22 Bathroom Mistakes You Never Knew You Made

Updated: Apr. 15, 2021

These seemingly harmless bathroom habits may impact your personal health and hygiene from washing your face incorrectly to sitting on the toilet too long.

You flush the toilet while the lid is up

Fecal matter and urine can fly as far as six feet away from the toilet bowl during each flush, according to Charles Gerba, a microbiologist from the University of Arizona. Close the lid before you flush to keep those gross particles in your toilet and out of the air.  Here are more ways you never knew you were using the toilet wrong.

Hand picked a wet wipes in package box, Wet wipes in a woman's hand
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You throw wet wipes in the toilet

Many “flushable” wipes aren’t as toilet-friendly as they claim to be. In fact, tests conducted by Consumer Reports showed that some personal cleansing wipes still couldn’t break down in the water after ten minutes compared to regular toilet paper which disintegrated within seconds. These “flushable” wipes have been well known for clogging sewer systems in big cities like San Francisco and New York. Other toiletries that should never be flushed down the toilet include: sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms, band-aids, and dental floss.

Woman washing her hair in shower
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You pile your hair on top of your head as you shampoo

A recipe for tangled knots includes shampooing a pile of wet hair on top of your head, especially in people who have long hair. The best way to shampoo is to lather your hair in its natural position, whether that’s straight down your back for long hair or flat on your head for close-cropped hair, to give you softer, smoother locks. Check out these other shower mistakes you’re probably making.

Skin Care Accessories, Cotton Swabs, Cotton Balls, Mirror
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You clean your ears with cotton swabs

Earwax may be gross, but it’s your eardrum’s best natural defense against dust and dirt. Chewing and talking help your jaw move the wax from your inner ear outward. But the moment you shove a cotton swab in your ear canal, you undo all of your body’s hard work! Cotton swabs push the wax back into your ear where it can get stuck. Limit your swabbing to just the external crevices of your ear and leave your ear canals alone.

Soft focus woman hand picking a white tissue from tissue roll in the restroom.

You sit on the toilet too long

Some people like to use their toilet time to catch up on a good book or scroll through their phone. But there is a common health risk associated with sitting on the ceramic throne for too long: hemorrhoids. The seated position places a lot of pressure on the veins in your lower rectum which can swell or bulge and cause hemorrhoids. The most common symptom of hemorrhoids is rectal bleeding but you may experience itchiness or discomfort around the rectal area. Fortunately, hemorrhoids typically clear up within a week. Just remember that the toilet isn’t the time or place for “me” time. These are other mistakes doctors wish their patients would stop making.

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You use a washcloth to clean your face

Moist things like your washcloth are the perfect paradise for bacteria to latch onto.  The only surefire way to keep bacteria at bay is to grab a new washcloth before you wash your face each time. If a new washcloth seems a bit excessive for your daily routine, use your hands to scrub your face. And make sure you switch your towel out every couple of days too. Damp towels also harbor lots of bacteria.

Closeup on young woman hands with soap bar

You don’t rinse your bar soap in between uses

One study said that pathogenic organisms may be hiding out on bar soap during and after use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But research shows that the bacteria from a soap bar are unlikely to transfer onto your hands. Just to be safe, you should always rinse your bar soap under running water to wash away the germs before lathering up and store the soap in a dry place to keep the bacteria away since they love moist environments.

young woman cleaning shower door
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You clean surfaces at room temperature

Heating your tub, sink, and tiles just 10 degrees above the normal air temperature “doubles the effectiveness” of alkaline cleansers, Jenny Botero, resident manager of Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, told hgtv.com. For the best results, fill your tub or sink with the hottest water you can run from the tap. Let the piping hot water sit for a few minutes before you start scrubbing and cleaning surfaces. Make sure you stop making these 10 cleaning mistakes that make your home dirtier.

Cropped image of dark skin fingers holding toothbrush in bathroom sink Dental care. African American Woman hands is holding toothbrush in bathroom sink faucet in background
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You keep your toothbrush too close to the toilet

Toothbrushes should be stored about four feet away or more from the toilet because, as noted above, fecal matter and urine can propel from the toilet bowl when you flush with the lid open. The sink is another area that’s off-limits since soap and dirty water can splash onto your toothbrush. The American Dental Association recommends storing toothbrushes separately in an upright position in a dry area to prevent the risk of harboring bacteria and cross-contamination with other toothbrushes.

Washing of hands with soap in bathroom. Hand cleaning.

You use hot water to wash your hands

There’s no need to scorch your hands with hot water to kill germs anymore when studies show that lukewarm and cold water work just as effectively. Researchers from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee found that cold water did just as well as hot water at reducing levels of bacteria when people scrubbed, rinsed, and dried their hands properly. The study authors also noted that you’d need to wash your hands in boiling water at a whopping 212 degrees Fahrenheit in order to notice any significantly greater reduction in pathogens. Plus, hot water dries your skin out more than cold and lukewarm water does. Don’t miss the other hand-washing mistakes you make.

New ceramic toilet bowl in modern bathroom
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You push out your poop too hard

Another risk factor for hemorrhoids is pushing too hard when you’re constipated. The harder you push, the more pressure you’re placing on the veins in your rectum, which may also lead to anal fissures, tiny tears in the lining of your anus. Try squatting for a few seconds instead of straining. Squatting naturally aligns your intestinal tract to help move things along with less effort. Or if that doesn’t work, pop a laxative to soften your stool.

Cropped image of person washing hands at sink in bathroom

You don’t wash your hands long enough

Twenty seconds is all it takes to give your hands a proper scrubbing with soap and water, according to the CDC. But at least 95 percent of people don’t wash their hands long enough to effectively kill germs based on a Michigan State University study. The average hand-washing time was less than half of the CDC’s recommendation—only six seconds. Need a clever way to keep track of time? Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to give you the perfect amount of time to properly clean your hands. Aside from washing your hands wrong, here are 32 more mistakes that raise your risk of catching a cold.

You forget to clean your toothbrush

Researchers from the University of Manchester found about 10 million germs like E.coli on the average toothbrush. That’s icky bacteria no one wants to put in their mouth! It’s important to rinse your toothbrush well after each use and occasionally soak it in a cup of vinegar for about 30 minutes to get rid of any leftover bacteria. And make sure you replace your toothbrush every three months.

empty toilet paper roll on white wall
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You overwipe

The number one rule regarding how to wipe your butt: Less is more. One or two wipes are usually all you need to clean yourself up after using the toilet. But wiping too much can irritate your anus and cause small abrasions that trigger inflammation and itch. If more than one wipe won’t suffice, switch to wet toilet paper or an unscented baby wipe to decrease the irritation and friction from wiping. You can also look into a bidet toilet seat attachment to solve your wiping woes.

Female person soaps the body with a sponge

You scrub your body too hard during washing

Aggressively scrubbing your skin with a washcloth or a loofah can remove the skin’s natural protective barrier. Instead, gently glide a cotton baby washcloth over the skin with as little rubbing as possible. Even using your hand to wash your body is good enough. Just be sure to switch out your loofah or washcloth regularly to avoid bacteria build-up. (Speaking of bacteria, is it okay to pee in the shower? Find out what the docs say.)

Toilet decoration in toilet room interior - Vintage Light Filter

You never clean behind the toilet

It may be disgusting to think about but urine and fecal matter does build up and leaves behind a grimy residue behind your toilet that is hard to scrub clean. Roll up some paper towels and dip them in an antibacterial cleaner. While you face the front of the toilet, “floss” the back of it. Let the cleaning solution sit for a few minutes then “floss” again with a dry paper towel. And voilà, you’re done! These are other ways you’re cleaning your bathroom incorrectly.

The man is washing his hair, he use shampoo.

You don’t condition your scalp

Most people apply conditioner throughout the body of their hair and skip their scalp. It’s important to condition your hair from root to tip because conditioner helps hydrate your scalp to prevent it from itching and flaking. Learn more about the hair washing habits you need to break.

young woman washing her body with shower gel, shower

Your soap doesn’t contain moisturizer

You can really dry out your skin if you use a bar soap without any kind of moisturizing agent. At the drugstore, look for soap with stearic acid listed under the ingredients or the word “moisturizing” on the label.

Closeup image of young woman with brush cleaning toilet

You place the toilet brush back into its holder immediately

Toilet germs and moisture breed and multiply every time you put a toilet brush back into its holder right after each use. Let the brush dry completely after you’ve finished cleaning the toilet bowl so you’re not scrubbing the same bacteria back into your toilet the next time you use it.

Portrait of happy african american father and daughter brushing teeth in the bathroom.

You brush your teeth straight across

The best way to clean your smile is to hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle upward for your top row of teeth and downward for the bottom set. This angle is optimal for cleaning under the gum line where plaque often hides. As you brush, gently guide the toothbrush in small circles. This technique is not necessary for electronic toothbrushes since they’re designed to go straight on your teeth. Don’t miss the countless other ways you’re brushing your teeth wrong.

Beautiful girl washing her body shower gel
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You don’t rinse well enough

Before you step out of the shower, make sure you’ve completely rinsed off all the soap and shampoo. Lingering products on the skin can lead to irritation and clogged pores, which can cause acne. If your skin is “bacne” (pimples on your back) prone, tilt your head to the side as you rinse your hair to allow the shampoo and conditioner to run into the drain instead of down your back.

Towel hanging at mirror door in the bathroom.

You rub your body with a towel

Aggressively rubbing your body from head to toe with a towel removes some of the lipids, proteins, and fatty acids that protect your skin from irritation. The best tactic for drying off is to pat your body dry to maintain that barrier. Next, learn how to fix 50 everyday mistakes to better your health.