Bathroom Etiquette: 13 Do’s and Don’ts

Bathroom Etiquette
When using public bathrooms, clean up after yourself, and don’t waste others’ time by hogging the sinks and stalls. Keep noise and unnecessary chat to a minimum, allowing people a moment of peace if required. Don’t be wasteful - don’t flush multiple times unless required, and be sparing with toilet paper and paper towels. 

1. Privacy and Personal Space

Respect the privacy of those also using the bathroom while using public washrooms. There are a few easy steps to achieve this. If a stall is unlocked but with the door closed, always knock before opening it, just in case someone is in there and forgot to lock the door behind them.

In the men’s bathroom, if there are open urinals away from other people, try to stick to them rather than getting up close to other people. However, remember that the bathrooms are there for everyone, and sometimes that won’t always be possible – if you want more space in a busy restroom, wait for the stalls instead.

2. Keep the Bathroom Clean and Tidy

Just as you would in any public space, proper bathroom etiquette states that you should leave the bathroom clean and tidy for the next person to use it. To maintain proper bathroom hygiene, you should always:

  • Flush and use the toilet brush if available
  • Wipe down the toilet seat for any splashes
  • Wipe down the counter and sink
  • Throw away any paper towels

3. Toilet Paper and Flush

man holding toilet paper in bathroom
Man holding toilet paper in bathroom

When using the toilet, make sure not to use unnecessary amounts of toilet paper. Not only is this bad for the planet, but it can clog up the toilet and also raises the possibility that the toilet paper will run out and leave somebody caught short (a good tip to avoid this happening to you is always to check the toilet paper dispenser before you sit down!).

A simple and important rule for restroom etiquette is to always flush after using the toilet. Nobody wants to enter a stall to find a used toilet with somebody else’s waste sitting in it!

Remember that only toilet paper should be flushed down the toilets. Feminine hygiene products, paper towels, and napkins can clog up the pipes.

4. Handwashing and Drying

man washing hands in public bathroom
Man washing hands in public bathroom

Always wash your hands for at least twenty seconds after using the restroom. This is especially important in the post-pandemic age – washing your hands properly kills off any lingering germs you might have picked up, keeping everybody safe and hygienic. You can also use hand sanitizer after soap for even better personal hygiene.

An important etiquette rule is to dry your hands properly after washing them. This can be done using paper towels or air dryers. Leaving the bathroom with wet hands or drying them on your clothes can come across as rude or unhygienic.

5. Respect Others’ Time

Remember that, just like the locker room, bathroom is not a place to socialize. That isn’t to say everybody should be deathly silent during their bathroom experiences, but more that it’s bad toilet etiquette to keep somebody waiting because you’re chatting with co-workers or nattering on the cell phone.

This is especially true for the use of sinks. Most public restrooms have limited sink space, so if you and a friend are hogging two while gossiping and touching up your hair, it can cause delays for the people around you.

6. Don’t Leave Personal Belongings

Not only is it unsafe for you – there is a good chance your items might be taken. It is also rude to take up counter space and make the bathroom messy by leaving your things around in a public area.

7. Don’t Lock Others Out

Some bathrooms in workspaces consist of a single stall with a door, outside of which there is a room with a sink, mirror, and air dryer. If this is the case, lock the stall but don’t lock the door to the bathroom area itself. Someone might want to come in and wash their hands or grab a paper towel, and it’s rude to hog the whole space to yourself.

8. Leave the Bathroom as You Found it

Always make sure to leave a public bathroom in the same condition you found it. Clean up after yourself, dispose of your trash, and generally be respectful to others who will use the bathroom after you.

9. Respect Different Abilities

Never use an accessible stall unless you actually need it. They are specifically designed to be accessible to those with different abilities, and it can cause distress and delays if able people use them unnecessarily.

Mistakes happen, and if you do accidentally use the accessible stall and keep someone waiting, politely apologize. There are usually door signs on the bathroom doors, so watch out for those to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

10. Don’t Be Loud

Remember that public bathrooms should be private, restful spaces for all to use, so it’s important to avoid making unnecessary noise. Avoid slamming doors, shouting, or playing loud music while in public restrooms.

11. Mind Your Smells

Bathrooms are smelly places, but we can all help by watching our own smells. If an air freshener is provided, use it after having a poop.

It’s not just toilet smells you must watch out for – spraying deodorant, perfume, or cologne in public bathrooms can be very unpleasant for those around you and should be avoided.

12. Should You Courtesy Flush?

A courtesy flush is the act of flushing halfway through a toilet sitting and is supposed to reduce the smells created. Though it can be moderately effective, flushing twice is a huge waste of water and so should be avoided.

13. Don’t Be A Hero

Public bathrooms are used so much more than private ones that they need regular checking and maintenance. So, if you face any maintenance issues in the bathroom, report them to the maintenance staff or janitor. NEVER attempt to fix an issue yourself – you might make it worse!

What is the best course of action when a man enters the women’s restroom?

Simply apologize, turn around, and exit the restroom without making a scene. It is a mistake we have all made, and nobody will hold it against you if you quickly rectify the error.

Jack Fairey

Jack is a writer based in west London, England. He is a keen traveler, and has a particular interest in the fascinating differences in etiquette across the world. When not writing, he can be found dreaming up his next trip to far off places.

Recent Posts