How Dirty Toilet Water Really Is

In 2017, the onetime hunting ground of Jack the Ripper experienced constipation on an epic scale. As the BBC describes, a gargantuan fatberg blocked a sewer in Whitechapel, London. This moist nightmare consisted of congealed fat, nappies, condoms, wet wipes, oil, and other disgustingness that people flushed down their toilets and poured down their sinks. Tipping the scales at roughly 143 tons (130 metric tons), the fatberg weighed almost as much as a blue whale. It measured an enormous 820 feet (250 meters) long, making it longer than London's Tower Bridge.

According to the Guardian, the Museum of London preserved chunks of the fatberg and live-streamed them. The pieces reeked of unclean toilets, and curators claimed the pieces hatched flies, changed color, and grew "an unusual toxic mould in the form of visible yellow pustules." One of the chunks on display had a chocolate wrapper sticking out of it, providing a nauseating reminder of the items people inappropriately flush down toilets. 

New York City certainly needs that reminder. CBS says that in 2017, the Big Apple removed 50,000 tons of fatberg debris. Obviously, the water that helps birth fatbergs is swimming with the cumulative filth of countless people. But the bowl-emptying woosh in your own home might also be spraying you with liquid icky.

Toilet water is un-bowl-ievably gross

As Today details, the average person flushes their toilet five times in a day, and every time they do without closing the lid, they're releasing a toilet plume into their bathroom. Don't be fooled by the light and feathery sound of the name. A toilet plume is a bacterial mist that may "linger for up to six hours," coating surfaces with E. coli and germs living in your vomit, excrement, or other fluids you flush. There may even be fungus in your feces, turning your toilet plume into a mushroom cloud.

Modern toilets are designed to reduce toilet plumes, and you're unlikely to fall ill from the germs they emit. But you certainly don't want invisible vomit and poop particles landing on your toothbrush. You're better off flushing with the lid down, so the water doesn't blow up in your face.