Eating on the Toilet Might Be Gross, but Then, so Is Eating Everywhere Else

Your desk harbors 400 times more dangerous bacteria than a public toilet seat.

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Anyone with even the slightest sense of decency would surely never intend to nosh while situated on the toilet (well, 91 percent of you, anyway). But there are times in life when bathroom dining could conceivably happen — say, you need to rush out the door or covertly devour a quadruple bacon cheeseburger in the middle of a cheeseburger-eaters anonymous meeting, for example.

Imperative or otherwise, the average person would almost certainly agree that eating on the toilet is categorically disgusting — when you consider the bodily functions that take place in the bathroom, that conclusion seems indisputable. But is chewing a piece of buttered toast while dropping anchor actually enormously unsanitary, or does the bathroom just have a bad reputation for being grosser than more accepted dining areas? Come along as we find out, and bring that toast with you.

For starters, despite the general assumption that bathroom eating is grimy, numerous people admit to indulging every now and again. One 2015 survey found that five percent of Britons (more than three million people) conceded to often eating breakfast in the bathroom — or on the toilet — to save time in the morning. Another 2016 survey found that 10 percent of Australians think snacking in the bathroom is acceptable, and that men are four times more inclined to do so than women. We performed a similar survey in 2017 and found that nine percent of men occasionally dine in the bathroom.

Even though some people in these surveys admitted to eating in the bathroom — and even specifically on the toilet — the internet largely agrees that doing so is not okay. “You never eat where you poop,” Reddit commenter Pikachu42 writes. Quora commenter Alex Heming provides a more scientific denunciation of toilet eating:

“From a practical standpoint, toilets and the things we use them for are less hygienic than other rooms of your house. Eating is a primary route for microorganisms to get into your body, because you are putting things in your mouth and swallowing them. You are taking more risk, probably for no reason unless you are really late for work.”

This is mostly true: As we explained in a previous article, the average bathroom is inhabited by millions and millions of bacteria, including particularly nasty stuff like Staph and E. coli. This abundance of germs is largely due to an unpleasant phenomenon we like to call the Toilet Flush Blast Radius — whenever you flush, small particles of fecal matter are launched into the surrounding area, coating virtually anything within six feet, including that precious piece of toast (sorry, man).

So yeah, when you eat in the bathroom, there’s a good chance you might end up consuming something that could make you have to run back to the bathroom for a much less pleasant experience.

Does that mean eating on the toilet is more unsanitary — and therefore, more dangerous — than eating in other, more acceptable places? Sadly, no. There are, in fact, 200 times more fecal bacteria on the average kitchen chopping board than on a toilet seat. The average desktop computer, meanwhile, harbors 400 times more bacteria, so consider that next time you send emails between sandwich bites. Likewise, the average office desk is home to 400 times more dangerous bacteria than a public toilet seat. The same can be said about your phone, with each square inch containing roughly 25,000 squirming germs — about 21 times more than the average toilet seat and 15 times more than the average kitchen counter.

We’ll give you a moment to throw away your entire office and all your devices. 

Now, bleaching the world might seem like a good option at this point. But none of this is to say you should stop eating at your desk and start eating on the toilet. The point is, there are germs literally everywhere, and while bathrooms tend to be cleaned on a somewhat regular basis, areas generally perceived as cleaner silently gather armies of unhealthy bacteria.

The lesson, then, is to clean often and wash your freaking hands, my dude, c’mon. But also, yeah, enjoy that quadruple bacon toilet-burger.