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Bathroom Germs: Keeping the Bathroom Clean

If you follow a few simple rules for cleaning your bathroom, and cleaning yourself when you use the bathroom, you can usually avoid transmitting most of these organisms. Let's start with cleaning rules.

  • Clean regularly. This means cleaning all bathroom floors and solid surfaces with a disinfectant cleanser on a weekly basis, and "deep cleaning" -- a more thorough scrubbing -- about once a month. If you or a family member or household visitor has had the flu or diarrhea, you might want to step up the cleaning. 
  • Use the right cleanser when tackling bathroom germs. Choose one with bleach or make your own bleach solution, with no more than 1 cup of bleach mixed in 1 gallon of water to disinfect.
  • Pay special attention to the toilet bowl. "That's where all the excretions go," says Tierno. "A biofilm grows after just a few hours with any germ, even normal flora, which can allow household pathogens to survive even with chlorine tablets in the water. So scrub that bowl with soap, disinfectant, and a brush once a week." Let the bleach sit on the bowl and seat surface for a good 10 minutes before rinsing with soapy water, adds Duberg. 
  • Keep shower walls and floors free of mold and mildew. "Shower curtains should have a liner on the inside that's changed every three to six months, depending on how well you're cleaning," says Tierno. 
  • For spot cleaning bathroom germs, keep either a spray bottle of the bleach solution or packaged cleaning wipes within arm's reach in every bathroom. 
  • Don't reuse sponges, which can harbor bacteria themselves and leave surfaces more germy than when you started. "Instead, buy cheap disposable sponges or use old towels or clothes as rags," says Duberg. 

In the battle with bathroom germs, it's also important to practice good personal hygiene.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet and before brushing your teeth.
  • Close the toilet lid when you flush. "Flushing aerosolizes all the organisms found in feces, and there are 3.2 million microbes per square inch of toilet bowl," says Duberg. That means that when you flush with the lid up, it's like pressing the nozzle on a spray canister full of infectious organisms.
  • Discard toothbrushes after you've been sick.
  • Use disposable bathroom cups instead of glasses.

If you and your family follow these simple steps, you're likely to stay fairly safe from bathroom germs. "The bulk of germs are harmless to us; they maintain our life and our immunities," says Tierno. "But it's important to know where the harmful ones are and how to deal with them so as to prevent unnecessary bouts of illness that waylay you for days."

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