10 ways you never knew you were using the toilet wrong

You sit too long…
Ever spent so long on the toilet that your housemates ask if you've fallen in? We get it. It’s quiet in the bathroom. You can actually lock the door and sit uninterrupted with a magazine, book or, more likely, a smartphone. But you really need to find another spot for a little “me time.” Sitting perched in that position too long puts extra stress on the veins in the lowest part of your rectum; if those veins swell or bulge, it’s “hello, haemorrhoids.” In many cases haemorrhoids usually clear up within a week, but in the meantime, can be itchy, uncomfortable, and are the most common cause of rectal bleeding.

If you see any bright red spots on your stool or toilet paper after you wipe, talk to your doctor to make sure the bleeding isn’t a symptom of colon cancer or another serious condition. He or she may also suggest over-the-counter creams or ointments to treat persistent and painful haemorrhoids.

Here's another reason to keep your smartphone on the other side of the toilet door... check out this feature on just how dirty your phone screen really is.

…and push too hard
Straining and holding your breath to get stubborn stool out not only ups the pressure on the veins down there, boosting your risk of haemorrhoids, but may also lead to anal fissures. These tiny tears in the tissue that lines your butt hole can occur when you force out large and hard, constipated poo. To help keep stool soft for an easier exit, up your fibre intake, drink plenty of fluids, and stay active (regular physical activity increases muscle activity in your intestines). And to perhaps ease the need to strain, try squatting for a few seconds: that position naturally aligns the intestinal tract in a way that may help move things along with less effort.

Head here to find out more about controlling constipation. 

You don’t peek at your poo
Well of course it’s gross, but seeing what comes out can hint at what’s happening on your insides. Soft, smooth, and sausage-shaped stool is a sign of good gastrointestinal health; soft blobs with clear-cut edges are fine too. But if your deposits are hard and lumpy, you may need to up your fibre and fluid intake. Poo that exits like pee, on the other hand, could be caused by a mild case of food poisoning or food intolerance, an infection or signal more serious conditions, such as Crohn’s or coeliac disease. Floaters are most often due to poor absorption of nutrients or too much gas in your digestive tract; pencil-thin bowel movements could indicate colon cancer. Keep an eye on the contents of your bowl, and talk to your doctor if you notice bright red or jet-black stool (a sign of bleeding), as well as any big and persistent changes to your bowel movements.  

You ignore stinky pee
That’s fine if your last meal consisted of asparagus: during digestion, certain acids in these green stalks are broken down into sulfurous, smelly, airborne compounds that waft up when you pee (that’s why asparagus makes your urine smell). Other foods and medications, including certain vitamins, have a similar effect. But if the smell is strong and foul (and your urine is dark and cloudy), it could signal a urinary tract infection; other conditions, such as bladder infections, liver disease, poorly controlled diabetes or certain metabolic disorders can also change urine odour. And if your pee smells like ammonia, and it's colour concentrated, it can mean your body is low on fluids. Check out these great tips on how to cope with an overactive bladder.

You’re big on bleach
On its own, it’s fine: add ¼ cup into the toilet bowl and let it sit for a few minutes to disinfect before you clean. But if bleach is mixed with ammonia, toxic gases called choloramine are created, which can cause coughing, wheezing, nausea, or watery eyes; or at higher concentrations lead to chest pain, wheezing, or pneumonia. Using it in tandem with certain toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners, and even plain old vinegar is no better: the combination of chlorine bleach and acid gives off a toxic chlorine gas that can cause burning eyes and breathing problems in small amounts, and be fatal at high levels. Here are more tips on how to clean the most popular room in the house. 

You “polish” down there
It’s really a thing, and it could leave you with an itchy butt. Aggressive wiping or overzealous cleaning with harsh soaps, lotions, and scented wipes can irritate the skin between your cheeks, causing an intense itch and resulting in a condition sometimes referred to as “polished anus syndrome,” according to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. You want to clean well after you do your business – any leftovers can also make you itch later; but there’s no need to scrub, or use scented or coloured toilet paper, for that matter. Just wipe gently with plain toilet paper, and in the shower, wash with mild soap.

You still douche
A healthy vagina has good and bad bacteria, and the balance between the two maintains an acidic environment that helps protect it from infections and irritation. So when you insist on flushing it out with some prepackaged mixture of fluids or homemade concoction, it can disrupt the normal pH levels, increasing the risk of irritation, itching, and infection. Douching can also make an existing vaginal infection worse, by pushing the bacteria and infection up into the uterus and other reproductive organs. Your body’s got the cleanliness of your inside vag handled – without any extra help from a squeeze bottle. When you bathe, wash your front as you would your rear: warm water and mild soap. 

You toss in wet wipes
Many claim to be sewer and septic safe, but tests conducted by Consumer Reports showed otherwise: some personal cleansing wipes didn’t break down in water after 10 minutes, compared to regular toilet paper that disintegrated into tiny bits in a few seconds. Some other toiletries that don’t belong in the toilet: dental floss, band-aids, sanitary napkins, tampons, and condoms. Head here to find out how to fix a faulty flush cistern. 

You flush, lid up
Not only can that can send a spray of toilet ick flying into the air, but the particles can be propelled as far as 180cm away from the swirling bowl, according to research by germ expert Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. Feel free to take a quick survey of your bathroom stuff within those limits; then implement your new lid-down rule (and store that toothbrush inside the medicine cabinet, just in case). 

Your toilet paper hangs “under”
It may be time to consider this century-old debate put to rest: Journalist Owen Williams tweeted a picture of the first toilet paper patent, and the 1891 drawing shows the toilet paper hanging over – not under – the roll. Still not convinced? Head here for more on the great toilet paper debate.

This article appeared on Reader's Digest.