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Bathroom & Toilet Etiquette

Updated April 17, 2017

Not every bathroom experience is a pleasant one. There are always those people who never flush, use the last of the toilet paper without replacing it or engage in awkward bathroom conversations. However, by brushing up on your bathroom etiquette, you can improve the experience for yourself and others.

Your Home Bathroom

If you live alone, the only time you need to worry about etiquette is when you have guests over. However, most people do not live alone and should be courteous to the others.

For starters, close the door. Your spouse may not mind it, but your roommates or other family members will. Second, put the toilet seat down after you finish. Inspect the toilet after using it and clean up anything that was left behind after flushing.

Remember to use the fan. People don’t want to walk into a stinky bathroom. If the fan isn’t enough, consider investing in an automatic air freshener dispenser.

Finally, it’s polite to replace the toilet paper roll if you used the last of it. Make sure your bathroom always has hand soap, and wash your hands every time.

Using Someone Else's Bathroom

The same rules apply when you’re a guest in someone’s home as when you are in your own home: Put the toilet seat down, use the fan, clean up and wash your hands.

Be sure to use designated hand towels after washing your hands. No one wants to share a bath towel with you. If the host did not provide hand towels, consider using Kleenex. A little air drying never hurt anyone either.

When showering in someone else's bathroom, toiletries such as shampoo and conditioner are fair game. Just be mindful of leaving hair on the walls or soap. Do not use another person's razor, though, and bring your own deodorant and toothbrush.

Workplace Bathroom

Never conduct business in the bathroom. You will be distracted at best, and it can lead to awkward moments. If your boss tries to strike up a conversation in the bathroom, be polite but keep it short. Do not linger and chat.

If you happen to be the boss, don’t be “the boss” in the bathroom. Do not cut in line, and do not take all the time in the world if there is a line. You do not have special privileges in the bathroom.

Remember to flush frequently to avoid the embarrassment of stinking up the entire bathroom. Always wash your hands afterward.

Public Bathrooms for Men

Urinals often cause sticky bathroom situations. When there are only two urinals and one is taken, do not use the other. This is against man code. Instead, wash your hands or casually mess with your hair in the mirror until both urinals are open.

Three urinals are even trickier. If all three urinals are open, do not use the middle one. By taking up the middle urinal, you are preventing the next man his right to use the rest room in isolation. Even if both the right and left urinals are taken, you shouldn't use the middle. Delay as described above, and avoid resorting to a stall. Someone may actually need that privacy.

With four or more urinals, do not be wasteful by using every third toilet. Leave a gap between each person.

Additionally, men are to never speak to each other in the bathroom. They may grunt, nod or comment on the game, but conversations are not allowed.

Public Bathrooms for Women

Going to the bathroom in groups is more than acceptable for women and so is conversing. When one of your friends talks to you between the stalls, consider the topic before you engage. Do other people want to hear what you both have to say, or is it something that is better said in private?

Never flush feminine products. Place them in the designated trash can in the stall. If there isn't one, wrap them up and throw them away in the bathroom outside of the stalls. Be sure to keep courtesy flushes in mind for smell. Wash your hands after using, and do not take up the mirror when other people need the sinks.

General Public Bathroom Tips

Do not leave toilet paper on the floor. Always wipe the seat after using. When you are entering a bathroom and someone is exiting at the same time, let the other person leave first.

When you get stuck with those one-person bathrooms, knock before entering. Some people knock continuously. Maintain politeness and continue your business. However, don’t take up the bathroom just to do your hair and make-up. This person may be desperate.

If there are unflushed remains in the one-person bathroom, flush before using, no matter how disgusting it looks. Then be courteous to others and flush before you leave.

Never talk on the phone while in the bathroom. It is awkward, and people do not want to listen to anything toilet related on the other end of the phone.

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About the Author

Jessica Huff is a college student working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast journalism. In her spare time, she began writing professionally in 2009 in order to further her career as a young journalist. So far, Huff has written a variety informative articles for eHow on topics such as holidays, gift ideas and social etiquette.