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There’s One Easy Bathroom Habit That Can Help Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus

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Now that scientists know COVID-19 can spread through both respiratory droplets and fecal-oral transmission, thorough, routine hand washing has never been more important. But there’s another precaution we should all be taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus: closing the lid before flushing the toilet

You probably know that when someone sneezes or coughs, germs can travel to surfaces (or people) as far as six feet away. That process is called aerosolization, and according to a recent article in Forbes, it can happen in the bathroom, too. 

In a phenomenon known as “toilet plume,” bodily fluids can escape from the toilet into the air and spread disease, according to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. That means when you step into the bathroom after someone else used it, you could be at risk of catching an illness just by breathing, or touching a nearby surface like the toilet paper holder. 

The first step to preventing the transmission of COVID-19 from feces is closing the toilet lid before you flush (and encouraging others in your home to do the same, especially if they’re symptomatic). Qingyan Chen, James. G. Dwyer Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, told Forbes that the lid is a fairly effective barrier, preventing 80 percent of potentially harmful germs from aerosolizing

Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

Of course, that’s not the only prevention step you should be taking to keep your bathroom free of pathogens. It’s always important to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom to prevent spreading germs to other people or catching germs that could be lingering from someone else. You could also consider practicing targeted hygiene by regularly disinfecting the toilet and surrounding surfaces in the bathroom, especially when you or someone in your home are sick. 

According to Alvin Lai, the author of a toilet plume study in Hong Kong, the best method for disinfecting your bathroom is to use diluted bleach. Follow instructions on the bottle and routinely disinfect the toilet, flusher, lid, and your sink’s faucet handles, and doorknobs. 

And since these fecal droplets can stay in the air for hours, always keep your bathroom door closed whenever it’s not in use.

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