Clean Hands Dilemma in Public Bathrooms

A little rant the other day about shared bathroom etiquette made me remember another topic I wanted to share about the bathroom, particularly public bathrooms. I don’t want everyone to think that I have a hang-up with bathrooms, quite the opposite, I really don’t think about it much. What I do think about, though, is keeping my life at the cemetery is possible. I have mentioned before that ever since having kids, I have been sick more in my life than ever before. My health overall is fairly good, but I am much more prone to catching the “cold of the month” now that I have children. Because of that, I am very conscious about keeping my hands clean and never touching my eyes, face or mouth after having ever touched any surface or something that may not be clean.

This brings me to perhaps the most unsanitary of places, the public restroom. These dens of germ infestation are places that I will go to almost any length to avoid. Call me the camel of urination, but I’d rather hold it as long as I can to get back to a bathroom I trust instead of using a public restroom. There are those times, though, that despite proper planning and perhaps as much foresight is possible, you have no choice but to use a public restroom.

Clean Hands Dilemma in Public Bathrooms

First off, I hate using any restroom that is not properly cared for. In fact, if an establishment does not care enough to maintain their bathroom facilities, I really do not have much trust in the rest of their business. This is particularly true for restaurants. As a customer, we don’t have the opportunity to tour the kitchen to see what kind of habits they have in keeping things clean and sanitary, so the restroom is really the only place we have to judge other than the table itself. Fortunately, most restaurants realize this take care.

Yet, despite their best efforts, the design of the building itself often precludes your ability to use the facilities and exit in a purely sanitary state. This is what troubles me and the point is this rant today.

Most buildings have a pretty standard layout, meaning they have their stalls, the men’s version has their urinals, and there is a sink or two for hand washing. First off, motion sensor flushing facilities are a must. The idea of grabbing a handle the flash on something that you know hundreds of people before you that very day have grabbed after having touched their nether regions is not the best visual I can think of. I admit in some cases I have chosen to use my foot or a ball of water about toilet paper to perform this task in lieu of actually touching the handle.

Moving on to the hand washing options. Again motion sensors are the best option here. Nothing good has happened since the flushing part of the routine bow for hands have touched the handles to turn on the water. Germs galore. If motion sensors are not available, I typically end up just turning the handle with my bare hands, but after washing, a paper towel is typically my choice for grabbing me to turn the water off. Why wash your hands, if when you are done you are going to grab that dirty handle to turn the water back off anyway. I trust my bathroom habits far better than those unknown people before me. Of course, this only works if they actually use paper products for drying your hands. If they use any air based and dryer, which really isn’t a bad option, this does limit your choices for turning the water off. Hopefully, you got a good combination of motion sensors along with air dryers.

Clean Hands Dilemma in Public Bathrooms

Finally, the part of my rant to gets me the most out of everything to discuss a typical public restroom experience — finally leaving. In the standard layout of a bathroom, of course, it has a door. Grabbing that handle to open the door is the last thing I want to do after finally getting my hands clean and hopefully germ-free. Who knows if the person before me actually washed their hands, or, if they did, how good of a job did they do?

Back in my college days, I took a microbiology class. We, of course, had the typical lecture portion of the class, but we also had a lab portion. One of the experiments we performed was to swab any public surfaces and apply them to Petri dishes to see what kind of fungus we can grow. I am sure many of you may have heard stories like this in the past, but the short version is that some of the best fungi were grown right off of the doorknob to the classroom. I shudder to think what I might have grown at I found the door handle exiting a public restroom. I can guess the results, so it’s an experiment that I choose to avoid.

So with all that said, perhaps my favorite public bathrooms are those found in most airports. If you have traveled, you probably can visualize what I’m about to describe. These restrooms are of course designed for high-volume usage, especially when passengers are disembarking from a long flight. There are no doors, rather a mini catacomb entryway that allows you to wind your way in out of the eyes of public viewing, without ever passing through a door. Granted, this takes a little bit of room to accomplish, but it is the most sanitary of options.

So next time you have the occasion to use a public restroom, think of my little rant here and observe the steps you have to take to end up leaving with hands and sanitary enough that you feel comfortable eating with them. I really don’t consider myself a germaphobic, but I am pretty particular about having clean hands especially when I am about to begin shoving food in my mouth. Maybe this goes back to my previous rant about my semi-OCD tendencies, but I like to think it’s just common sense.