Bathrooms, especially oft-used public ones, are full of germs, but the only way bacteria can actually enter your body is through an opening (think noses, eyes, ears, and mouth), and since your skin works like a natural barrier, it’s hard for germs to get through when you just plop your butt down on a toilet seat.
Unless the seat is visibly soiled it’s usually cleaner than most other things in the bathroom. And if it is a messy seat, you also know who you can blame: the hoverers. Another reason not to hover: It’s not so great for your bladder. As you squat over the toilet your pelvic muscles tense up, which could make urination harder. And if you’re constantly straining to pee, you could increase your chances of incontinence over time.
But experts say our fear of sitting on the average toilet seat (one that isn’t visibly soiled) is overblown.
Are you safer if you use those paper seat protectors? “They’re too thin, they rip and fall apart.” If you want to use them, you can double-fold them, or place double-folded toilet paper on the seat. The automatically replaced plastic covers are better, he says, but such barriers on the seat act more as psychological than physical protection.
The real danger in picking up and carrying around germs comes from your hands. The 10 dirtiest things are your fingers. Germs left on your hands can be easily transferred to surfaces you touch or to your eyes, mouth, or nose — where they can make you and other people sick. That’s why hand-washing with lots of soap and water is so important after using the bathroom.