Failure to close the toilet lid before flushing the contents could help “promote virus transmission” researchers have warned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Chinese team, from the Yangzhou University, have been looking at how germs might spread in fluids from the toilet bowl.

Together they have calculated that flushing with the lid up creates a plume of spray that comes out from the bottom of the bowl and can travel up to 3ft from ground level.

With the knowledge that COVID-19 can be spread via airborne droplets from coughs, sneezes, or objects that are contaminated with them, people are being advised to close the toilet lid before flushing as a precaution.

There has also been evidence of the virus found in the faeces of people who have tested positive for coronavirus, although no one yet knows if this is another way it can be transmitted.

The researchers said: “Toilets are a daily necessity but also become dangerous if used improperly, especially against the current scenario of a global pandemic.

“This paper may also enlighten toilet manufacturers and prompt them to produce better designed toilets in which the lid is automatically put down before flushing and cleaned before and after flushing.”

They say their findings suggest that people should improve their toilet hygiene. As well as closing the lid before flushing, the team recommend toilet users should clean the seat before sitting down and wash hands carefully after using the loo.

Dr Bryan Bzdek, from the Bristol Aerosol Research Centre at the University of Bristol, said although there was no link between COVID-19 spread and toilet flushing, he agreed with the recommendations.

He said: “While this study is unable to demonstrate that these measures will reduce transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, many other viruses are transmitted though the faecal-oral route, so these are good hygiene practices to have anyway.”

The findings have been published in the Physics of Fluids.

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