and I've never ever had any infection. I think we've gotten a bit paranoid in the last couple of decades.

8:18AM PST on Jan 24, 2010

It's always good to keep some disinfection lotion with you! But better would be, like Dr. Brent proposes, to use soap to wash your hands! Public toilets are often in every place not the most hygienic places... but sometimes they're unfortunately inevitable.

9:55PM PST on Jan 16, 2010

i try not to use public bathrooms, most of the time thy don`t even have soap.

3:31AM PST on Dec 28, 2009

Public rest rooms are a major source of infection especially for women!!! its something you all need to be conscious of because most bacteria like staph aureus,candidasis & a whole lot of others can be gotten from using an unhygienic restroom

9:32AM PST on Dec 17, 2009

Care 2 is having a problem with comments showing up. I just made one and it is not here.

9:30AM PST on Dec 17, 2009

Because of two medical conditions, I need to use the rest room at least once when I am out shopping or dining.

If I do not find a sparkling clean restroom, I never go to that establishment again and I write the manager of the store or restaurant about the reason I never plan to return to their place of business.

Perhaps that will protect people who go to that store or restaurant after me from having to use a messy restroom.

10:38AM PDT on Jun 14, 2009


12:22PM PDT on May 14, 2009

"for at least 15 seconds"

Public Health recommendations are a minimum of 20 seconds.

"Chemical soaps will remove that protection, dry and crack the skin and allow the bad guys in."

True. The air dryers also over-dry the skin and are not recommended. Public Health recommends carrying around hand lotion to help combat over-dry skin.

Also, soap and water is the best alternative. Only use no-water Hand Sanitizer in cases of emergency. The Hand Sanitizer has an anti-bacterial and use of this causes an actual reduction of immunity so you get more sick if you use this. Soap and water are the recommended cleaners.

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