Can we get HPV from using public toilets?

Explainer Health Social

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) which primarily spreads through skin-to-skin contact during sexual activities. However, there has been recent discussion on social media expressing concern about the possibility of HPV infection from other sources not related to sexual activity, such as using public restrooms.

Social Media Post

A Thai user’s translated version of a viral Tweet claimed, “I want to help raise awareness that HPV can be contracted from public restrooms. There was once a test swab done on a door handle that found a significant presence of HPV.

Source | Archive

The aforementioned tweet has over 7M views and 67K retweets.

Similar claims of contracting HPV from toilet seats have been making rounds on social media for over a decade. Below is another recent FB post of a man claiming he got HPV from a toilet seat. 

FB | Archived

Given the massive engagement on social media for this topic, we have decided to delve deeper into this matter.

What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. It can be transmitted to both women and men and is usually contracted when beginning to have sex or while engaging in sexual activities. Symptoms may not appear clearly in the first two years after infection.

Certain types of HPV can cause cancer or genital warts, but these can be prevented by getting the HPV vaccine.

How is HPV transmitted?

HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, mainly through the genital, anal, or oral areas, from a person infected with the virus. In addition, it can also be spread through sexual activity. Individuals with HPV may not display symptoms or may experience symptoms.

The virus usually spreads through direct contact with genital parts or body fluids, which can occur during sexual activity involving the genital, anal, or oral areas. It can also be transmitted through intimate contact, even without penetration. The virus can enter the body through tiny breaks in the skin or mucous membranes.

So, Can you get HPV from using public restrooms?

Dr Nichanun Chantrapirom, an obstetrician-gynaecologist and specialist in oncology, explains that more than 80-90% of HPV transmission occurs through sexual contact. Contracting HPV requires direct contact with the cervix, which is located about 7-8 centimetres inside the vagina. Public restrooms or bidets have a very low chance of transmitting HPV because there is no direct contact with the cervix. 

The exception to this is if there is a vaginal douche or internal cleansing, which can increase the risk of infection. Therefore, it is not recommended to douche or cleanse internally to reduce the risk of contracting HPV.

The American Cancer Society notes that there is a risk of getting HPV from genital contact, even without sexual intercourse, although the risk is very low. However, they also stated that HPV cannot be transmitted through toilet seats, hugging, or holding hands, swimming pools and hot tubs, sharing food or utensils, or even neglecting personal hygiene. Additionally, having a weakened immune system can increase the risk of getting infected with HPV.

Dr Amy Phillips, an obstetrics and gynaecology expert at UAMS, has clarified that HPV or other sexually transmitted diseases cannot be transmitted from a toilet.

Source: UAMS health

Abigail Salyers, PhD, president of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), says that “To my knowledge, no one has ever acquired an STD on the toilet seat — unless they were having sex on the toilet seat,” WebMed

Here is a snapshot of HPV, its modes of transmission, symptoms, and health problems it can cause by MaNaDr Pte Ltd, a pioneer in the application of technology in the healthcare field based in Singapore.

Discussing the symptoms of HPV, Dr Erika Aragona explains how one could get infected by this virus and how to prevent its transmission. She dwells on the importance of wearing protection during every episode of sexual activity and the need to get tested for sexually transmitted infections. 

Also, shedding light on the famous ‘toilet seat myth,’ she explains that while there have been very few cases of contracting HPV from an object such as a toilet door handle or a wet towel, these incidences are extremely rare. 

Moreover, according to the website Verywellhealth, the chance of contracting HPV from using a toilet seat is very low. Nevertheless, maintaining cleanliness can help reduce the risk of contracting HPV from external objects.

There are various ways to prevent HPV infection, with one of the most effective methods being the HPV vaccine. Additionally, using condoms and/or dental dams every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex can also help reduce the risk of contracting HPV.

Also, there is a popular belief that putting cover paper on the toilet seat helps from acquiring other types of infections. However, medical experts believe this does not prevent germs from contacting your body, as microscopic bacteria and viruses can easily go through the holes in the seat cover’s paper. TechTimes

In fact, Raymond Martin, a director of the British Toilet Association, says that cover paper provides more space for germs to multiply. Hence the safest way for those who are very concerned about germ infections from public restrooms would be to wash their hands with soap and scrub for 20 seconds before rinsing them.

Follow us and stay up to date with our latest fact checks.

Facebook | Twitter |Instagram | Google News | TikTok


While concerns about contracting HPV from public restrooms may be understandable, the chances of it happening are extremely low. HPV is primarily transmitted through skin-to-skin sexual contact. The best ways to prevent HPV infection are safe sex practices, vaccination, and sexual health care with good personal hygiene in public restrooms.



Title:Can we get HPV from using public toilets?

By: Fact Crescendo Team 

Result: Explainer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *