Flushing Out The Truth: Toilet Myths You Shouldn't Believe

Posted on: 29 August 2014

If you enjoy sharing interesting bits of trivia to entertain your friends and family, you are going to love these little-known truths about toilets. This list dispels commonly believed myths and offers a few tips for avoiding germs in public bathrooms.

Myth: Sir Thomas Crapper Invented the flush toilet.

Nearly everyone believes this myth, but it simply isn't so, explains Snopes. Although he was a British plumber who knew his way around a toilet, the modern flush toilet predates Thomas Crapper.

  • Thomas Crapper began his career in plumbing at the age of 14.
  • By the time he was 25 he owned his own plumbing business in London.
  • Thomas Crapper was never knighted and did not carry the honor of Sir.
  • He received nine patents, three of which were for improvements to the modern flush toilet.
  • The first patent for the flushing toilet was issued to Alexander Cummings in 1775, nearly 60 years before Thomas Crapper was born.

Myth: The direction of the swirl of water when you flush the toilet depends on whether you live in the northern or southern hemisphere.

If you believed this myth, you are not alone. Many people readily believe this story assuming the rotation of the earth and the Coriolis Effect (the curved path of moving objects caused by the rotation of the earth) is responsible for the direction of the swirl of water in the toilet. According to the myth, water in northern hemisphere swirls counterclockwise while water in the southern hemisphere swirls clockwise as it flows down a drain.

  • The water in your toilet is too small a body to be effected by the Coriolis Effect.
  • Flaws in the drain, or its shape, can cause the water to swirl in one direction.
  • Residual movement in the water in your toilet can influence the direction of the swirl when you flush the toilet.
  • It can take up to 24 hours for all residual water movements to cease, explains Scientific American.

Myth: You can get stuck to the toilet on airplane if you flush it while seated.

This one is so popular that news sources have inadvertently published reports as fact and later retracted the stories. According to the legend, remaining seated while flushing the toilet on an airplane creates a suction so strong you will be stuck to the seat for hours. Although there is a kernel of truth to this myth, it really doesn't work that way.

  • In order to create suction your bottom would need to form an airtight seal with the seat. This isn't likely to happen.
  • In the event that you did form an airtight seal with the seat, the suction would be released as soon as the toilet finishes flushing.
  • Flushing the toilet while seated may give you an unpleasant surprise, but it will not immobilize you or cement you to the toilet, says Smarter Travel.

Myth: Toilet seats are teeming with germs.

As logical as it seems, this really isn't true. The toilet seat has far fewer germs than you might imagine.

  • Your hands have more germs than the toilet seat.
  • Bathroom floors have 200 million bacteria per square inch making the bathroom floor the germiest area in a bathroom, reports This Old Toilet.
  • Toilet seats contain less than 1,000 bacteria per square inch, qualifying the toilet seat as a sanitary surface, says This Old Toilet.
  • The first bathroom stall in public bathrooms is often the cleanest and contains fewer germs, as many people tend to avoid the first stall.
  • Flush the toilet in public bathrooms with your foot to avoid contaminating your hands with germs.
  • Leave the stall quickly, as germs disperse into the air as the water leaves the drain.

The next time the conversation turns to bathroom talk and the inevitable myths arise, you won't need to call in a professional budget plumbing & rooter worker because you will be armed with bits of trivia that will likely surprise your friends.