Germs and bacteria aren’t the only worrisome parts of the bathroom. From how you wipe to how you wash, common mistakes could put your health on the line.
Considering the fact that you go to the bathroom multiple times per day, you’d think you’ve got this ladies room business down. Turns out, there are quite a few things that can go wrong during your trips to the latrine that may increase your risk of infection, irritation, and illness.
Here, five bathroom mistakes you may be making and how to correct them with healthy habits.
SITTING ON THE TOILET TOO LONG
Spending some extra stall-time scrolling through your Twitter feed is one thing (oh come on, we all do it). But if you’re actually straining, you could be putting yourself at risk for hemorrhoids—painful, swollen veins in your anus that can bleed. “If you’re having a hard time having a bowel movement, get up, walk around, and come back,” says Anish Sheth, M.D., a gastroenterologist and author of What’s Your Poo Telling You? “Walking around can stimulate the intestines to move things downstream, and also help you relax so you don’t have to force things out.” If you regularly strain when going to the bathroom, take a closer look at your diet. Make sure you’re getting enough fiber, about 25 to 30 grams per day, as well as ample water.
When it comes to wiping, less is more and not just because it keeps you from replacing the toilet paper roll every other day. “Overwiping can irritate the perianal skin and lead to small abrasions that trigger inflammation and itching,” Sheth says. One or two wipes are all it takes, he says. If you need to wipe more than that you may not have completely emptied your system or you could be constipated (in which case, up your fiber and water intake like you would to prevent hemorrhoids). If you still require more than a few wipes, consider switching to wet toilet paper or unscented baby wipes. “Moist wipes decrease the friction of wiping and cause less irritation,” Sheth says.
USING THE AIR DRYER
They might as well be called germ blowers: A recent study found that jet air dryers spread 27 times as many microbes as paper towels and nearly five times more bacteria than warm-air blowers, according to researchers from the U.K. Scientists found higher amounts of germs in the air around both types of dryers—they could still detect the bugs 15 minutes after use—than around paper towel dispensers. Your best bet: Grab a paper towel to dry off your mitts and head for the door ASAP to reduce your exposure to the swirling airborne bacteria.
WIPING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
You’ve been doing it since mastering potty training, but after peeing, many women still wipe in the wrong direction. “Always wipe from front to back,” says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., an ob-gyn and author of V is for Vagina. “Wiping from back to front can bring bacteria from the rectum toward the urethra and increase your chances of a urinary tract infection.” And, since women’s urethras are relatively short (men’s run along the length of their penis), bacteria can easily travel into your bladder and make a miserable UTI more likely.
YOU’RE TOO CLEAN DOWN THERE
Just because there are products that can make your lady bits smell fresh as a flower doesn’t mean you should use them. “The vagina doesn’t need to be excessively cleansed and refreshed with soaps, sprays and wipes, which can actually disrupt the normal pH balance and lead to itching, irritation, and rash,” Dweck says. Doctor Dweck offers free advice to all women: “There is an amazing product, 100% Natural Feminine Wash that you can use if you want to keep your vagina clean and the pH value normal.” We looked up the product for you and you can find it here, it also proudly states that it’s made in the USA.