We have said it before and we will say it again, close the toilet lid before you flush the toilet! Why do you ask? Two words: Toilet Plumes. If you thought the idea of bacteria spreading from your toilet flushing was a myth, think again. This disgusting and somewhat ridiculous-sounding phenomenon is very real. It has the potential to wreak havoc on your household or business. Do you close the lid before you flush?

What are toilet plumes?

A toilet plume is the dispersal of microscopic particles as a result of flushing a toilet. The National Center for Biotechnology Information lists potential health risks associated with “toilet plume,” or the aerosols produced by the flush of a toilet, like the transmission of sewage-related infectious disease. In other words, when you flush, the water in the toilet mixes with waste — be it urine, faeces, or vomit. Tiny particles of this mixture are emitted into the air and these droplets are known as toilet plume.

Don’t close the lid on the toilet when you flush? This plume could settle onto nearby objects in your bathroom. These plumes fly up into the air and can travel up to 15ft away from the toilet itself. The plume doesn’t swirl around the washroom and then disappear. No, it lands nicely on surfaces and objects that are placed throughout the washroom. The bacteria can survive for months if not cleaned regularly.

It’s bad for your health. The droplets could contain traces of harmful bacteria like ShigellaE ColiC difficile, all of which are found in the faeces and vomit of infected people and can survive for months. Aside from landing on objects within the bathroom, toilet plumes can also land on you. If you have unbroken skin you’re likely to be ok. However, certain bacteria, like Salmonella and Shigella, are transmitted when faecal particles get in your mouth.

The solution

Thankfully, the solution to all this nastiness is simple: Close the lid of the toilet before you flush away your waste. If you’re in a public bathroom where the toilet has no lid, you should exit the room as soon as you have flushed. Taps, mirrors and other objects are also prone to receiving the dreaded toilet plume bacteria(s), so it’s a good idea to wash your hands. If you’ve left due to no lid on the public toilet a pocket-size hand sanitizer should be enough to kill any bacteria hanging around on your hands.

When in the household bathroom you should always try to ensure any cups, toothbrushes and soaps are put away in a cupboard. This will keep them clean and safe from any bad bacteria that may be flying around.

Next time you visit the loo, make sure you put the toilet down. You’ll be doing yourself and the world a favour.