Public Toilet Etiquette 101

Public toilets are either a tranquil oasis or your worst nightmare. There is no in-between, and much of this is down to how people behave and treat these spaces. In fact, the public toilet could be clean and modern, but if others aren’t displaying the same levels of public toilet etiquette, the entire atmosphere and experience can be hellish. 

But you may have recently found yourself on the receiving end of some passive-aggressive stares and disgruntled frowns. Other users will make it known if you’re not behaving appropriately in a public restroom. So, following the unspoken etiquette rules is the best way to avoid these awkward encounters and create a welcoming environment for everyone in the public toilet. 

To help you, we are speaking these rules into existence so you know the biggest etiquette do’s and don’t’s in the bathroom. 

What is Etiquette?

Before diving into our top ten public toilet etiquette rules, let’s ensure everyone is on the same page. After all, if you do not currently possess good public toilet etiquette, you’re likely unaware of what it is or means. 

Etiquette is a set of rules and behaviours you should follow in polite company. It is the unspoken and socially accepted normal behaviour adopted by anyone entering a certain space or situation. For example, some public etiquette may differ to suit the given environment, like the different societal expectations between being in a cemetery or a restaurant. 

To put it simply, etiquette is the code of polite behaviour in society. Of course, a space as vulnerable as a public restroom comes with its own set of rules regarding public toilet etiquette. 

10 Rules for Public Toilet Etiquette 

Are you ready to be a shining example of the very best way to behave in a public toilet? Of course, you are! To help you curb your bad habits when using a public restroom, follow our top ten rules to ensure no one runs screaming when they see you enter this public space. 

1. Be Patient

There is no worse discovery than entering a public restroom lined with closed doors when you’re really desperate to do your business. But even still, you must be patient! Every public toilet cubicle has a sign on the handle or lock that marks it as either available or engaged. If you’re unsure, gently try the handle, but if the door doesn’t budge, leave it alone! 

Shaking or jiggling a cubicle door handle to try and get inside is a big no and will leave you red-faced when the occupier eventually comes out. There is no magic way to get whoever is currently using the toilets to hurry up, so be patient and considerate while you wait your turn. 

2. Leave Conversations at the Door 

A public restroom is a silent sanctuary, so do not go inside and disturb the peace. This means you should leave all conversations at the door, whether you’re on the phone or with a friend. No one doing their business wants to hear all about yours. If you really must spill all the juicy gossip while in the bathroom, ensure you’re filling everyone in on the details! 

If you go into the bathroom with a friend, avoid talking through the stalls, as this is awkward for everyone involved. You should also keep your mobile phone away if you care about germs and your health. 

3. Put the Seat Down 

You should always leave the cubicle as you found it, as you want to keep it clean and organised for the next person to use. This includes putting the toilet seat down when you’re finished! For many people, this is a squeamish subject as they don’t want to touch the toilet seat to close it. But did you know that leaving it up when you flush opens you up to a far greater spread of germs? 

You should always close the toilet lid before flushing to prevent the aerosol plume of bacteria from spreading. Plus, don’t forget you’re washing your hands directly after leaving the cubicle anyway! 

4. Avoid Neighbour Stalls 

Space may not be an issue for you, but public toilet etiquette includes being mindful of others’ personal boundaries. This means that, where possible, you should always leave a stall gap between you and whoever else may be in the restroom. For example, if the first stall is occupied, you should skip the second stall and choose the third. 

This includes urinals in men’s bathrooms! Urinal etiquette could be a whole guide on its own, but having a buffer between occupants is the most important thing you need to remember. Always choose an end urinal if you’re the first to the urinals. This allows the next occupant to use the urinal on the other end with a safe distance between you both. There should always be at least one unused urinal acting as a buffer between each one in use. If you enter the bathroom and there is not enough space for you to be able to do this, then it’s time to use a stall! 

5. Keep it in the Bowl 

This one should go without saying, but there are a concerning number of people who will leave splashes of urine in the washroom. It's stereotypically on the floor for men and for women on the toilet seat. Wherever you may leave a mess, be considerate and clean up after yourself! It may be an unpleasant couple of seconds, but it's nothing compared to the disgust for whoever uses the facilities after you!

6. Wash Your Hands 

One lesson we can take away from the global pandemic is the importance of washing your hands! When the restroom is busy, it can be tempting to vacate as fast as possible, but you face far greater scrutiny if you leave the space without so much as applying hand gel. 

A typical public restroom will always have an equal number of sinks as there are cubicles, so there is no excuse to ditch a good hand wash. If you’re particular about gems, feel free to wash your hands before and after using the restroom. Just don’t hog the facilities! 

7. Don’t Shake Dry 

Following washing your hands, take time to dry them properly. Shaking your hands dry in a public toilet is the quickest way to upset those around you. If you’re leaving the door handle wet or shaking water droplets on those around you, avoid this awkward interaction by seeking an available hand dryer or towels. 

8. Check for Feet

When entering a public toilet, it can be tempting to slam into the first stall if you’re desperate to use the facilities. But you should always be calm, considerate and conscious in any public setting, especially the washroom. Before barging into a cubicle, cast your eye around the room and look out for any feet in occupied stalls. If you see none, then congratulations. You’re free to hum, sing, and talk to yourself as long as you like. But if feet are under a stall, you can save yourself from the mortifying mistake of barging in on a cubicle that hasn’t been locked properly!

9. Don’t Hog the Cubicle 

You may have experienced being stuck in a long line for the bathroom, desperately crossing your legs and jiggling up and down to stave off an accident. It’s happened to the best of us. This is why you must be considerate of your and everyone else’s time in a public toilet. Don’t make the mistake of pulling out your phone to browse; before you know it, you’re twenty minutes in, and a line is growing. Public toilet etiquette means being swift in the cubicle in busy locations so everyone can use the facilities as quickly as possible. 

10. Speak Up About a Blocked Toilet 

Finally, don’t be shy to speak up if you have left a blockage in the toilet! It’s not a reflection on yourself. Public washrooms see a lot of use and abuse, so a toilet is inevitably going to get clogged every now and then. The wrong thing to do is simply leave it for someone else to sort out. Even if you are embarrassed, seek out an attendant and let them know that ‘someone’ has blocked the cubicle. You don’t have to name and shame yourself as long as it gets fixed! 

Keeping Public Toilets a Safe Space 

Using the toilet is second nature and something we do so much, whether out in public or in private, that we don’t tend to give it a second thought. But this is when standards slip, and this is your reminder to always to be considerate and polite of others sharing the space. Whether you’re using the communal toilets in the office or quickly dipping into the restroom of a leisure facility while out and about, follow our tips for public toilet etiquette to maintain a calm space. 

If you’re concerned your public or commercial washroom is not up to standard, contact our expert team today. At Woosh, we are a trusted washroom servicing partner able to help you maintain your facilities for a modern and clean space. 


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