Should you flush with a closed or open toilet lid? What experts say | Health - Hindustan Times
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Should you flush with a closed or open toilet lid? What experts say

By, New Delhi
Jan 27, 2024 02:50 PM IST

Flushing with the toilet lid closed or open, has no significant impact on the spread of germs, says study. Experts, however, are divided over this.

If you thought closing your toilet lid while flushing is preventing exposure to a wide range of tiny viral particles, think again. In a recent study published in the Americal Journal of Infection Control, researchers at the University of Arizona found out that flushing with the toilet lid closed or open doesn't make a significance impact on the spread of germs that come out along with the rapid rush of water and air. (Also read: Cat keeps flushing toilet to see ‘swirly’ water, pet parent fails to stop it)

Flushing a toilet with the lid closed is generally more sanitary and helps prevent the spread of germs and odours, so it is usually recommended, say experts(Freepik)
Flushing a toilet with the lid closed is generally more sanitary and helps prevent the spread of germs and odours, so it is usually recommended, say experts(Freepik)

Researchers were of the view that microscopic viral particles spread to the floor and nearby surfaces when a person flushes the toilet, irrespective of whether the lid is up or down. We asked experts whether or not a closed lid prevents contamination.

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Dr Tushar Tayal, Lead Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram referenced a 2013 study, emphasising that keeping the lid closed reduced the spread of bacteria, though it did not completely eliminate them.

Closed or open lid; what's the right approach?

"According to a research published in 2013 by the University of Oklahoma, it was found that faecal matter, along with various pathogens and water particles, can blast through the air and on surfaces after flushing the toilet without the lid on. These particles mostly travelled upwards, rising to the ceiling, backward towards the rear wall, and outward, spreading forward from the ceiling and into the room. Shutting the lid led to a decrease of bacteria but did not eliminate them from air samples completely, which suggests that droplets can still escape between a toilet cover and seat," says Dr Tayal.

Dr Rakesh Gupta, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital agrees that the closed lid is the cleaner and more hygienic approach, but also lists advantages of an open lid while flushing.

"Flushing a toilet with the lid closed is generally more sanitary and helps prevent the spread of germs and odours, so it is usually recommended. When you flush with the lid open, the flush creates a plume filled with microdroplets of bacteria and viruses that can spray up to 6 feet into the air. These microdroplets then settle on surfaces throughout the bathroom. Research has shown lower rates of illnesses like norovirus in households that make it a point to always close the toilet lid before flushing. Closing the lid helps to contain these microdroplets rather than allowing the spray to disperse widely," says Dr Gupta.

Benefits of flushing with lid open

However, there are a couple advantages to flushing with the lid open as per Dr Gupta.

  • One is that it allows you to check if everything has flushed properly, with no waste remaining that could clog the toilet. You can always lift the lid after flushing to check this though.
  • Another potential advantage is that if the bathroom has no windows or ventilation fan, an open lid creates more air circulation to help odours disperse quicker.
  • An open lid is also quieter if flushing late at night when household members are sleeping.

"Overall, though, the closed lid is the cleaner and more hygienic approach. The plume that sprays out when flushing with the lid open disperses germs much more widely into the bathroom environment. And over time, consistently containing that spray and any odours by flushing with the lid closed can help prevent the spread of illnesses. Any advantages of an open lid, like checking that everything flushed or added air circulation, can also be achieved in other ways," adds Dr Gupta.

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