Now that you're completely grossed out, what can a college student do? If you're thinking about using your toiletries in your dorm room, remember that the average dorm room isn't exactly sterile. According to the Simmons College study, 56 percent of students said they never cleaned their dorm room fridge. So what? Consider that the handles of dorm room fridges have twice as many bacteria as the toilet handles in your shared bathroom. Researchers found the fridge handles were contaminated mostly with fecal bacteria [sources: PR Newswire].
Although there are plenty of bugs lurking in a dorm room bathroom, don't give up hope just yet. If you have a healthy immune system, and wash your hands often, you should be safe. Most disease-causing organisms, such as those responsible for certain sexually transmitted infections, cannot survive long on the surface of a toilet seat. It's tough for these critters to crawl up your urethral or genital tract, or even a cut on your bum [source: WebMD]. Good to know, eh?
Still, you need to store your shower caddy somewhere, and your filthy dorm room is the most convenient place. To help mitigate the damage, toss all your toiletries and makeup into the trash every couple of months. Most makeup contains preservatives that can kill ordinary bacteria. However, once you unlock the package, it's open season on Maybelline. Moreover, aging cosmetics lose their bacteria-fighting capabilities. Toss them when you think they're ripe. Clean your makeup sponges after every use. And never share makeup. You're just wiping another person's germs on your face. Skin care products and body washes have a six-month shelf life. Ditch them earlier if you're afraid of bathroom microbes. In addition, wash your hairbrushes a couple times a week with soap and water. Shave with disposable razors.
A few more helpful precautions:
- Use your shoe to flush the toilet.
- After you wash your hands, use a paper towel to close the faucet and open the door.
- Wear sandals or shower shoes.
- Use hand sanitizer.
- Use toilet seat covers.
- Keep your toiletries in a plastic bag and replace it periodically.
- Use the first stall in the bathroom. Unbelievably, the first stall is usually the cleanliest. That's because people seeking privacy always go to the stalls in the back.
- Never put purses, bags, books or beer on the floor.
- Move to a private dorm room with its own bathroom. Good luck with that.
At the end of the day, use your common sense. Respect others. Clean up your messes, and for goodness' sake, flush. Just stand back.
Author's Note: Should you keep your toiletries in your dorm room?
I'm not a germaphobe, but public restrooms make me what to vomit. I think it started in college. Heck, I think they only cleaned the place once a month. I flush with my feet. Only in extreme cases do I sit, and if I do it's with a Berlin Wall of toilet paper between me and who knows what. I step gingerly around the pools of liquid, especially by the urinals, and always make sure the laces on my sneakers never touch the floor. I know, too much info. Men's rooms are bad, but according to studies, women's rooms are worse.
- ABC News. "Myth: Toilet Seats are the Dirtiest Thing in the Bathroom." Oct. 14, 2005. (June 16, 2013) http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Health/story?id=1213831&page=2#.UbB89UCTiSq
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Hygiene-related Diseases." Dec. 24, 2009. (June 5, 2013). http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/disease/athletes_foot.html
- Cigna. "Fungal Nail Infections." (June 6, 2013) http://www.cigna.com/individualandfamilies/health-and-well-being/hw/medical-topics/fungal-nail-infections-hw268101.html
- Fox News. "9 Health Hazards Hidden in College Dorms." July 26, 2011. (June 6, 2013) http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/07/26/health-hazards-hidden-in-college-dorms/
- Marston, Wendy. "Scientist at Work: Charles Gerba; On Germ Patrol, at the Kitchen Sink." The New York Times. Feb. 23, 1999. (June 5, 2013) http://www.nytimes.com/1999/02/23/health/scientist-at-work-charles-gerba-on-germ-patrol-at-the-kitchen-sink.html
- Men's Health. "New Study: Automatic Faucets = Lots of Germs. March 31, 2011. (June 6, 2013) http://blogs.menshealth.com/health-headlines/new-study-automatic-faucets-lots-of-germs/2011/03/31
- PR Newswire. "Study Shows College Students Are Not Following CDC Recommendations to Help Protect Themselves from H1N1 and Other Threatening Germs." (June 5, 2013) http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/study-shows-college-students-are-not-following-cdc-recommendations-to-help-protect-themselves-from-h1n1-and-other-threatening-germs-62781107.html
- WebMD. "What Can you Catch in Restrooms?" (June 5, 2013) http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/what-can-you-catch-in-restrooms