Friday, 28 September 2012

A Study of the Correlation between the Extremely Scary Toilet Aerosol Effect and Acute OCD in Toilet Bloggers

OCD is extremely common and can manifest itself in many different ways. At the Privy Counsel, we favour hygiene-related OCD (as opposed to, for instance, extreme hoarding, or preoccupation with sexual, violent or religious thoughts). As this anxiety disorder seems to have become a bit of a theme lately - we've been bandying the link to our article "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Toilet Roll Holders (But Were Afraid to Ask)" about an awful lot - we thought to ourselves, "hell, why not get a bit festive and do an update on the toilet aerosol effect?" After all, the weekend is approaching!

So, let's talk about the toilet aerosol effect, shall we? This, for the benefit of our non-regular readers, is the phenomenon first described by Dr Charles Gerba, of the University of Arizona, of a mist of bacteria spread across the bathroom by tiny airborne water droplets when flushing the toilet.
The enterprising fellas at Mythbusters conducted a related experiment with toothbrushes. They kept a bunch of toothbrushes in different locations in the bathroom for a month, and then employed a snazzy science lady to check the bacterial levels in the bristles. Obviously what we're all dying to know is, were the toothbrushes infested with faecal bacteria? We think you know, in your heart of hearts, what the answer is.

Festive video - Mythbusters, Surprise Toothbrush MiniMyth
The toilet aerosol effect: A very scary concept. Image from Innovationsupplychain.

The idea of a squadron of water-borne toilet bacteria parachuting down onto your toothbrush is obviously most unpleasant. So what to do? The first thing that springs to many people's minds is to put the toilet lid down when flushing. That bedrock of factual, level-headed journalism, the Daily Mail, favours this approach. Quoting Professor Mark Wilcox at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the Daily Mail says,
"[...] Although it was unlikely that keeping the lid up would be a 'huge' health hazard, their findings suggested patients with a superbug should at least have a dedicated toilet.
He added that their research also had wider implications, telling the Mail Online: 'It would be prudent if there is a lid to put it down after flushing. [...] Some bugs spread more easily to surfaces this way and the norovirus is thought to be one of them. Our advice - put down the lid if it's there and wash your hands afterwards.'"
Professor Wilcox has been studying the spread of the C. Difficile bacteria in hospitals. The study concluded that the lack of hospital toilet lids may impede progress in this field.

C. difficile: So cute. So resistant to antibiotics.  Image from Giant Microbes

However (and there's always a "however" when discussing hygiene), a study by J. Barker and M. V. Jones, published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, comes to a different conclusion. The article, cunningly named "The Potential Spread of Infection Caused by Aerosol Contamination of Surfaces after Flushing a Domestic Toilet", says:
"Closing the toilet lid had little effect in reducing the number of bacteria released into the air which was c. 1000 CFU m−3 after the first flush (data not shown). Although splashes would probably have been contained by closing the lid, there was a gap of 15 mm between the top of the porcelain rim and the seat, and also a gap between the seat and the lid of 12 mm which would allow aerosols to escape into the room. Conversely, Darlow and Bale (1959) found that closing the lid reduced the aerosol concentration by a ratio of 1 : 2 but their measurements were performed using a ‘wash-down’ toilet and an impinger air sampler. In contrast, Bound and Atkinson (1966) found that closing the lid did not significantly reduce the bacterial count in the air from a ‘wash-down’ toilet seeded with E. coli using a slit sampler positioned at seat level."
The idea of toilets spewing out clouds of lethal bacteria so terrifies us
that our capacity for critical thinking has been impaired, and we are reduced
to posting lolcat pictures. Image from Suzannekesten.

While we're all in favour of developing mild-to-life-threatening OCD (this is how we get our kicks in a small town on a very limited budget), there are limits. Some people calling themselves The Maids, expressing concern over the toilet aerosol effect, recommend the following hygiene measures to protect yourself from inhaling nasty microscopic creatures:
  • Leave disinfecting wipes in the bathroom and wipe down your sink, drain and faucet handles daily to minimize germs and bacteria. The sink is the most prevalent place for bacteria.
  • When cleaning your bathroom weekly, first mist over the sink, toilet and counters with a disinfecting spray. Let the spray dry completely before using other cleaning products.
  • After your fiberglass shower, sink and tub are clean and dry, use Turtle Wax. It will protect and polish surfaces and guard against dirt and grime so cleaning is easier the next week.
Frankly, we've got better things to do.

To combat our mounting hysteria, we let ourselves be soothed by the comforting, dulcet tones of Dr Know. Watch his toothbrush-testing video here.

How clean is your toilet? Image from Honeyishrunkthegrief

Further reading:
Potential for aerosolization of Clostridium difficile after flushing toilets: the role of toilet lids in reducing environmental contamination risk (synopsis)
Most hospital C. difficile cases have not spread from other patients
Handwashing tips from the Privy Counsel
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Toilet Rolls (But Were Afraid to Ask)
All OCD-Related Links

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Coming Clean with the Privy Counsel

Despite our confident claim the other day, it is demonstrably not Monday any more. Nonetheless, we've been working hard for your benefit today, trying to find out which cubicle really is the cleanest. If you read Monday's post you will be familiar with the claim that the first in a row of cubicles will be the least used, and therefore cleanest. While this sounds fairly likely, we at the Privy Counsel do not content ourselves with mere hearsay (except, of course, in the case of Jack White. Sorry about that - we really tried). So we did some pretty hardcore researching, only to find several thousand sites all repeating the same "facts" without mentioning a source.
After throwing a massive, frustrated tantrum, we finally reconciled ourselves to this sad state of affairs, at least for the time being. Then we found this very amusing video of a lady demonstrating how to clean a toilet. Whatever your troubles today, we promise that this will cheer you up!

How to Disinfect a Toilet Bowl -- powered by ehow

Actual caption for this photo: "Cleaning the toilet with his toothbrush
really did make me feel better." Image from Since My Divorce

That's right. If you haven't already developed debilitating OCD, maybe you should? You most likely will, if you read this article on how to REALLY clean your toilet.

You might also find this whimsical article, about how to sanitise your toilet brush, entertaining.

(To prove to you that the tiresome old proverb is true and that things really could be worse, we found ourselves thinking, when watching the video, "OMG, she didn't just touch the tap after touching the toilet?! Now she has to sanitise the tap!!! And the kitchen roll - oh, Christ!! And she cleans the seat LAST! With the effing TOILET BRUSH!" Any thoughts on your own personal hygiene-related panic attacks, feel free to share.)

Related reading
Everything You Always Wanted To Know about Toilet-Roll Holders, But Were Afraid to Ask
Mental Healthcare Washrooms
Solutions for a Sweating Toilet Bowl

"This is hell. I wish I'd read that weird toilet blog more carefully." Image from Babybanter.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Fun Facts for Mondays

Brace yourselves. In case you hadn't noticed, it's Monday. Time for the brain to emerge from the weekend fug, and sparkle and shine in the face of the grey clouds currently obscuring the sun outside the Privy Counsel headquarters. Yeah, right. Anyway, here are some fun toilet facts to cheer everyone up!
  • The average person will spend three years of their life on the toilet.
  • You have a 1 in 10,000 chance of being injured by a toilet.
  • More toilets flush during half time of the Super Bowl than during any other time of year.
  • A third of people flush their toilet while they’re still sitting on it.
  • Rats can survive being flushed down toilets. On top of that, they can often return to the dwelling they were in via the same route.
  • Televisions are more common in Afghanistan than toilets.
  • Toilets are in tune: most toilets flush to E flat.
  • The White House has thirty bathrooms. The Pentagon uses about 636 toilet paper rolls per day.
  • Over $100,000 US dollars was spent to finance a study on determining whether people put their toilet rolls on the holder with its flap in front or behind. The result: 3 out of 4 individuals will have the flap in front.
  • The first toilet cubicle in a row is the least occupied and therefore the cleanest as well.
(Facts from Reddiservices)
Image from The Domestic Fringe

 This little wad of amusingness is obviously from an American perspective. It is therefore our mission, now, to find toilet facts related to other countries!
Also, we have read something on the cubicle least likely to be used before, and seriously doubt whether the first one is the cleanest. This clearly requires more research. Fellow OCD sufferers, bear with us!
And, also, why the hell would you flush a rat down the toilet?

Related reading
Who Knew That Going to the Toilet Could Be So Dangerous?
Historical Toilets, Baths and Kitchens - a Useful and Humbling Lesson
Jorvik: In Rude Health
Toilet-Related Celebrities

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A Fine Example of Practical Danish Design

 We don't know where Semi-Intellectual Friend is right now, in a strictly geographical sense. Rumour has it he's partying with elephants and eating truckloads of peanut sauce in a humid environment. A little while ago, however, he was engaged in various nefarious activities and staying at a bed-and-breakfast in Copenhagen. We received a report saying,
 I think I've covered this particular toilet in a lot of depth already (is that ironic?) but here are a random bunch of pictures of the closet that I peed and then had a shower in. At least one is a little gross. Sorry. There are more but they're a little repetitive. If you want the address, it's the cunningly named A&C Clean, Central, and Convenient at Egilsgade 41,3, 2300 Copenhagen, Denmark. It's owned by a nice woman called Carole.

An extremely compact bathroom

One has to admire the sheer bloody-mindedness of Semi-intellectual Friend's intrepid journalistic venture

Technically, yes, it's a mixer tap

It seems no detail is too small for Semi-Intellectual Friend

Edifying instructions for the shower

We found a description of this B&B online. It says,
The place is conveniently situated in Islands Brygge, a residential water-front district on the edge the city centre. [...] The WC/shower is shared and just a step from the rooms, and although small, it is a fine example of practical Danish design. Linen, soap and towels are included. [...] Warm and friendly welcome. Environmentally friendly household. Secure cellar for cycle storage.

We have no idea how many points to award, so we'll probably just leave it. If you're in Copenhagen and have some time to spare today, maybe go counsel the mermaid.

The Little Mermaid. Does she look harassed to you? Image from Cityknown

Friday, 21 September 2012

Waltzing around Amalienborg

As far as we know, everyone loves Denmark. Especially Australians. Australian Friend was very excited by a visit to the Amalienborg Palace Museum in Copenhagen - after all, Crown Princess Mary is from Tasmania! (Read more about Crown Princess Mary here.) Our call at Amalienborg didn't include any proposals of marriage from members of the royal family (this time), but we did find time to check out the excellent toilets, in between admiring Queen Margrethe's fabulous dresses and harassing the royal guard.

Amalienborg palace and the royal guard. Just so you know, you're not allowed
to go closer than one metre to the strapping young men, however cute the hats. Image from Dkibenelux

Amalienborg Palace Museum: clean, functional and hygienic

Relax, everyone - there is absolutely no danger of running out of toilet paper!

We like everything. Except the uncovered rolls of tissue stacked on the floor.
Credit for the amount of spare bog roll, though - respect!

We love this

And this: ventilation!
This royal toilet is a ten-pointer!

Further reading:
Sing If You're Glad to Be a Dane
If you enjoy reading about jewellery, whether royal or not, we recommend the author Nina Hald:

More royal reading:
Gärdslösa: Runes and Royalty
By the Sea - A Toilet Blogger's Holiday
Imperial Aspirations: The Chiewitz Outdoor Privy in Espoo
Statistical Musings

Amalienborgmuseet | Christian VIII's Palæ | 1257 København K

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Baby, Let Me Be...

Do you like bears? 'Course you do! We went to Orsa Björnpark, in Dalarna, Sweden, and got up, close and personal with some hungry animals. While we don't subscribe to Elvis Presley's wish of having a chain around our neck, we do agree that bears are great! Also we don't normally approve of gawping at animals in captivity, but Orsa Björnpark has a conservational agenda and houses animals in an environment as close as possible to their natural habitat, with the long-term goal of releasing them into the wild.

Orsa Björnpark: View of the bear park from Grönklitt

Teddy bears!

Wildlife centre toilets: basic but clean

We enjoy this type of economical hand-towel dispenser

The actual toilet

A fun, rustic lock. But no coat hook!

"Gigantbox." Katrin products are usually eco-friendly

Did you know? Less is more!
We enjoyed our toilet experience at Orsa Björnpark, especially since it was freezing cold, wet, and windy outside, and the toilets were warm and cosy.
Eight points in all.

Further reading:
Teddy Bear

The King with the, er, king of the animal kingdom. Image from Quadlibetica

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Toilet Song: Plexiglass Toilet

At the risk of being vulgar, we're giving you another Toilet Song today. It is perhaps not to everyone's taste, but we thought it was hilarious. It offers good advice, too, and not just in a metaphorical way!

Styx - Plexiglass Toilet

Written by John Curulewski
Lead vocals by John Curulewski

Don't sit on the Plexiglass toilet

Said the momma to her son
Wipe the butt clean with the paper
Make it nice for everyone
But don't sit down on the Plexiglass toilet yeah

A boy of 5 stands close to the toilet

Holds the lid up with one hand
Won't let go the lid for fear that
On his banana it will land
Don't sit down on the Plexiglass toilet yeah

Boy goes up he eats the enchilada

With the sauce that burns the heart
Family comes to visit family
Momma says don't belch and fart

Don't sit on the Plexiglass toilet

Said the momma to her son
Wipe the butt clean with the paper
Make it nice for everyone
But don't sit down on the Plexiglass toilet yeah

Everybody Sing!

Don't sit on the Plexiglass toilet

Said the momma to her son
Wipe the butt clean with the paper
Make it nice for everyone
But don't sit down on the Plexiglass toilet yeah

Don't sit on the Plexiglass toilet

Said the momma to her son
Wipe the butt clean with the paper
Make it nice for everyone
But don't sit down on the Plexiglass toilet yeah

Transparent toilet. Image from Sculpture Centre.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Trains, Sweat and Fears

 We promised you a report on our recent encounter with a French train, and here it is. We have no major complaints except that 1) it was pretty smelly, and 2) the toilet paper ran out almost immediately (slightly awkward on a four-and-a-half-hour journey when one is hungover).

We approve of sturdy mechanical locks, harbouring a deep-seated distrust of the electronic locks on modern trains, which always seem to be malfunctioning. This train toilet had no coat hook, but if one were able to overcome one's OCD, one might have been able to hang one's bag from the door handle.

To our, we admit, delighted surprise, there was both water and soap!

There was even a toilet-seat-sanitising-gel-holder! And a festive butterfly wall design!

The toilet seat itself. You have to hold the flush button in for three seconds,
but at least there's a sticker telling you to do so in four languages.

Most soothing wall decorations

When one has seen the train, one understands why it takes four and a half hours
to get from Nice to Montpellier... Image from Soundlandscapes

Although we were at times both sweaty and uncomfortable, the view was spectacular all the way!
Image from
 These toilets get about -3 points. But the journey was extremely memorable!

Related Reading
Finally! An Italian Train!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Sing If You're Glad to Be a Dane

Do you live in Denmark? If you do, you are very, very lucky! An enterprising woman by the name of Tine Müller has created a function for finding your nearest public toilet! The service is completely free and includes information on whether the toilet you are contemplating using is disability-friendly, a pissoir, unisex, or has a changing table. Pretty splendid, ikke?
Check it out at!

In other, Denmark-related, news, here are photos from the toilets at the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.

As you know, we'd love to think of something to complain of,
but we can't think of anything specific

Covered bog-roll holder: check

Sturdy coat-hook: check
To make up for the toilets not being very exciting, here's a picture of Australian Friend having a blast at the Tivoli Gardens!

Australian Friend enjoying herself at the Tivoli!
(Face obscured to avoid harassment by pervs, toilet obsessives, OCD maniacs, etc

Related Reading
Cowering in Copenhagen
Waltzing Around Amalienborg

Tivoli A/S
Vesterbrogade 3
P.O.Box 233
1630 Copenhagen 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Amie Australienne Va au Mariage, Casse Toilette (Australian Friend Goes to Wedding, Breaks Toilet)

Zut, alors! We've been to a wedding in France, believe it or not, and pretty fabulous it was, too. Things got really exciting when Australian Friend broke the toilet! Doom! Sacrebleu!

Australian Friend broke the toilet! C'est vraiment de ta faute!

Luckily she fixed it again.

We shared this very clean toilet with a friendly cockroach

Australian Friend checking out the mixer tap

All in all we were very happy with the toilets we encountered in France, although we had an unpleasantly close encounter with a train toilet, which left us feeling repulsed and violated. Mille tonneres! (More on this later.)

Further reading:  
The Body in the Bathtub 
Another Memorable Wedding Toilet
In Which We Indulge in Poetry and Out-of-Context French Expressions

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Copenhagen: Pissoiring the Night Away

Continuing the story of our recent trek to Copenhagen, we took a stroll down Nyhavn and encountered this pissoir. We wouldn't say it smelled nice, exactly, but it had many other good qualities like, erm, functionality, and plain old sturdiness. Also it's conveniently located right by the bar district. Hurrah!

Copenhagen: a pissoir in Nyhavn


Very functional, if not exactly fragrant

You didn't really expect there to be soap, did you?

Voulez-vous descendre dans le pissoir, ce soir?

All in all, we give it -1 point out of 17 possible.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Hanging out with Hygeia at Glyptoteket

 The Privy Counsel recently took a field trip to Copenhagen, city of fabulous toilets! (Read previous posts here and here.) Australian Friend accompanied us, and we had ourselves an extremely enjoyable and informative jaunt. Among other things we visited Glyptoteket, site of naked, petrified Greeks (what's not to like?). Imagine our delight when we bumped into a statue of our favourite Greek goddess, Hygeia! And the fabulousness didn't end there - we also met Hygeia's father, Asklepios!

Hygeia likes to hang out, cuddling her snake, at Glyptoteket

Hygeia's father, Asklepios, was very nice as well

Naturally we took the opportunity to visit the toilets at Glyptoteket. They were excellent, as you'd expect. (Not as many naked Greeks in there as we'd hoped, but you can't have everything.)

Stylish mixer tap at Glyptoteket

All ship-shape, etc

There's even a toilet-seat sanitiser on the wall

In an ideal world there'd be a covered loo-roll holder and a naked Greek or two,
but alas, one cannot have everything...

Excellent coat-hooks!

Related Reading
Quickly, Before We Sober Up: Icelandic Nostalgia
Tømmermænd at Café Jorden, or, Sleepless in Aarhus, or, Fear and Loathing in Jutland 
Feeling Single, Seeing Double: Sct. Clemens Brewery, Aarhus 
Blogging Something Rotten

Dantes Plads 7
DK-1556 Copenhagen V
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