Is it unsanitary to bring your coffee into the restroom?

Mareena Winchell

Some CSU students struggle with where to put their coffee cup when using the restroom due to an obvious lack of cup holders. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

You buy your cup of coffee in the library and start walking to your designated study spot, but then the dilemma occurs: you need to use the restroom.

There is hesitation. Do you bring your cup of coffee into the restroom, or do you place the coffee down and then go to the restroom?

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“This question always pops into my head; especially, the self-doubt I have about bringing a drink into the restroom,” said Mandy Lopez, a sophomore human development and family studies major. “I naturally bring the drink with me into the restroom, but there is always that little voice in my head that tells me not to bring it because of all the bacteria.”

Tanya Dewey, a professor at CSU who holds a doctorate in biology, said you can bring your drink into the restroom safely.

“We can’t spend our daily lives in anything resembling sterile conditions because there are bacteria, viruses and many other microorganisms all around us,” Dewey said. “Also, most of those microorganisms either don’t affect us or are beneficial. Not all bacteria are bad. Many beneficial bacteria live in, on and around us.” 

Keith Covarrubias, a junior studying English at CSU, said it’s more convenient to bring your drink into the restroom. 

“Maybe it is not the cleanliest option but it’s the option I give into,” Covarrubias said. “I know my drink is safe and not going to be stolen or tampered when I bring it in the restroom with me.” 

Some CSU students struggle with where to put their coffee cup when using the restroom due to an obvious lack of cup holders. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

Conversely, Kelley Toff, a freshman philosophy major at CSU, said she would never bring her drink into the restroom. 

“Even thinking about bringing in a drink into the restroom disgusts me,” Toff said. “A public restroom and a private restroom all share the same types of germs. Why would someone chance getting nasty bacteria in their system by bringing their drink into a restroom?”

Dewey said it is possible to pick up harmful bacteria by bringing a drink into the restroom but only if it comes in contact with a contaminated surface. 

“Although, the risk of getting harmful microbes from restrooms surfaces is overstated, that is where they will be found,” Dewey said. “(These) surfaces include water faucet handles, toilets, sink surfaces, etc.”

Bringing a drink into the restroom might not be the best choice, but Desiree McGee, a junior studying human development and family studies at CSU, said it is the safest choice. 

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“If I knew that I had to go to the restroom firstI would go to the restroom first and then buy coffee,” McGee said. “I definitely do not think about the bacteria that can get into my drink, but don’t get me wrong, I would never put my drink on the floor in the restroom. I usually stick to putting my (drink) on the toilet paper holder.”

Dewey said covering your drink minimizes potential for bacteria to get inside it. 

“Having a lid definitely makes it safer because there is a much smaller surface area through which microbes can get to your liquid,” Dewey said. “Also, hot drinks are less likely to be colonized by bacteria because the heat is likely to kill many bacteria. But lidded cold drinks can be fine too.”

Dewey said if you protect your drink successfully, you could walk out of the restroom bacteria-free. 

“If you can avoid placing your drink on surfaces and you effectively wash your own hands after contacting any surfaces, then you are unlikely to pick up any harmful microorganisms,” Dewey said. 

Collegian Reporter Mareena Winchell can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @mareenaaaa_.