Surprise! This Innocent-Looking Bathroom Item Is Actually The Germiest Part Of Your Bathroom

Chances are, you guessed the toilet. That makes sense, considering what goes in there, but you’re wrong.

Chances are, you guessed the toilet. That makes sense, considering what goes in there, but you’re wrong. John Keeble via Getty Images

Pop quiz: What’s the germiest part of the bathroom?

Chances are, you guessed the toilet.

That makes sense, considering what goes in there, but you’re wrong.

That’s what we — Raj Punjabi and Noah Michelson, hosts of HuffPost’s “Am I Doing It Wrong?” podcast — discovered when we recently chatted with microbiologist Jason Tetro, aka “The Germ Guy,” about the microbes prowling in our bathrooms and how to vanquish them.

Listen to the full episode by pressing play:

“When we talk about germiest, we’re talking about the most number of microbes,” Tetro, the author of “The Germ Files” and “The Germ Code,” told us.

Those can include bacteria, viruses and fungi, and they’re more likely to thrive in one particular spot.

“We have to sort of think about where are the surfaces that have a lot of surface area,” Tetro said. “When you look at a bathroom and you look for something that has the highest surface area, you’re going to see something incredibly obvious … the bath mat.”

These innocent-looking little cloth rectangles are “designed to be nice and fluffy, and they have little pills, and within all that is surface area — that’s where we’re going to really start to see a lot of those microbes grow.”

That’s especially true because bath mats are made to soak up water, and moisture encourages microbe growth.

Even grosser, Tetro revealed that fecal matter can be launched up to six feet from a toilet when we flush and that a plume of droplets can land on our bath mat.

“Those fecal microbes can potentially cause infections and other problems,” he said.

So what can we do to keep our bath mats less microbial?

First, make sure you’re always closing the lid of your toilet before you flush. That will help contain the plume and keep surfaces in your bathroom — including your tooth brush — less likely to be deluged by a fecal-filled spray.

Towel off when you’re still in the tub so there’s less water for your mat to drink up, and hang it up on the side of the tub or shower before you leave the bathroom to promote quicker and more complete drying.

Experts advise washing your mat at least once a week, which is probably way more than most of us are currently doing. Check the label for the best way to launder it — especially if it has a rubber or plastic backing. A wooden or stone mat is also a good option, as they are less likely to absorb moisture and foster microbes.

Another spot that’s germier than your toilet? The shower curtain.

“You probably are going to have more of a chance of your face touching a shower curtain than a bath mat,” Tetro said. “So while the bath mat might be the germiest place, the shower curtain is actually the one that you might want to be a little bit more concerned about.”

He advised adding shower curtain maintenance to our regular cleaning routine.

“What I tend to do is, when I’m cleaning my bathroom, I will use the disinfectant of choice, and for me, it’s bleach, because [I’m cleaning the] bathroom,” he said. “I’ll just spray my shower curtain [with the bleach because it’s] going to be resistant if it’s made of really good plastic. You can spray it on a regular basis, so every time I clean the bathroom, I clean the shower curtain as well with a disinfectant to make sure that I’m reducing the potential for microbes to show up.”

Tetro chose a black shower curtain because hard water stains are clearly visible.

“The reason that I want to see that is because when you have a hard water stain, you have a biofilm,” he said. “And when a biofilm starts to form … that’s when you start to have problems.”

Biofilms are caused by bacteria in the water, and, in addition to forming on our shower curtains, they can pop up in our toilet bowls and tubs, as well as on our shower heads. They’re incredibly sticky and hold onto microbes, including ones that can make us sick if we come into contact with them. Removing the biofilms in our bathrooms gives germs less of a chance to hang around.

If you have a cloth curtain, consider using a plastic liner that you can frequently clean and replace, and launder the curtain itself on a regular basis. You can also look for a mold-resistant curtain.

Tetro emphasized that the majority of microbes we encounter in the bathroom — or anywhere else — are not harmful to us, but we want to clean and disinfect to get rid of the ones that might be.

“The bad ones always seem to get the headlines, whereas the good ones — I mean, no one talks about them,” he said. “That’s where me, as the ‘Germ Guy,’ comes into it, because I want to have a good relationship with these microbes, and I want you to think about all the others that aren’t going to cause you problems — as opposed to the ones that do. [Those are the ones I want to teach people] how to avoid and basically kill.”

We also chatted about the one thing you might want to start doing before you go to the bathroom, how often we should be washing our towels (and the gross reason they start to smell funky) and much more.

Listen to the full episode above or wherever you get your podcasts.

Make sure to subscribe to “Am I Doing It Wrong?” so you don’t miss a single episode, including our investigations of the ins and outs of tipping, how to apologize or vanquish your credit card debt, how to find love online or overcome anxiety, tips for online shopping, taking care of your teeth and pooping like a pro, secrets to booking and staying in a hotel, how to deal with an angry person, cooking tips from celebrity chef Jet Tila, shocking laundry secrets, the tips and tricks for cleaner dishes, getting your best workout and more.

For more from Jason Tetro, visit his website here.

Need some help with something you’ve been doing wrong? Email us at, and we might investigate the topic in an upcoming episode.


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