Viral TikTok Warns People To Examine Toilet Paper In Public Restrooms For A Startling Reason

Using public restrooms can be uncomfortable, what with having to think twice about squatting over a public toilet and more. When social media adds something else to be worried about, things can start to look bleak. That's exactly what happened when a TikToker, who goes by the name Dane Jones, shared a disturbing video about drug users who could be cleaning used needles on toilet paper rolls. 

Cautioning viewers who see pin-prick-like splotches of blood on public restroom toilet paper rolls to "get out as fast as possible," the user goes on to explain how these blood marks got there: "If you look closely, you will see a bunch of tiny red blood splotches. That is not from someone's bloody nose or a little accident. It's from someone cleaning their needles — dirty needles, to be exact." 

The user claims that someone else using this contaminated toilet paper could put themselves at risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B from just letting "one tiny drop of blood" enter their system. Jones adds that it's sad to see public restrooms being used this way, and then inserts some statistics (it's unclear where they're from) about how often someone can get infected by exposing themselves to dirty needles. While the video was startling in its allegations and has garnered a viral response of over 800,000 likes and 50,000 shares, this isn't the first time a claim of this nature has been made on social media. A similar social media post caused a stir in 2019, per Talking Drugs.

Could there be truth to these claims?

Since the 2023 post went viral, another TikTok account which belongs to Harm Reduction Services — a California-based nonprofit organization that does health advocacy work and HIV/HCV/STI testing — has taken to the platform to "debunk" this claim.

"We are a harm reduction organization that distributes 2.5 million sterile syringes every year," shared the individual from Harm Reduction Services in the post. Calling viral videos like the ones Jones posted "harmful," the user talked about how wiping needles on solid surfaces like toilet paper rolls doesn't make sense practically. 

"On a practical level, this is ridiculous. Needles dull very quickly, and using dull needles is not only harmful to your health but also incredibly painful. Nobody is going to try to clean needles by sticking them in something solid," shared the nonprofit organization. "If someone is cleaning needles to reuse them ... they're going to do it with a liquid, like a bleach solution, so it doesn't dull the tip," added the user. Urban legend fact-checking site Snopes reported that a Washington State Department of Health spokesperson said something similar. "This practice seems extremely unlikely because the tip of the needle could break off if one tried to stab it through a toilet paper roll ... Logically it would be much easier to wipe off the tip with some toilet paper rather than stabbing it through the roll," the official told Snopes.

Should you be worried about this viral TikTok claim?

While some concerned individuals and organizations are speaking out against spreading messages of this nature because it could end up demonizing drug users and allow the general public to treat them badly, Ontario Police cautioned public restroom users of a similar scare in 2019 (via The Argus Observer). 

Responding to a series of concerns about potentially spreading blood-borne diseases through dirty injections that litter public restrooms, Ontario Police Lt. Jason Cooper shared that it is possible that some drug users clean dirty needles "by puncturing the needle into a roll of toilet paper, leaving blood, bodily fluids, etc. embedded into the toilet paper roll." 

Whether or not these viral TikTok claims have any truth to them, it might be good to take a look at some statistics. While you may already know to never go barefoot in a public shower, it's a little more difficult to avoid using a restroom when you're at the mall and just need to go. Should you be carrying your own toilet paper rolls with you in that case?

If you're concerned, you're better off not using the toilet paper

While there is no specific data related to blood splotches in toilet paper, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that a person has a 1 in 160 chance of contracting HIV if they were to share a needle that was used by someone who has HIV. Furthermore, per Healthline, HIV is very fragile once it reaches an outside environment, and unless there are very specific conditions with temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors that could keep the virus active for longer, it is unlikely that you can contract HIV from sitting on a toilet seat. Syringes are a different story, however. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV can remain active in a used syringe for up to 42 days if conditions are favorable. 

The hepatitis virus, on the other hand, is a lot more hardy, so to speak. Per the World Health Organization, it can survive outside of the body for an entire week and can cause infection if it enters the body of someone who isn't vaccinated.

All this to say, perhaps the lesson with such viral TikTok videos is to be more aware of your surroundings. Look at the toilet paper you're about to use when you're at a public restroom. Does it look questionable? Then don't use it. As for carrying a toilet paper roll with you, that habit never hurts, either. You never know when some toilet paper will come in handy.