It should be no shock to you that your toilet (and all toilets) are germ-infested. So it should also be no surprise that when you (or the kids) flush with the lid up, it sends a tornado of waste particles into the air, freeing them to land on everything from your soap to your toothbrush to your cell phone (we’re talking to you, stall texters). That tornado is called a toilet plume—and we could not be more grossed out that it has a name.
According to a 2013 review in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), toilet plume could assist in the transmission of infectious diseases, thanks to the fact that potentially dangerous aerosols get spread into the air over and over again with every subsequent flush.
For instance, Clostridium difficile, a spore-forming bacterium that’s the leading cause of healthcare-associated gastric illness (aka it attacks the colon and intestines), can be spread by a toilet flush. In a 2018 study by AJIC, there were spores still present in the toilet bowl after 24 flushes. Twenty. Four. Flushes.
If that isn’t horrifying enough, apply this same logic to better-known bacteria like E coli, or even plain vomit, urine or feces. Whatever’s in the bowl takes a long time to go down the drain, and every time you flush with the lid up, it spreads.
Here’s the thing: it seems like common sense to close the lid, but many of us just don’t. Need proof? A 2011 study of 390 phones and people in the UK by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London found that 1 in 6 phones had fecal matter on them, and 16 percent of all hand and phone swabs taken were contaminated with E coli.
Whether those individuals straight up don’t wash their hands after using the toilet or their phones just got caught in a toilet plume, it’s safe to say the kids will understand your nagging once they know their phones are covered in poop. Yeah, we’ll see you in the Lysol aisle.