I'll admit, this is a pet peeve of mine, but one that I feel is incredibly justified, as it can have an effect on not only your own health, but the health of countless other people.
So you have just used the toilet and go to hit the flush lever. The water and waste in the bowl should get flushed right down the drain right? Well, not so much. Due to the force of the water swirling into and around the bowl, much of what is in the toilet can become aerosolized and spray into the air. In fact, the spray from an average toilet flush can travel up to 20 feet. This spray can contain urine, fecal matter, and bacteria from inside the toilet bowl, as well as anything else that you have put into the toilet.
Breathing - If what is in the toilet bowl gets sprayed into the air, and then you breathe the air in the bathroom, you are potentially inhaling all manner of nasty bacteria. If you are in your own bathroom at home, you are breathing in the waste and bacteria of anyone you share that bathroom with. If you are in a public restroom, you are breathing in the waste of anyone else who has used that bathroom. I also believe that it is just common decency. It is rude to make other people breath in your waste. If you don't want to breath in theirs, you shouldn't make them breath in yours.
Cleanliness - Chances are that your bathroom is smaller than 20 square feet. This means that all of that spray is getting splattered on your walls, towels, soap, sink, and anything else that you keep out in your bathroom (like your toothbrush for instance). If you are in a public restroom, it is all over the walls of the stall, and anything else you have in there with you, like a purse or shopping bags. Think washing your hands is enough? If you stop to think about it, that spray is coating everything including the faucet and hand dryer/paper towel dispenser as well as the door. Even if you wash your hands, you will still likely touch at least one of those things afterward along with what you may have breathed in.
Health - If you are breathing the air, and touching surfaces in the bathroom, you are picking up all sorts of bacteria both internally and externally. What sort of impact can this have on your overall health? Well, we are always breathing in bacteria, viruses, and other antigens throughout our day. Our immune system is generally very good at attacking these things, but sometimes it gets overwhelmed, and that is when we get sick; when we get so many antigens in our bodies, that our immune system can't get rid of all of them and still keep the body functioning correctly. This is when we start to see runny nose, cough, phlegm, etc. All of those things happen when your immune system is working on overdrive and we begin to see signs of that work.
How does this apply to the bathroom? While we can't eliminate all antigens from the air, eliminating them where we can is a huge help to our immune system. Why put more bad things in if you don't have to? Closing the lid before flushing and washing your hands well afterward prevents a lot of bacteria and waste from getting into our system. Let your immune system work on the things that you can't avoid rather than feeding it more.
An ideal trip to the bathroom should look something like this:
- Enter the bathroom and walk over to the toilet
- Are you in a public restroom? If so, use one of those handy seat covers if they are available.
- Use the toilet. Do what you need to do. This shouldn't require any further explanation.
- Lower the lid. If you stand to urinate, the seat will be lowered as well.
- Turn on the sink and wet your hands well.
- Apply the soap and work up a good lather. Make sure to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub for at least 20 seconds (about the amount of time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice).
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Pat your hands dry on a clean towel or paper towel.
- Open the door using said towel, and hold the door open with your foot as you dispose of the towel in the proper receptacle.
As I said above, the fact that we don't talk about what happens in the bathroom can lead to some bad habits. A poor understanding of good hygiene can also lead to poor design of the bathroom itself. Let's face it, most public restrooms are not designed to give you the most hygienic experience. We see toilets with no lids, so you know that no one has ever closed one in that restroom. We see hand dryers which actually lead to the spread of bacteria, particularly when people wash their hands without soap. We also have doors that are nowhere near waste bins, so we can't dispose of our towels after opening the door meaning we must decide between opening that likely less than clean door with our hands, or taking our towel with us. It is also not uncommon to see empty soap dispensers so that you can't wash your hands with soap even if you want to.
With those things in mind, our public restroom experiences are generally less than clean which is something that is hard to avoid. What you can avoid is making the same mistakes in your bathroom at home. You have far more control about what happens in your own bathroom, which is even more important because you also likely have more personal effects out that you may want to keep clean.