3 min read
26 Aug

The fact that toilet paper is a hot commodity these days is undisputable. During the recent global emergency, we learned it is truly a product that people want, need, and some are even willing to fight over. 

Here are some toilet paper facts according to Wikipedia. 

  • In the United States over 7 billion rolls of toilet paper are sold yearly.
  • The first documented use of toilet paper was in the 6th century AD. It was in early medieval China that a scholar by the name of Yan Zhitui wrote a paper about when he would specifically not use paper for toilet purposes. By the 14th century the Chinese were manufacturing 10 million packages annually.
  • It takes 386 trees to produce enough toilet paper for only one person’s lifetime supply. 
  • Each tree makes over 450 pounds of product for tissue manufacturing.

We all use and love toilet paper. Especially when it’s the soft stuff! With that being said, I would like you to think about all of the dangerous germs lurking in a bathroom. 

Now think about toilet paper again. Yes, you know where I’m going with this concept and it’s not a comfortable place so be warned now. 

Think about what you do when you first enter a restroom stall. Most people do the squat technique. Some people sit and do nothing but their business. And finally we have the toilet seat liners who love to reach for the soft stuff to add a layer of protection between the tushy and toilet. We all have one thing in common, although nobody washes their hands before using the restroom, everyone does touch the toilet paper. 

The next time you reach for personal hygiene products (like toilet paper) that are not safely stored for minimal exposure to germs, consider the following factors. 

  1. The number of fingers that have contaminated the roll before you. It's fairly disgusting when you consider those hands are unwashed and totally full of germs because NOBODY washes their hands before they use the bathroom.  
  2. Toilet paper has been touched first by the cleaning person who installed it on the holder. The cleaning crew may not think twice about hanging up a roll that fell on the (Ew, dirty) floor first. Toilet paper that has been coughed on is just as dangerous and should be considered a possible risk. 

I would love to guarantee that every cleaning crew or business that has in-house cleaning staff takes this subject seriously, but that may not be accurate. It is best to assume public restrooms are only as safe as we individually allow it to be, meaning we should be mindful of what we touch in public and some non-public settings. 

That is true for hotels and motels as well. The bottom line for businesses to thrive is finding ways to save money. Rather than wasting toiletry items that should be discarded after the previous guest MOST hotels/motels will leave the rolls for the next guest to finish unless they are more than 60% empty. That leaves the possibility for new guest to touch countless germs. 

The following are a few more questions to ask yourself before using public toilet paper. 

  1. Was the cleaning person/maid wearing clean gloves?  
  2. Did their gloves have a tear or was it worn incorrectly, causing cross-contamination to occur before the roll has even been used? 
  3. What if the person is ill and refuses to wear PPE (a mask or gloves)? 
  4. What if they are wearing a mask but have to sneeze or cough? Do you know for sure or just assume that person has followed the protocol recommended by the CDC? 

My bet is that these situations are all possible because human nature is habitual and by people not being more conscious of such matters we are left vulnerable when I don’t believe we have to be. Without precautions like frequent glove changes during cleaning and or hand washing procedures being properly executed to minimize cross-contamination the chances of spreading germs are high and should concern you. 

Honestly, most maids/janitors are rushing this part of the cleaning process because time is a priority.  

Okay, so pretend the cleaning person followed protocol to the tee. Your safe from germs now, right? Heck no, I don’t think so and here’s why: 

#1- When toilet paper is accessible to anyone you can see how contamination is easily possible by merely calculating the amount of dirty hands that have touched the product before you have. Is the roll halfway empty?  Well that means at least 15-20 people have had the tips of their fingers come into contact with the roll. 

#2- Most toilets are only inches away from toilet paper and the toilet seat protective covers that are usually located directly behind or to the side of the commode. During flushing, germs become airborne and land on the nearest porous materials. The close proximity between toilet and paper products makes this a likely home to billions of microscopic germs. 

#3- And let’s not fail to mention the toilet cleaning process. Did urine, feces, or cleaning chemicals bounce off the toilet brush bristles during cleaning. Once germs land on toiletry products they stay there for 3 to 7 days or until these items are used which usually doesn’t take that long. 

Either way, the chances of touching germs this way is not only possible but may have been going on for longer than we realized. 

How to use toilet paper or paper products safely?

  • First and foremost, throw away any unused toilet paper or napkins after a "quarantine or sickroom" cleaning process, unless products were kept away from any potential contact with a person or items that may have been contaminated. 
  • Keep some tissue in a Ziploc bag in your purse or pocket for public restroom use. 
  • If options are out and that possibly contaminated toilet paper is it for you then roll it down a few times to remove as much potential bacteria, germs, and viruses as possible. Now toss it in the trash, then fold the edges of fresh toilet paper into the palm of your hand for use. Use the cleanest part of the paper instead of the edges of the toilet paper because that has a higher chance for contamination. 

It is not safe to use personal paper products that are for the public anymore. However, using them wisely is possible and should be done to reduce the spread of germs.  

Stay safe, healthy, and happy! 

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