Men vs. Women – The Washroom Showdown

By Calvin J.

Public washrooms are pretty disgusting in general, there’s no point debating that. But when it comes to washroom etiquette, there’s a lot of talk that men tend to be a lot worse. And it’s true,  guys can be pretty gross, but are their washrooms ACTUALLY dirtier? To uncover the truth, we sent in a couple writers to test the surfaces of toilet seats, handles, doors and knobs for a set restrooms on a University campus. You might be surprised by what we found!

The Crime Scene: 

2nd floor, Medical Sciences Building – University of Alberta, Canada

  • One of the dirtiest places known to mankind
  • Located at an above-ground walkway that bridges 3 separate university buildings
    (University of Alberta Hospital, Medical Sciences Building and the Heritage Medical Research Centre)

The Methodology:

We swabbed 4 separate surfaces for comparison:

  • The toilet seat
  • The latch for the washroom stall
  • The toilet flush handle
  • And the washroom door handle (inside the washroom)

We then cultured the samples overnight at 37°C to see what we’d find

The Exhibit:

Overall the washrooms were cleaner than expected, despite conducting the test pretty late in the afternoon. Perhaps it was recently cleaned before we arrived or maybe we just weren’t very lucky and there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic that day (or we were VERY lucky, depending on how you look at it). But in the end we didn’t find a whole lot of bacteria on either the stall latch or the flush handle. Averaging only about 1 or 2 bacterial colonies per petri plate in both restrooms. But what really shocked us, was what we found on the toilet seat and the washroom door handle!

The sample collected from the toilet seat in the women’s room contained ~10x more bacteria than the one in the men’s room! A pretty shocking amount. But it also makes a lot of sense. Because women tend to sit down when they use the restroom, it leads to more transfer of bacteria onto the toilet seats. Multiply that with the countless women who use that same public toilet every day, germs are going to accumulate on there pretty quickly. In fact, a much more rigorous study published by researchers at the University of Colorado found essentially the same result. Toilet seats were definitely one of the filthiest surfaces in women’s restrooms. Meaning it might be worth laying down a cover the next time to you rush into a stall.


But don’t worry men, you’re not getting off the hook that easily! What we found on the men’s washroom door handle almost made us vomit! The entire plate was essentially covered with bacterial colonies, to the point where it was impossible to count. And remember, this was the door handle inside the restroom, the one people people touch on their way out. Which can only mean one thing. MEN AREN’T WASHING THEIR HANDS! Why else would it be this filthy?


Even this was a result that the University of Colorado study hadn’t predicted. While researchers there did find that the exit door handle on average had more bacteria for the men’s room than for women’s, it was only a minor ~5% difference. What we have here is beyond measure. Could it be that college-aged men are just worse at washing their hands? Or maybe its those who use this particularly restroom that are especially unhygienic? (Yes, i’m looking at you, medical students!) Needless to say, I will not be touching those handles with my clean hands anymore!

But please, men everywhere, I beg of you! Wash your hands before you leave the restroom. It only takes a minute, and you’ll be doing all your fellow washroom goers a huge favour!


So what did you guys think of our mini washroom study? Got any ideas of places that we should test next? Leave your ideas with us in the comments down below and we’ll let you know what we find!


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