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Gina Florio
February 24, 2017 3:09 pm

When we settle into our daily routine, it can feel impossible to break out of it. The habits we have in the bathroom are especially hard to change, since we’re in there about a million times a day. In fact, the bathroom is one of the most used rooms in our home, but it’s also the place where a lot of germs live. Cleaning the bathroom is the one job that nobody wants to take on, but it’s perhaps the most important job, because your bathroom is probably a lot dirtier than you might think. Read on for some facts that will change the way you use your toilet forever.

Here are six mistakes you’re making in the bathroom.

1. You’re flushing the toilet with the lid up.

You pee, wipe, stand up, and just flush the toilet, right? It sounds basic enough. But flushing the toilet with the lid still up is a mistake, because there’s this thing called “toilet plume” you may not know about. “Toilet plume” is the mixture of small waste particles and water in your toilet that can shoot aerosolized feces as high as 15 feet into the air when you flush. Yuck, and no thank you.

A study conducted at the University of Oklahoma found that “toilet plume could play a contributory role in the transmission of infectious diseases.” Another study in 2012 at Leeds University discovered that a germ called C. difficile can be catapulted up to 10 inches above the toilet seat every time you flush with the lid open. By the way, C. difficile gives you nausea and makes you vomit. So, yeah, close the lid before you flush.

2. You don’t wash your hands long enough.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that washing our hands properly is a highly effective way to prevent the spreading of infections and illnesses. However, we’re usually in a rush when we wash our hands so we don’t actually get rid of all the nasty stuff that’s lingering on our fingers. After you lather up, you’re supposed to scrub your hands for a full 20 seconds, which is about the length of singing the Happy Birthday song to yourself, twice.

3. You use the same bath towel over and over again.

If you only own one bath towel you enjoy using, you might want to stock up. Bacteria builds up on your towel after a while, and you end up rubbing it all over your clean body if you don’t wash it often enough. Any open cuts or scrapes on your body run the risk of getting infected by that dirty towel of yours, so aim to wash it at least once a week.

4. You wash your hair too often.

The majority of the American population — 93 percent, to be exact — washes their hair every day. While we think this act will keep us squeaky clean, it’s actually stripping our scalp of its natural oils that act as a natural conditioner keep our hair less greasy. Shampooing yourself up every day may actually make your hair appear more oily and less healthy. And if you have colored hair, all that shampoo is fading it out quicker than usual. Try washing your locks every other day instead and see if that doesn’t save you time and money, and give you more luscious hair.

5. You use q-tips to clean your ears

We learned an important lesson from HBO’s Girls when Lena Dunham’s character Hannah shoved a cotton swab so far into her ear that she had to go to the ER to have a doctor pull it out. It was traumatic just to watch. Imagine how painful it would be if it actually happened to you. When Hannah’s mother said to her on the phone, “Nothing smaller than an elbow!” we all laughed, but she couldn’t have been more right.

Dr. Roshini Raj told TODAY that using a q-tip to clean your ear out might be doing more harm than good. “You could end up pushing more wax deeper into the ear canal,” Dr. Raj said. “More importantly, you could injure yourself.” If you feel like you need to clean your ears out, wet your wash cloth with warm water and insert it in your ear with a finger to get the gunk out.

6. You store your toothbrush close to the toilet

Let’s revisit the concept of “toilet plume” again. When you flush your toilet, all that bacteria sprays up and hits whatever it’s closest to. If your toothbrush is anywhere near the toilet, it might catch some of that nasty germs that should never ever land in your mouth. Here’s another reason to close the toilet lid when you flush, and while you’re at it, just store your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible — at least six feet away, according to Harvard University.

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