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Women's bathrooms more germ-laden than men's


May 6, 1997
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen

ATLANTA (CNN) -- The differences between men's and women's public restrooms go beyond the fact that one has men inside and the other has women.

Indeed, the differences apparently go all the way to the microscopic level.

A new study discussed at this week's meeting of the American Society of Microbiology took a very close look at men's rooms and women's rooms and came up with a result some people -- particularly women -- might find surprising.


"We were looking at how frequently do you find germs that potentially could make you ill," says Chuck Gerba of the University of Arizona. "What we found is that you're twice as [likely] to encounter those germs in women's restrooms,"

That result is especially surprising because researchers found that men are messier than women. They leave behind more paper towels, and men's rooms usually smells worse.

There are apparently two reasons for the higher level of germs in the women's room. First, women tend to bring children into the bathroom with them, and children tend to bring in germs.

Second, women's restrooms just get more traffic than men's rooms. Women use the bathroom more often and stay longer.


To cut down on the chances of getting a germ-laden restroom, Gerba recommends good hand washing and picking a bathroom with the right number of stalls.

"You really want to pick bathrooms...with two to four stalls," says Gerba. "Because if they have only one stall, it tends to have more bacteria that potentially could make you ill, and if you have five or more, the number goes up again, probably because of heavy use."

And Gerba has his own solution, though it's one not available to half the population.

"This study is keeping me out of women's restrooms forever," he says.


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