Do public toilet seat covers really work? I have a hard time putting my faith in those thin paper liners. I have a feeling I don't really want to know the answer to this question! I do want more...

Do public toilet seat covers really work?

I have a hard time putting my faith in those thin paper liners. I have a feeling I don't really want to know the answer to this question! I do want more than one however, so I made it a discussion.

Expert Answers
pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with 2. I teach Microbiology, and I have my classes do a lab where they swab various surfaces around the building. Although students always predict that toilet seats and the inner surfaces of the bowl will be the most germ-laden areas, invariably that is not the case. The surfaces that are touched by the most hands are always the worst in both sheer numbers of bacteria and in number of different species of bacteria. If a surface is rough, or if it is damp much of the time, it supports more germs. Generally the sink faucet handles, the handles or levers on towel dispensers, and the door handles are the most bacterially laoded surfaces in a public bathroom. This is particularly bad news because these are all things you touch after you have washed your hands!

Toilet seats are rarly touched by anyone's hands, and they are usually dry, so they are fairly safe surfaces as these things go. I do use the paper covers when they are available; paper products right out of the package are usually nearly sterile as a result of the way paper is made. Couldn't hurt, and it probably does help.

And for the record, a major portal of entry into the body for many microbes is indeed hands touching face. One of the best things you can do to avoid catching things is to train yourself to keep your hands off your face, particularly away from your eyes.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While initially I laughed at the question, I must say it really made me think. I must agree with the poster in regard to trusting the little paper liner. My daughter actually asked me the same question after coming home from a horrifying discussion in her sexual education class (they were discussing herpes). She told me she will never touch anything in a bathrom again- without wearing gloves!

I was raised in a very different world. We sat on public toilets without thinking, hand sanatizer did not exist, we did not carry anti-bacterial wipes to sanatize shopping carts, or wash fruits and vegetables until the skins came off. Guess what? I survived.

As a teacher (and human in general), I know that I come into contact with a variety of "nasties". I have adopted the habit of standing up in public restrooms, touching nobs and handles with a paper towel, and freaking out if my hand touches something unidentifiable.My subconscious rears its ugly head when I have to use a public restroom in any place like a rest area or gas station. I want to cover my shoes with plastic before entering!

So, after my rant...nope! I do not trust them. Do they work? I don't really want to find out!!


Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have never found the paper seat covers to be particularly effective. They slip or slide, and at least some of the seat always seems to be exposed no matter what. I agree that the toilet seat (with obvious exceptions when someone has been... shall we say... "messy") is rarely the most contaminated surface in the stall. It is the one thing which does get cleaned regularly; the door handles and other elements in the stall rarely receive the same attention. It reminds me of a hospital room where having a clean, sterile environment is important but where the TV remote is probably never touched, despite the fact that it gets a lot use by a lot of people. We're probably worrying about the wrong things much of the time.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I actually do think they work pretty well although I have seen some airports with automatic plastic seat covers that switch as soon as you stand up, so I suppose those work even more effectively. As has been mentioned here, touching a contaminated surface and then not washing hands properly are far more likely to spread disease and infection than a toilet seat cover. The skin is actually pretty effective as a barrier against viruses in general, and I think being in a crowded public place, or on an airplane with constantly recirculating air are much more likely sources of infection.
stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As with many encounters with public facilities, toilet seat covers are probably as effective as they are allowed to be by the persons using them. Undoubtedly, covers that are taken from a dispenser and placed on a toilet seat by hand are not as effective as covers that encase the toilet seat in plastic and automatically rotate to a fresh surface when the motion of a new occupant in the stall is sensed. Either is probably better than an uncovered toilet seat - but there are other areas in the toilet that have greater potential for being really "nasty."

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm not sure how much good the paper liners accomplish; and never gave it much thought. I would be more concerned about the numerous objects we frequently touch with our hands which may be just as contaminated as a toilet seat; and then almost unconsciously touch our hands to our mouths, eyes, ears, etc. Frequent handwashing is helpful, but no one can be 100% pathogen free. For that reason, the protection of a toilet liner is of little consequence to me.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator


There seems to be more of a likelihood of bacterial contamination in taking the paper liner from the container in the public bathroom than would be picked up using the toilet seat. I realise you may carry the seat covers around yourself, in which case I would advise a small bottle/tube of hand sanitizer is a better investment. I use it when I have totally left a public area - after the last door handle!

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I haven't done any research on this matter, though your question tempts me to do so. I use the paper liners when they are available, but since many public bathrooms do not include this option, I don't usually worry about the situation too much. I do tend to wipe the seat down before using it, however. I guess it's one of the risks one takes when forced to use a toilet seat that is not your own.

yujieinter | Student

I agree with 4,especially her  last paragraph, actually, if one have a beneficial habits, then things will be easy.