In reference to this

For once and for all, the argument is NOT about the toilet “seat” being left up or down, it’s the “lid” of the toilet that the argument is all about!!!!

In 1975, Charles Gerba published a scientific article describing the phenomenon of bacterial and viral aerosols due to toilet flushing. It states, every time a toilet is flushed, an aerosol plume of contaminated water droplets is ejected into the air and lands on everything in the bathroom, including you, your toilet paper, clean towels & toothbrush! During the study, gauze pads were placed around the experimental bathroom and close-up photos of the germy ejecta taken that looked like “Baghdad at night during an air attack.” The study showed that significant quantities of contaminated bacteria & virus filled microbes of urine and fecal matter floated around the bathroom and for at least “two hours” after each flush.

So guys, pleeeease, just CLOSE THE LID!


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It’s an interesting paper but I think it clearly disregards the second toilet seat found on the majority of household toilets. I believe that instead of the one toilet seat down norm that for the non-cooperative instance both seats should be left down. I don’t have the math background to provide you with the proper gaming analysis. It seems to me that it provides an equal opportunity for lifting the seats to both parties involved. I think lifting two seats is an easy a task as lifting one. So in every instance of use a seat is lifted. It also gives both parties the opportunity to chastise the other in the case of the seats not being returned to the down position as opposed to just the male party getting chastised.


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This analysis focuses entirely on the costs of moving the seat from one position to another, and thus is seriously flawed. It leaves out other important costs and risks related to leaving the *lid*, as opposed to the seat up. And of course, if one must raise the lid, the marginal cost of additionally raising the seat also is very small.

Since males, despite all their mothers’ training, seem unable to imagine the risks of leaving the lid up, here are a few:

1) The household five-year-old drops any number of items into the toilet

2) The household five-year-old drops any number of items into the toilet and flushes it

3) The household adults drop an item into the toilet.
– From sad experience, this could be a valuable piece of jewelry
– It could be something large enough to plug up the toilet.
– It could be something small enough to pass through the toilet drain, but block up the small spot where the main sewer line has collapsed but time and distance from the drains has heretofore allowed drainage.

4) Research has shown that the aerosol created by flushing contains a large number of viruses and bacteria. Closing the lid before flushing largely blocks this aerosol. See here and, for a lighter view, see here.

It is entirely possible that the inclusions of these additional costs would show that leaving the seat and lid down increase social welfare, decrease total cost of operation, or both. Unfortunately, these costs depend on probability of occurrence and would require actual data on the risks rather than pure logic.


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Another important consideration in whether to keep a toilet seat up or down is whether or not you have pets who might suffer negative consequences if the seat is left up. In my case I have parrots who can fly into the water and drown, and a dog who could drink the water and become ill if there are residual chemicals from cleaning or if the water is of poor quality. For me it’s easy – the toilet seat stays down…..


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I had a male acquaintance who saw no problem in urinating from the standing position while the seat was down. When queried, he expressed no hesitation to sit on a toilet seat he had sprinkled. There’s always some freak to ruin the game.



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The article on toilet seat norms and the calculated “cost” on both genders of leaving them in various states (Hammad Siddiqi) was entertaining and very insightful. Being male myself, I particularly appreciated that scolding was taken into account. However, the article makes no mention of the third party of opinion. No, not alternative orientation or gender, but the cross-section of both males and females that simply don’t care one way or the other for such nonsense and don’t understand or perpetuate this quirky social feud. There are two schools of reason within this third demographic.

The first says that it shouldn’t matter what position the fudpucking seat is left in. It’s just a seat. We’re humans, really really smart primates, relatively speaking. We build bridges, blast holes through mountains, alter coastlines, and have yet to find anything that we aren’t willing to invest time and effort to stick our collective noses in. The majority of our entertainment culture consists of ways to waste time and run around, and the industry behind the curtain busts its ass to ensure that we continue just that. Since when are we such pansies that we can’t take the fraction of a second to flip a toilet seat? Also, injury, old age, and odd scenarios aside, who lacks the foresight to get to the bathroom in their own home with sufficient time to prevent accidents? Has a seat flip ever been so critical a time factor that it was the straw that broke fortune’s back for you or anyone you know?

This policy of “who gives a shit” embraces anarchy for its tendency to diminish expectations and assumptions, that is, where those expectations may easily segue to disappointment or frustration. If you’re entering a situation with no worries, that’s what you’ll get. This means: 1, take no offense from any configuration you find; it’s all chance. 2, make no offense by intentionally leaving a configuration other than you normally would, not that it would make any difference anyway because nobody would take it as such (see 1).

Following these, one would approach, reconfigure if needed, perform their function, and leave it in whichever position. This seems to me to be the best way to reduce the number of times the seat itself is changed, for those who care about durability, and is also the easiest on both genders. The most number of steps either would incur is one, “reconfigure if needed”.

The second school is a more sanitary extension of the first, requiring the addition of a step. If it doesn’t matter what position the seat is in before use, then perhaps nobody will mind if a default of “closed” is adopted. When not in active use, close the toilet, both seat and lid. That’s why it has one! That so few seem to use lids as designed is probably the biggest oversight of the whole debate.

The “closed default” policy is utilitarian, with sanitation, safety, and common sense above momentary inconvenience. Either gender has exactly two steps added: Open to use, close when done. Whether you’re lifting the whole seat or just the lid, it’s just one motion, and certainly the most even result. Lids keep things out that should be. Pets and children come to mind. “European” flushers (if it’s yellow, let it mellow) probably don’t like to leave their savings in plain view. If you are one though, and you do, please stop. And the next time you have to fish a set of keys or your contacts out of the bowl, or you slip on wet tile and inadvertently shove your arm into it while trying to break the fall, consider this policy.



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There is another cost of keeping the toilet seat down, which has not been well considered by the author. The issue occurs if John is older, with mild benign prostatic disease or other condition that forces him to go to the bathroom for #1 during the night. Experience shows that in this case the light in the bedroom and bathroom is usually off and John is unwilling to open the light and create a situation in which it is more difficult to get back to sleep afterwards. Indeed, he may be performing the whole operation with his eyes closed or at least partially closed. He then gets into the bathroom and knows by experience where the toilet is and can in general locate himself reasonably close, perhaps by the touch of the toilet on his legs, but it is dark, he does not want to put on the light and he has no idea whether the seat is up or down. In fact, by now, he is in urgent need of performing #1, and likely doesn’t care. If the toilet seat is up and his aim is reasonable then no problem. But if the toilet seat is down and his aim is only in the general direction, then there is a strong likelihood that this will result in #1 on the toilet seat. This can create even more yelling by Marsha when she comes to use the toilet and finds the seat down, but with #1 on it. So this adds a complexity to the problem and my totally intuitive analysis is that it is better to keep the toilet seat up and endure moderate yelling than keep the toilet seat down and endure significant yelling.


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I noted a possibly large omission in the above paper. As a result of leaving the toilet seat in the open position, the protective cover of the toilet cannot be closed. This leaves both parties open to the disastrous possibility of knocking toiletry items into the toilet. One possible outcome is documented in Seinfeld Episode 150, The Pothole. This open hazard creates a dangerous environment in the bathroom, and is the very reason I champion the lowering of all protective covers on the toilet bowl at all possible times.

I expect this would alter your calculation significantly.

See also http://www.stanthecaddy.com/seinfeld-episode-guide/ for more information.



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Thanks for an interesting economic analysis, but I can only assume the article had no input from women because it misses the most important cost.

That is, from a female user’s perspective, if the toilet seat is unpredictably in the up position, there is a small but real chance that she will not notice and will simply sit, assuming that the seat is down – with catastrophic results including a cold, wet bottom and the need for a shower. Call this chance “F” in honor of the profanities it usually inspires. Chance “F” is likely to be higher if the female user has been habituated to a single use toilet – for, when she is the only one using it, she can assume that the seat is always down, and doesn’t need to pay attention. Chance “F” is also higher in the middle of the night, when the female user is likely to a) be groggy b) not bother to turn the light on. When chance “F” happens in the middle of the night to a groggy female user, the catastrophic results are even more catastrophic.

Therefore, in the example given in the article, it is not accurate to measure Marsha’s costs under strategy J by px1/2xC. There is an additional cost – the catastrophic chance “F” with cost C(F).

Therefore, Marsha’s costs would be: px(1-F)x1/2xC + pxFx1/2xC(F).

Female consensus is that C(F) is so high compared to C as to be almost infinite for practical purposes, therefore the optimal toilet use strategy is obvious from either a utilitarian or a game-theoretic perspective: “Just put the bloody seat down!”


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