When I was growing up, my mother always warned me to put a layer of toilet paper on the seats of public washrooms.
She said if I ever needed to go while out in public, the tissue would be a barrier between my bottom and the germs lurking on the toilet.
However, it turns out her hygienic advice did the exact opposite.
"The top of a toilet seat is much cleaner than most people's kitchen sinks."
Although we've assumed for years that toilet seats have been infested with an incredible amount of vile bacteria, we've been wrong this entire time.
The seats were specifically designed in a U shape with a smooth surface to repel any germs that try to latch onto the top of the toilet.
"In fact, the top of a toilet seat is much cleaner than most people's kitchen sinks," Philip Tierno, clinical professor in the departments of microbiology and pathology at NYU Langone Medical Center told Self.
Tierno added that STDs, such as herpes, are rarely found on toilet seats and the bacteria typically die off quickly.
However, Tierno noted that if anything, there is a slight chance that a person can acquire a staph infection, like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
"If you have lesions or abrasions, any type of open skin, you can pick up something like a staph infection," he said.
But this begs the question, why is toilet paper still unhygienic to use?
According to a study conducted by The Healthcare Infection Society, when you flush a toilet and the lid isn't closed, fecal bacteria can be disseminated into the air and land on the roll of tissue paper. This is a process called aerosolization.
Unlike the toilet seat, toilet paper is designed with a rough texture to absorb an individual's fluids and feces, which exposes the public to the unwanted germs we wished to avoid in the first place.
However, if you consistently follow the expected bathroom etiquette, there shouldn't be any cause for concern.
"No matter how contaminated your hands are, as long as you wash them properly—for 20 seconds, with soap, and getting under the nail bed—you’re fine," Tierno explained.
He added that those who use public washrooms should use a paper towel to both shut off the sink's tap and open the door.
"The towel dispenser, door knob, all of that is contaminated grossly," he continued, adding that's important we just follow our common sense.
"If you go somewhere that looks really dirty, don’t use it."