The dreaded “loo sneeze” or, more elegantly named, “toilet plume”, launches airborne contaminants from faeces and/or vomit into the air each time the toilet is flushed. These tiny particles drift around the room for long periods of time before settling on surfaces, for example, our toothbrushes. Check out this short video (Gross, I know!)
Many household loos are close to the sink, so people sit their toothbrush container on top of the toilet for easy access – remove it at once! The “loo sneeze” contributes to the transmission of infectious diseases. Most of us are strong and healthy, and can deal with a little bit of bacteria day to day, however, if we’re feeling below par and the bacteria is of a more pathogenic source, we may get sick. Many bacteria float around the bathroom for up to 2 hours post flush, but deadly E-Coli can be around 4-6 hours post flush. Salmonella can live in the toilet bowl for up to 12 days, and biofilm (basically, bacteria communes) live around the water line in the bowl for up to 50 days.
Dentists recommend regularly cleaning your toothbrush by placing it in a dishwasher( top shelf), rinsing it with boiling water for five to ten seconds, or soaking it in mouthwash or alcohol for fifteen minutes post-brushing, then allowing it to air dry. (Mouthwash has a fresher taste, unless you have a proclivity for neat vodka first thing in the morning). A thirty minute soak in hydrogen peroxide also works well. Toothbrushes should be changed every 3 months, or sooner following an illness or cold sores. Germs can stay active on brush and bristles for up to 24 hours
You may be tempted to think storing the brush in a closed container or cabinet would eliminate the loo sneeze problem, however, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tell us that toothbrushes need to be rinsed and allowed to air dry in the upright position to prevent additional bacterial growth on the bristles.
The “down and dirty” on protecting your toothbrush:
- Keep toothbrushes as far from the loo as possible – 3 feet distance minimum.
- Soak your brush in mouthwash, post brushing for 10-15 minutes
- Rinse brush with boiling water for 5-10 seconds or put it through the dishwasher (note: this may reduce the life of the brush, according to CDC)
- Ensure the toilet bowl and bathroom get cleaned and sanitized thoroughly and often. Daily is necessary for public bathrooms. (You may not store your toothbrush in the work or school loos, but do you really want to be around other people’s old fecal matter? Tell your boss to book a regular cleaning)
- Ensure loo lid is closed before flushing. This reduces (but doesn’t totally prevent) the amount of contaminants released into the air.