Hanging a towel over a toilet can be a stylish way to create space for drying your hands. However, there are some things that you should know before you hang your clean towels over a toilet.
Hanging a towel over your toilet can be unsanitary, as aerosolized waste from the toilet is likely to collect on them. It’s best to store towels outside of the bathroom for this very reason. This problem can be mitigated by always closing the toilet before flushing it.
But why does this hygienic risk exist, and what’s the best way to hang your towels if this is a non-issue for you? Let’s take a look!
Why You Shouldn’t Hang a Towel Over a Toilet
Whenever you flush a toilet, it produces an aerosolized cloud of water droplets both large and small. This is caused no matter how much water your toilet uses when it flushes, whether it is a high-flow toilet or a low-flow toilet. Because people poop in toilets, there will always be a variety of microbes, including some illness-causing bacteria.
Depending on the kind of bacteria, you could possibly get sick from exposure to only a few of these microbes getting into your body. While the easiest way to accidentally consume them is to breathe them in, they can also end up in your body through cuts and abrasions on your skin.
This is where the risk of hanging a towel above the toilet comes in. Whether you use these towels as hand towels, bath towels, or even hair towels, there is a chance that they can come into contact with a scratch or scrape that you haven’t noticed and transmit an illness-causing bacteria into your body every time you use them.
While this chance might be quite small, it will compound over time. The more often you use the toilet, the higher the chances will be of germs getting onto the towels. The more often you use the towels, the more likely it is that you will end up transmitting some of the disease-causing bacteria into breaks in your skin.
And even if you don’t, if you get these bacteria somewhere like on your hands, they can be transmitted through touch to your mouth, onto your food, or onto dishes. Pathogens found on towels can travel through your home extremely quickly and can very easily end up increasing the likelihood of illness for everyone in your home.
This risk can be mitigated by always closing the toilet before you flush. This will prevent most of the aerosols from getting out of the toilet and into the air, where they can land on the towels.
However, because toilet seats aren’t airtight when they close, there’s always a chance that bacteria will get on your towel even with the precautions that you take. Because of this, it’s best not to keep your towels above the toilet or anywhere else exposed in the bathroom.
While you’re less likely to get pathogens on your towels when not flushing poop because some of those bacteria can still end up still in the bowl in between use events it’s important to close the toilet bowl every time you do toilet business.
Where to Put Your Towels Instead
The best place to put your towels to prevent them from getting aerosols from the toilet on them is outside of the bathroom. A closet or towel rack right next to the bathroom door would be ideal, as this could be accessible to people right after they’ve washed their hands or just before they go in to shower.
This is also better than a closet, as not all homes have closets in a location convenient to all of their bathrooms. However, if you have a closet next to your bathroom, this can be another good place to keep towels.
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If you must keep towels inside your bathroom, it’s best to keep them in a place where they can be covered and which can be easily kept dry. Obviously, a towel closet would be the best place to keep them, but not all bathrooms have closets. A good alternative could be a towel box next to the sink.
The box would need to be able to close and be airtight and be able to repel water to prevent splash damage to the box and to the towels inside.
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If your aesthetic sensibilities demand that towels be hung on your walls despite the risk to your health and the health of those you live with, then it’s best to place them higher up on the walls and far away from the toilet. Because the water droplets produced by flushing are heavier than air, things that are higher up are likely to have less aerosol deposited on them.
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However, it is recommended that the towels you hang up not be used for drying hands, bodies, or anything else as no matter where in the bathroom you put them they are liable to get some human waste on them via aerosolized toilet water. These towels should be purely decorative.
Things to Hang Over Your Toilet that Aren’t Towels
Just because it’s a bad idea to hang towels over your toilet doesn’t mean that the empty space there will fill itself. Any decoration that will be holding towels uncovered would of course be out of the question. However, there are options for over-the-toilet decoration that you would never even have to touch, let alone rub your hands on!
Preferably not bathroom themed. A small landscape or modern art piece might fit well here. Portraits and other human subjects are probably best left for the rest of the home.
Toilet Paper Storage
A nice little box with a couple of rolls of toilet paper can be decorative while also preventing you from running out of toilet paper in a pinch.
Putting a shelf a foot or two above the top of your toilet can provide a space for multiple different decorative, non-towel objects. Potted plants, light reading, and soap refills all come to mind. Just make sure that the shelf is high enough above the toilet that it doesn’t make it harder to sit on.