Public toilets in Nigeria are the worst!
You are at work, in the market shopping, dining out, at the mall window shopping or in church and you feel the need to relieve yourself; when you get to the restroom, what you find there makes you just want to hold it in… even if it kills you.
The experience of using badly maintained public restrooms can be very harrowing. There’s the usual nasty odor that clings to your clothes and gets you smelling like you were marinated in soft poop with a hint of Izal. Then, think about all the bacteria floating around. *shudders*
The truth, however, is that public restrooms won’t be the death of you… not if you take careful steps and employ safe, hygienic methods to use public toilets. We have put together a guide to navigating the landmines that are public restrooms in Nigeria.
Breathe into the inside of your elbow
The first thing that hits you when you enter the public toilet is the smell that forces their way into your nasal cavities. Some smells are bearable, while some you just cannot take for too long. The first instinct usually is to use your finger to pinch your nostrils or to spit on the floor at intervals (we don’t know why people do this spitting thing… maybe someone can explain to us.) Anyway, what you can do when you find yourself battling with smells is to breathe into the inside of your elbow, which should smell nicer than an unpleasant-smelling restroom. We always recommend good hygiene and keeping your clothes clean. This is when it comes in handy)
If that is not possible either, depending on the structure of the toilet facilities, ask for an air freshener and use it or spray your own perfume to douse the smell.
Do not enter a toilet unless you have tissue rolls
Public toilets usually should have toilet rolls or other means of cleaning up (like water) available to people who use the space. In some public toilets, you find the tissue attached to the side of the wall, in some others (especially ones in markets, airports or malls) you find an attendant who sells them to you. Some toilets even go as far as having buckets or plats of water in the toilet for those who prefer to wash up. However, you cannot always trust the public toilet system. It is important to check for these clean up options before you enter and start relieving yourself, so that you are not stranded halfway.
If there’s no water or toilet paper in a toilet, do not enter; look for another one. In fact, never leave home without your own pack of tissue, as that could always come in handy and save you from unnecessary stress or embarrassment.
Do not touch anything with your bare hands
The greatest fear of anyone using the public toilet is the possibility of contracting germs or getting infected. To avoid this, it is important to refrain from touching anything with your bare hands. The doorknobs and faucet handles are huge danger zones. Always use a tissue paper to open the doorknob; the same goes for flushing the toilet, and when opening and closing water faucets.
Wipe the seat
Once you are in the toilet, perform a visual inspection of the toilet seat. Look out for any dampness or discolouration, as those could be traces of urine, poop, or blood and you don’t want to take any chances. Next, wipe the toilet seat with tissue or disinfectant sprays.
If you are using the tissue in the toilet, remove the first two layers of the toilet roll as they are probably exposed to bacteria by the one who used it before you. Also, the first rolls, if exposed may have been splashed with fecal microbes during flushing.
Once the seat is wiped, you may sit. If you are a still not convinced, you can put fresh toilet paper down on the seat
Sit, don’t squat or hover
The norm is to squat or hover over the toilet in public bathrooms to avoid the seat touching your skin and germs being transferred to you, but the truth is squatting over a seat does not prevent us from catching any nasties, it is NOT sitting down properly that could actually cause more damage.
The problem with ‘hovering’ over the toilet when urinating or pooping is that it is not so great for your bladder. As you squat over the toilet your pelvic muscles become extremely tense, which could make urination harder; constantly straining to pee, could increase your chances of incontinence over time. Go ahead and sit, once you have thoroughly wiped the seat.
Protect your personal items
Once you are seated, do not put your personal belonging – handbag, umbrella, wig, phone, e.t.c on the floor or on the shelf, as they accumulate the most germs. When the toilet flushes, it sends a spray of droplets into the air, which then settles onto any surfaces within six feet of the flush which include the floor and the shelf.
So, as soon as any of your personal items hit that surface, it potentially becomes a carrier for available bacteria and spreads it to wherever you put it down next. If you cannot hold onto the item, it is better to hang it on the hook on the back of the door.
Also, never pick up anything from the floor, it is not worth the risk.
Once you are done with your business, ensure you clean up and get fully clothed before you flush. Of course, germs from your own excretion cannot hurt you (or can they?) but there could be residual germs in the bowl from the person who was there before you. Make sure you are fully dressed and ready to leave before you flush and ensure that you flush with the toilet seat closed; minimize your exposure to the germs.
If you see someone walking out of one of the public toilet stalls, steer clear. Chances are the germs from their flush will probably still be in the air and still get to you, if you get too close.
Wash and dry your hands.
No matter how expensive your hand sanitizer, do not skip the important step of washing your hands after using the public toilet. Wash your hands for the recommended 20 seconds after using the toilet and if you were using your phone while in the toilet, don’t forget to disinfect it too. After washing your hands, dry them. Depending on what is available in the bathroom, your options will include air dryers or paper towel dispensers.
If you have to touch something to activate either of the two, ensure you use your elbow, shoulder, or sleeves. Do not use your bare hands. And if the toilet is the type where none of the two are provided, kindly wipe your wet hands on your clothes. After wiping them, use your sanitizer.
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