Ever come across this in Japan?
Numerous visitors to Japan have been dumbfounded by this phenomena. As it turns out, the culture of toilet paper folding started out for good reason. Hotel cleaning staff would fold the first sheet of toilet paper into a triangle, indicating that the toilet had been cleaned. The triangulated toilet paper informs and reassures guests that cleaning staff were present, and had cleaned and sanitised the room.
Oh, the Japanese are so
The act of folding the first sheet of toilet paper spread across the country. In Japan, one can find folded toilet paper even in a McDonalds toilet or subway station rest stop. Hotels started doing it a little fancier, whipping out their origami handbooks.
Folding toilet paper into a triangle is so prevalent that an elderly Japanese gentleman invented an automated toilet paper folding machine called “Meruboa”. With the push of a lever, Meruboa will fold the first sheet of toilet paper into a perfect triangle.
This invention is being embraced, amidst concerns that such a practice is unhygienic, as toilet users will fold the triangle with their hands after using the toilet paper, prior to exiting the toilet stall. This means that the next sheet of toilet paper will be contaminated by the previous user’s unclean hands. Unfortunately, the toilet paper’s surface is perfect for collecting bacteria. Germs settle right into the paper.
Public washrooms and bacteria
The toilet paper roll is not the only possible source of bacteria. One study found a total of 19 different bacterial groups on surfaces in a typical public restroom. Germs get spread all around the stall when we flush the toilet. They latch onto the walls, the door handle, the toilet paper dispenser, and, of course, the actual toilet paper.
There are numerous types of bacteria that can be found in restrooms, including both familiar and unfamiliar suspects like streptococcus, staphylococcus, E. coli and shigella bacteria, hepatitis A virus, the common cold virus, and various sexually transmitted organisms. Most feared is the Vibrio cholera, which is found in human faeces and causes over 100,000 deaths a year.
Know that there are in fact many everyday items that contain even more bacteria than the toilet seat, such as your phone or the kitchen cutting board. With a healthy immune system acting as the first line of defence, we do not easily contract diseases in public restrooms, and we can withstand bacteria in our daily environment.
Also, before you become overly anxious, realise that you will have to come into contact with a large number of bacteria before actually contracting the disease.
And not all bacteria are harmful. In fact, trillions of bacteria surround us every day. Some we are very familiar with, as they are found in the food we love to eat – kimchi, beer, bread, for example.
Still, adopt hygienic measures such as hand washing, and you might want to think about investing in carrying your own baby wipes or hand sanitiser. These little things can help you avoid catching any harmful bacteria.