The Five Second Rule


How many times have you dropped something on the floor that you were just about to put in your mouth? A particularly nice piece of chocolate on the kitchen floor, maybe the last potato chip on the TV room floor, or stick of gum somewhere near your feet, on the floor mat in your car.

There are some guidelines when it comes to this. Personally, if I dropped any of the above items in a public place, for any period of time, it goes in the garbage. At home though, the rules are a bit different, a little more vague. It might even depend on who’s watching.

I did a little research, very little is available on the subject… except for Wikipedia.

In folklore, the five-second rule states that food dropped on the ground will not be significantly contaminated with bacteria if it is picked up within five seconds of being dropped. Some may earnestly believe this assertion, whereas most people employ the rule as an amusing social fiction that allows them to eat a dropped piece of food, despite the potential reservations of their peers.

This morning, while getting myself ready for work, I reached for my toothbrush and knocked it to the floor. Now this is no kitchen or TV room floor. We are talking about a bathroom floor and lots of things go on in there. I love that toothbrush, it’s only a couple weeks old, barely broken in and I didn’t have a spare.

The Five Second Rule had not been broken by the time I picked it up.

I took a really good look at it, no stray hairs, toe nails or any of that other stuff you usually find on a bathroom floor, could be seen. I washed it thoroughly. Hot water first, then a bit of cold for shock value. Dried it off, applied the toothpaste and got down to business.

Problem is, I can’t get it out of my mind.

I remembered an old Mythbusters episode called Fecal Matter on Toothbrush. Reading the short description of the show kind of makes it OK but sort of makes it not OK at the same time.

I better go buy a new toothbrush, Five Second Rule be damned.



  1. Your hangout over dropping the toothbrush on the bathroom floor is Western social condition. I saw a show a few years ago about how far this goes. On this show, a bartender bought a brand new toilet brush, unused and in the packaging. He opened it in front of the customers. Explained it was brand new. He used it to stir his cocktails. Very few of his customers would drink the cocktails. Just the association with the toilet was enough to turn people off.

  2. I saw that Mythbusters episode as well. It was interesting but I wish I never watched it. I think about it every time I pick up my toothbrush. That episode told me one thing that I try to keep in mind–the human body is more resilient than we give it credit for.

    1. Agreed, some things should never be televised. You’re right about the resilience though, don’t think my toothbrush has made me sick.

      For the record, I forgot to buy a new toothbrush, still using the same one.

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