Everyone has a "thing" that skeeves them out. Wearing shoes indoors, leaving dishes in the sink, even sitting on the bed in dirty clothes ... Call me a clean freak, but flushing the toilet with the lid open is the pet peeve that literally makes me cringe just thinking about it. And the real problem is that almost *everyone* does it.
Let me paint a little picture for you of what happens every time you leave the seat up after going to the bathroom: With one little flick of the lever, the swirling water whisks away your business ... down into the sewer but also up into the air, all over your counters, and even in your towels and . Yuck.
In the field of science (yep, there's science about this!), it's called the "toilet plume," a.k.a. the germs and fecal matter that get shot upwards — — with the force created by the sudden gush of water.
The first foray into this poop-tastic piece of physics happened during the '50s, with a particularly groundbreaking (and skin-crawling) emerging in 1975, when Charles P. Gerba published a study in the journal Applied Microbiology. Gerba found that a single flush sent E. coli airborne and viable for at least four to six hours later. That means your 7-year-old could flush the toilet with the lid up after he gets home from school and harmful bacteria would still be floating around your bathroom at dinnertime.
Today's low-flow toilets might not produce such gag-inducing results, but a 2013 review of studies done on the topic still came to a pretty horrifying conclusion. "Research suggests that this toilet plume could play an important role in the transmission of infectious diseases for which the pathogen is shed in feces or vomit," the scientists wrote in the . "The possible role of toilet plume in airborne transmission of norovirus, SARS, and pandemic influenza is of particular interest."
The easiest way to curb this literal explosion of bacteria is simple: Close the lid. "It is a good idea to lower the seat, especially if the bathroom is used by multiple people," Philip Tierno, a microbiologist at New York University, told . One found that leaving the lid up versus down led to 12 times as much diarrhea-inducing bacterium Clostridium difficile in the air.
"Oh come on," you might say. "You're being a little dramatic. It's really not that bad." And while I can concede that there's no *proof* of disease transmission to a human via toilet plume just yet, let's just end this little diatribe with some more equally valid reasons as to why closed toilet lids are necessary:
- Etiquette: If you beg your husband/son/male roommate to put the seat down, you should too.
- Practical purposes: Nothing will accidentally fall into the toilet if it's closed. Also, your dog can't drink out of it.
- Did we mention the poop particles yet?
- Aesthetics: It just simply looks better.
- Peeing at night: Have you ever thought the seat was down when it most certainly was not? Terrifying.
And there you have it, folks. It takes two seconds, and you could be preventing the spread of feces to your toothbrush. I rest my case.