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Home toilets have as much bacteria as public ones, new research shows

Published 19th November, 2012 by Neil Nixon

Home toilets have as much bacteria as public ones, new research shows

Your toilet at home probably has as much bacteria on its surface as a widely-used public one in a restaurant, shopping centre or petrol station, according to new research. The study showed that 82.5% of samples taken from the ceramic part of commercial toilets had detectable levels of bacteria against 85% for domestic. It was carried out by antibacterial technology specialist Microban.

Using the standard scientific unit of measurement for bacteria - the number of colony forming units per square inch - an average of 108.5 were found on swabs from public toilets and 125.6 on the home equivalents.
Alison Southcombe, director of marketing at Microban Europe, based in Staffordshire, said: “The study basically shows that a toilet in your home is as likely to be contaminated with the same amount and type of bacteria as a widely-used public one in a shop or restaurant. Possibly, many public toilets are kept cleaner than most people believe and conversely, perhaps their toilet at home is not as clean as they might imagine.”

Across all of the toilets tested, around the same levels of bacteria were found on all of the ceramic surfaces - the base, the rim and the inner and outer bowls. Also, the variety of types of bacteria found tended to be fairly consistent.

Southcombe added: “Bacteria were found in roughly equal numbers on all toilet surfaces. If you touched the inside of the bowl of a public toilet, you would be as likely to pick up the same amount and type of bacteria as from the base of your toilet at home. This obviously has implications for cleaning practices - many people only think that they need to clean the outside of the bowl but generally all of the ceramic of the toilet is equally likely to have some bacterial growth on its surface.”

Southcombe explained that, across all of the toilets tested during the research, the bacteria found were typically limited to three or four different but common types. She said: “None of these were particularly exotic or unusual, although they could still potentially cause fairly unpleasant illnesses and odours in some cases.”

Microban’s antibacterial technologies can be built into a wide variety of materials including ceramics. In order to maintain quality standards, a dedicated certification programme ensures that testing is regularly carried out on all products that bear the Microban brand and that antibacterial and antifungal claims are technically supported. This allows manufacturers utilising Microban technology to support robust statements about their efficacy - for example ‘built into the product at the point of manufacture preventing 99.9% of harmful and odour causing bacteria’.

Southcombe said: “All of the bacteria found in this research could be successfully combated with antibacterial technology. This would be an effective, state-of-the-art improvement to sanitaryware and could be incorporated into most products.”