You’re going to brush your teeth with that?
Sharing a bathroom already has its pitfalls—and you know what they are. But a new study is flushing out more nauseating concerns lurking in those communal spaces.
(Germaphobes may want to stop reading now.)
Toothbrushes in shared bathrooms could be teeming with fecal matter. “It’s not something you would typically think about,” said Lauren Aber, a researcher at Quinnipiac University. But mist from the toilet “can spread about 6 to 9 feet when the toilet is flushed” she said.
During the American Society for Microbiology conference this month, Aber presented findings of a study in which 135 toothbrushes were collected from Quinnipiac students, who on average shared bathroom space with five other students. The toothbrushes were evaluated within 12 hours of their last use and students completed surveys about their toothbrush sanitization and storage habits.
Regardless of the storage method, 60% of the toothbrushes were contaminated with bacteria commonly found in human feces, the study found. Some students reported regularly decontaminating their brushes with mouthwash, but even that didn’t disinfect them.
And don’t rely on a toothbrush cover, which “actually creates an environment where bacteria are better suited to grow by keeping the bristles moist,” Aber said.
It’s like we’re walking “in a fecal cloud,” said San Diego State University biology professor Stanley Maloy, who interviewed Aber in a conference podcast.
Now don’t you want to buy a new toothbrush?