Your Kitchen Has More Germs Than A Public Toilet Seat, Just Sit Down!

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I have a confession to make. I sit down on public toilet seats.

I’m aware this is a polarizing issue. I myself have managed to seriously date at least two women who are vehement non-public-toilet-seat-sitters. And I do my best to respect their — and every other non-public-toilet-seat-sitters’ — opinion and unreasonable germophobic feelings on the matter.

But do you know what I do not respect? When non-public-toilet-seat-sitters, aka Hoverers of Doom, leave little tiny pee sprinkles all over the damn place. Don’t do that. That is gross, and disrespectful, and gross.

Maybe you have a very good reason for being a non-public-toilet-seat-sitter. Like maybe a lizard once crawled on you while you were sitting on a toilet seat and now the feeling of porcelain against your butt just brings back awful crawly feelings and you can’t bear to go down that path. That would be truly terrible and I’m sorry. But probably this isn’t the case because where are there even lizards wandering around besides, like, Florida? I went to Florida once, and all that happened re: lizards was that one ran over my foot. And it was so tiny and delightful! I would totally have let it crawl on me.

Probably your public toilet seat phobia is about germs. You’re scared of getting other people’s bacteria on yourself. Well, consider this: the sponge you use to wash your dishes can hold up to 200,000 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. 200,000! That has got to be at least five football fields worth of bacteria. And you use that that to clean your dishes. (And even if you have a dishwasher, you know you still use sponges for things.)

A lot of public toilet seats actually pass the sanitary surface test — that is, they have less than 1,000 bacteria per square inch and are technically clean enough to eat off of. Yes, that does seem like a lot of germs to me too but I don’t make the rules. Also, a majority of the species of bacteria* actually found on a toilet seat are common skin microbes that people generally already carry. That means they pose essentially zero threat to most non immuno-compromised humans.

(*Species of Bacteria is officially the name of my new all-female noise metal band, so don’t try to steal it.)

Do you know what are the the most bacteria-laden things in a public bathroom? Your damn hands. And they’re the things most likely to transfer those nasty germs to places: like other people, and your face. The floor is pretty horrible, too. There are MILLIONS of bacteria per square inch on it, and yet you have most likely set your purse or backpack down on it and then later put that same floor purse or backpack onto your bed, haven’t you? Haven’t you? Your mother and I are fainting with disgust.

Let’s also just once and for all debunk the myth that you can somehow get a sexually transmitted something-or-other from a toilet seat. Disease-causing organisms can’t survive for very long on the surface of a seat, so the only way it could happen is if you are having actual sex with another person while on that toilet seat, and in which case I would like to politely ask you to finish up because there’s a whole line of people out here who would really like to pee before Hunter Valentine comes on.

See? Public toilet seats aren’t so bad, after all. There’s totally no need to hover. Hovering is even bad for your vagina muscles, because when you’re tensed from standing but you’re also trying to pee, you have to push harder , which can lead to an increased risk of incontinence. And we all want to keep those vagina muscles as happy and healthy and continent as possible, now don’t we? Of course we do. Plus, hovering is tough for those of us who are lazy and hate doing chair pose. Or those of us who were forced to go hiking as a kid and were not very athletic and who didn’t sit back far enough when they had to squat near a tree and basically peed all over the back of their pants and shoes and then had to keep hiking. That’s a thing that maybe happened. That’s a thing that might have caused some hovering-related PTSD.

Look, if you still really really really can absolutely not in 200,000 football fields bear the thought of sitting down on a public toilet seat, fine. We’re in a fight now, but fine.

Could you please stop fucking peeing on the seat, though?

Public bathrooms are complicated enough. They’re these weird, gender-policed, liminal spaces where our public lives and private needs are forced to intersect. The only way to make them bearable is to respect the way that everyone must come together and use them. In the immortal words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.” Let’s all try not to make it any harder on each other, or on ourselves. Fight female incontinence! Fight to keep public spaces clean and pee-free! Damn the man, SAVE THE TOILET SEAT.

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Maree lives in Berlin and is usually carrying some sort of Tupperware product on her person. She's written for Marie Claire, The Rumpus, and Teen Vogue, but still has not fulfilled her lifelong dream of seeing a real blue-footed booby. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter and probably the dance floor.

Maree has written 24 articles for us.


  1. This was a delight. Also I did not know that some people try to hover over public toilet seats as a general rule, that seems very complicated.

    • oh for sure, i know SO MANY people who subscribe to this practice. i had a friend who’d make me come in with her in single-stall bathrooms so she could grip me to maintain her balance.

      idk i ascribe to the church of “if you never expose yourself to germs you’ll never develop immunity to them.” and i get sick way less than my germaphobe friends do, so.

  2. Clearly this is why all bathrooms everywhere should include at least one asian-style squat toilet. Clearly.
    (Of course, lots of people still miss the hole on squat toilets. But a lot of that is just cultural conditioning, imho. People just aren’t taught how to properly pee in a hole anymore.)

  3. I have hovering-related PTSD so hard. Let me tell you a story about the 2004 March for Women’s Lives and a port-o-potty in Washington, D.C. Actually, let me not tell you that story because you will be forever grossed out.

  4. The only acceptable excuse for hovering is when someone else has left pee everywhere on the seat. That’s nasty and I don’t want to clean that up so I can sit.

  5. Apparently my work place has a serious problem with ‘hover-ers’. I feel horrible that I do this… but honestly I use the men’s room… which, I know, has horrible connotations for a trans woman… but like, 99% of my co-workers in my office are women. There are like… three men on the entire floor. On top of this HR isn’t comfy with me using the women’s room, and I know of at least one female co-worker who has said I’m ‘against god’s plan’ to another co-worker.

    So… I use the men’s room. The men never actually use the stalls themselves, I’ve got no line, the stalls themselves are surprisingly clean due to the lack of said men, and a lot of the time I’ve got the entire bathroom to myself.

    Buuuuuut, that said, I still use the women’s room while out in public, and I’ve discovered first hand how bad a few can be *shudders*. I honestly can’t tell what I dread more, public men’s rooms, or public women’s rooms. x_x

    • 19 years ago I was working as cleaner in a food hall, and the women’s toilets were always filthier than the men’s. The men’s room a long trough like urinal, so there wasn’t a lot of splatter there, but even the stalls were cleaner. As for the women’s toilets – splatter on the seats and often the floor, and at least twice a week, used sanitary products dumped on top of the provided sanitary bin (even when it wasn’t full), and a few times a year, used products stuck to the wall.
      Women can be disgusting in public toilets.

        • This. Ugh I have like, no respect for people who don’t flush or leave a mess. It’s like: thanks, you just made this gross experience even grosser… and unless it’s like the sketchiest gas station bathroom ever, somebody is going to have to clean that junk.

          >_> Also people who don’t wash their hands after. Ew.

  6. I never understood why hoverers don’t put the toilet seat up.

    Folks: if you are peeing standing (hovering is standing) put the effing seat up.

        • I’d rather just wipe the seat, place a toilet paper cover and sit on the seat.

          Butttttt as a human who’s been limited to mostly one hand-ness more than once and generally as a weirdo who uses their feet for lots of stuff as well as my hips, knees, knuckles and elbows.
          I must say using one’s feet to lift the seat of toilet can be quite difficult, if not out right impossible depending one’s footwear and the cut of the seat.

          Oh and balance is another issue.
          If you can’t balance well on one leg you won’t be able to gradually lift the seat up (if you can even get purchase with your foot) and will have depend on applying just the right amount of force or risk have the damn thing bounce back on ya.

          Also flexibility and range of motion could be a concern. I’m hypermobile so I’m not 100% sure what’s normal range of motion, never mind a hypomobile range.


          a word I just learned but have been demonstrating since forever.

    • Every once in awhile when I was a kid, I would see like these toilet paper dispenser things, but instead of being toilet paper, it would distribute a paper U-shaped thing that you could put on the toilet and sit on…

      Like, whatever happened to those? Do you guys know what I mean, like they used to be somewhat common I think, but I haven’t seen one in years now…

      Did somebody like, take those things away? Why would a person do such an awful thing.

      • Some places have them, while others don’t as a cost cutting measure(cause some people would use 5 at a time and then flush it vs throwing it away). It’s what we do at work(mostly for the aforementioned reason).

      • You haven’t seen them lately? They’re still everywhere in California! Or at least, everywhere has at least an empty holder where those go…

        • I’m east coast, the dreaded, North Carolina. Hm… I think last place I saw them was the mall near my house.

  7. To be fair, I’m not sure the kind of germs you find on a toilet seat are the exact same variety as the ones in a kitchen…

  8. My mom carries in her purse toilet spray and hand sanitizer and her own “intimate wipes” and would never sit down on a public toilet even if you paid her.
    I, however, don’t give a flying fuck.
    I did a lot of traveling as a kid, and while I had an iron bladder, I’ve still visited multiple rest stops in every US state and a whole bunch of public restrooms internationally. I don’t have time to freak out about germs every time.
    HOWEVER I am terrified of outhouses and airplane bathrooms. That’s how the iron bladder came about. Growing up in Alaska and having phobias of both outhouses and airplane bathrooms very quickly leads to an iron bladder. Hallelujah.

  9. I sit now, but hovered as a kid because my Grandma told me you could get crabs from public toilets. Mind you, she also told me not to sniff flowers because she knew someone when she was young whose nose got eaten by a fly after smelling flowers.

    These days, I still hover if the seat is too disgusting with other people’s piss.

    • My girlfriend covers the seat with strips of loo roll before sitting. I’ve been known to do that too, but usually a piece moves out from under me before I sit down, so I usually just wipe the seat first to be sure there’s no surprise wee on there.

      By the way, our vagina muscles should be just fine since we pee through the urethra, not the vagina.

  10. like, i sit on the seat, but peeing and bathrooms and other people’s germs. i kinda want to douche with purell after this…also, thank you for calling out the seat pee-ers. they deserve to be shamed!!

  11. Just a quick reminder that we have more bacteria cells in us than human cells:

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with bacteria as a whole. Some bacteria is good (see: fecal matter transplants, it’s a thing) and some is bad (the kinds that make us sick).

    For those of us who aren’t immuno-compromised, like, we went through the first three years of our life exposing ourselves to bacteria by putting our hands in our mouths. Some of us spent their college years either in dorms or dive bars (or both), which must be absolutely teeming with so many bacteria. And now we go through life using those “disgusting” kitchen sponges. And USING OUR PHONES ON THE TOILETS. So, I realllly wouldn’t worry about the seats in public restrooms. We can live in harmony with the bacteria! They can live in harmony with us!

    Plus science says that fecal matter is in everything ever, so that’s a losing battle.

    Anyway, I’d be much more worried about the possible bedbugs and dust mites in the sofa at my favorite indy movie theater and coffee shop, honestly.

    • I totally undermine any authority I might have (spoiler: I don’t have any) by not knowing if bacteria is technically a plural or singular word.

      • Bacterium is the singular, bacteria is the plural but they’re the sort of organisms that aren’t often mentioned in the singular so you not knowing doesn’t do much undermining in my opinion.

        I probably wouldn’t even know if I hadn’t been that kid that read textbooks for fun and remembers weird useless facts.

  12. No I’m not… I’m not sitting my lady bits on a bare ass public toilet seat. I put lots of tissue on the thing, and then sit down. So I never pee on the seat because that’s disgusting. Plus this method always saves me from peeing when there is no toilet paper. The horrors I have seen in a public toilets are too much for me to just plop down.

  13. As someone who almost sat on someone else’s CRABS, that they scratched out of their pubic hair and onto the toilet seat at work (confirmed by the nurse at work), I will continue to put toilet paper down until I am too old to care anymore.

  14. “Hovering” may be a tad too polite of an explanation for the messes I’ve witnessed in public toilets…I’ve just always assumed that spider-man had been in the stall before me, pee-parkouring through the restrooms while fighting crime. (This theory also conveniently explains why action heroes never seem to take bathroom breaks…)

  15. Please let me know when the when the Species of Bacteria are going on tour. Other names of all-girl metal bands: the mighty-chondria, rage against the phage, the gram positive girls, and the femin-enzymes.

  16. I literally had no idea people didn’t sit on toilet seats! When did doing such a thing even occur to people?

    Mind. Blown.

  17. I admit, I sometimes feel icky when I have to sit on a public toilet seat. But I would never hover, who has that kind of dexterity? Do people honestly think they can balance themselves above the bowl, aim, and pee with no splash-back? What kind of uri-ninjas are these?

    Maybe this is just a local thing, but we usually have paper seat-covers in bathroom stalls? You lay it on the seat and viola! Sanitary cush for your tush.

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  20. I don’t care whether someone chooses to hover or not hover. But I agree 100% that it’s disgusting and inconsiderate to leave your bodily fluids on the toilet seat. Have some respect for people! ?

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