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February 2018

To flush or not to flush? Is that the question?

Written by Peta Florus
Cleanliness and Hygiene

The shortage of potable water has been highlighted during the recent months especially in the Cape region with many households retrofitting their toilet cisterns to use non-potable water. Greywater from washing machines, bath or shower water, or collected rainwater is used to fill toilets and for doing other household chores and gardening.

And for some there is that burning question ...

Is it ok to adopt the “selective flushing” policy; “If it’s yellow, let it mellow”  or as they say in the Caribbean “In the land of sun and fun, we do not flush for No. 1” ?

So how does this affect you in the workplace?


Urine is about 95% water, and depending on what you may have consumed recently it may contain traces of your last margarita or the medication you’ve been taking.  But besides this it also contains urea, uric acid, ammonia, hormones, dead blood cells, proteins, salts and minerals, and of course toxins - because this is how our bodies get rid of toxins. And although most of us have heard that “urine is sterile and it’s even safe enough to drink” ick … please don’t, unless you are stuck in the wild with Bear Grylls and there is no other source of safe drinking water to stay alive. And, if you ever get stung by a jellyfish and your bestie wants to pee on you, say “no thanks”, warm water will do!

So let’s think about this flushing phenomenon. We’ve all heard of the ‘sneeze effect’ and ‘splashback’? Flushing the toilet (without lowering the lid) actually encourages germs to become airborne and contaminate the surfaces around the bathroom. So then selective flushing is not such a bad thing after all, right? With regular cleaning of your toilet there shouldn’t be any kind of uric acid build-up which is the main cause of bad odours or an accumulation of bacteria.

Public or office bathrooms, because of the high traffic volumes are more prone to and can harbour some real ‘bad boys’ including the likes of streptococcus, staphylococcus, escherichia coli (E. coli) and shigella bacteria, hepatitis A virus and the common cold virus. UTI  Infections like cystisis (infection of the bladder) are quite common and can be contracted from germs spread in bathrooms.

Germs are everywhere and whatever you are doing in your home or office environment, flushing or not flushing, the spread of these germs can easily be prevented by adopting simple hygienic practices like handwashing using soap and water or a waterless gel or foam cleanser, if you’d prefer.

So no more opening the door with your elbow and flushing the toilet with your foot, it’s all ok … just make sure you sanitise your hands after using the facility.

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Peta Florus

Peta Florus

Peta is the Marketing Analyst at Rentokil Initial and has over the years been exposed to all aspects of both the hygiene and pest businesses, sometimes in too much gruesome detail. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences by adding a humorous twist to her blogs while subtly creating awareness around the benefits of good hygiene, and inspiring people to take up the hygiene challenge and combat germs and pests at home and in the workplace. You can find Peta on Linkedin.

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