Aaron Widmar
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7 Ways to Stay Clean at Gross Highway Rest Stops

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How to avoid germs at filthy highway rest areas

Public restroom at Kuromaru Parking Area along Meishin Expressway in Japan
Public restroom at Kuromaru Parking Area along Meishin Expressway in Japan
Photo: Yuya Tamai via Flickr/CC 2.0

There’s nothing better than spending the time in the car traveling the highways and byways of America on a cross-country road trip … and there are few things worse than having your journey interrupted by the call of nature at an unexpected time.

As convenient as they are (and necessary to stretch one’s legs), highway rest stops are notoriously filthy, but sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and pull over. If highway rest areas gross you out, here are some ways to use the facilities while staying clean and reducing contact with germs.

Note: Keeping public restrooms clean is a difficult and thankless job; we at The News Wheel are grateful for those who do their best to keep these wastelands manageable.

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Watch where you step

Upon exiting your vehicle and heading to the building entrance, you’re bound to come across a pile of poo left by a family dog that wandered outside the designated canine potty zone. You certainly don’t want that on your shoe. You also don’t want to step in any gum or trash scattered on the floor, so keep your wits about you.

Avoid smokers

The parking lot and standing area around the building can be filled with people who are taking smoke breaks. Sidestep any perpetrators so you don’t wind up covered in a cloud of second-hand smoke.

Don’t touch the doors

Whether entering the building or exiting the restroom afterward, you don’t want to come in contact with the germ-covered door handles that everyone else touched. Grab a napkin from your car on your way in and use it as a makeshift glove.

Use toilet seat covers

Newer restrooms offer disposable toilet seat covers; make sure you take advantage of them. If you’re concerned that there might not be ones available at the rest stop, purchase a pack beforehand and keep it in your car’s trunk to bring with you.

Don’t set anything on the floor

Self-explanatory advice. Don’t carry anything in your arms that you’ll need to set on the stall floor. Similarly, keep your pants from dropping completely to the floor and soaking up substances on the tiles.

Use paper towels

To dry your hands, avoid using the hot air blowers that stir up all the germs that have settled on the floor around you. Let sleeping germs lie and opt for a paper towel instead, bringing your own if necessary. Or, let your hands air-dry outside by shaking them off.

Avoid the vending machines

If you’re feeling peckish, stop at a fast-food drive-thru at a nearby highway exit. Don’t go putting your digits all over the vending machine digits that have been tarnished by who-knows-what.

Remember to sanitize your hands after returning to your car and avoid touching your face during your pit stop. Following these guidelines can help reduce the chance of you getting sick while on your road trip.