Using public restrooms might not seem like rocket science, but the moment you step into that bathroom, there’s a code of etiquette to follow. It’s all about not giving anyone the cringe-worthy vibes, especially when they’re handling their business. Unfortunately, quite a few people haven’t quite grasped bathroom manners.

Public restrooms are essential facilities that serve a crucial purpose in our daily lives. However, maintaining proper etiquette in these shared spaces is essential for the comfort and well-being of everyone who uses them. Understanding what not to do in a public restroom can go a long way in ensuring a positive experience for all.

Cracking the Code: Public Restroom Etiquette

Certain unwritten public restroom guidelines are universal among most people. Take, for example, the unspoken agreement not to choose a stall right next to an occupied one in a multiple-stall restroom. It might sound a tad extreme, but there’s something oddly unsettling about sharing such limited privacy with a complete stranger. Another rule of thumb is to steer clear of using the handicapped stall unless it’s meant for you. You never know when someone might genuinely need it, and finding yourself on the receiving end of that awkward situation is far from ideal.

Furthermore, if your goal is to keep the public restroom experience as unawkward as possible, avoid using your phone while in there. For some people, it can come across as unsettling when you’re waiting in line in front of someone who’s busy scrolling through their phone. Especially in today’s era of oversharing on social media and the inexplicable urge that some people have to document every moment.

Occasionally, public restrooms can present some strange situations. So, before you head into the bathroom, here are nine tips on public restroom etiquette. And, of course, how to avoid those awkward situations.

  • Skip the complicated stuff

    man with shaving cream on beard, with one hand on razor.

    Sakkawokkie/ Getty Images

    Feel free to touch up your makeup or give your teeth a quick brush. But skip the complex routines like flossing, clipping your nails, or shaving. Keep phone calls at bay, and save emails and browsing for later. Remember, public bathrooms are riskier for hygiene. According to Health, a health and lifestyle website, illnesses like COVID-19, flu, and colds can be found on surfaces. So, minimize your time there for safety’s sake.

  • No touchy, touchy

    Two men shaking hands in the hallway of data center

    Wavebreakmedia/ Getty Images

    If you spot someone you know, a nod is perfectly okay. No need to shake hands! In fact, CNN reported that only 5% of people who used the bathroom washed their hands long enough to kill the germs that can cause infections. It’s risky to assume otherwise. No one needs to guess where your hands were. Wet handshakes are bad, worse if it’s mystery liquid.

  • Stall chats and gossip

    While in a public restroom, female passes male a broken cigarette as a campaign against smoking.

    basslinegfx/ Getty Images

    Avoid engaging in conversations between stalls or near urinals. This holds particularly true within the office environment, where you can’t be certain if a colleague or supervisor is in the adjacent stall, potentially overhearing any complaints or gossip you share. A Redditor shared their frustration on the discussion board saying that talking in stalls should only be for, “Can you pass me some toilet paper? This ones out” or “Crap. Do you have a tampon?”

  • Hold off on phone conversations

    Cropped shot of an man sitting on the toilet in a bathroom suffering from stomach cramps and calling medical assistance on phone

    Cunaplus_M.Faba/ Getty Images

    Staying connected is great, thanks to our trusty smartphones always being by our side. But let’s not take them to the bathroom. Besides the germs, it can get awkward. The person on your call hears bathroom noises and flushes. The nearby stall occupant gets only half the conversation, making the shared bathroom uncomfortable.

  • Welcoming yourself in without knocking

    Passenger knocking on lavatory door on airplane

    Jupiterimages/ Getty Images

    You’re eyeing a solo bathroom, uncertain if it’s taken. Start with a knock on the door. No response? Next, put your hand on the doorknob and carefully turn it to one side. Did it open? If not, odds are someone’s inside, so hold on. No need to shake the handle like you’ve never met a doorknob. That’s a surefire method to give the person inside a shock. And just in case the person in the restroom forgot to lock the door, at least all your bases are covered.

  • Don't flush with your feet

    A person flushing a toilet on a washroom.

    Marvin Samuel Tolentino Pineda/ Getty Images

    There are some people who think they’re maintaining hygiene by flushing toilets with their feet. In reality, this is one of the least hygienic actions. Shoes aren’t clean, particularly after navigating a public restroom, exposing them to unclean surfaces. This transfers germs where others touch. If you’re concerned about germs, consider using a piece of toilet paper to operate the flush handle.

  • "Be a sweetie and wipe the seatie"

    White toilet bowl in a bathroom. Close up of hand cleaning on toilet. Overhead view.

    eggeeggjiew/ Getty Images

    Tidy up after use. This rule covers all areas of the restroom. After you’re done, take a look at the seat and floor, and clean as needed. To put it simply, be considerate and give your seat a wipe. This also pertains to the sink. While soap is clean, leaving a large blob under the dispenser isn’t polite behavior.

  • Stall hogger

    unhappy redhead female posing in restroom on toilet bowl

    dikushin/ Getty Images

    According to Geisinger, a health organization, studies indicate the average time spent in the restroom is about 12 seconds. Occasionally, it might take longer, but it’s generally recommended not to exceed 10 minutes. So, if you find yourself scrolling through Instagram and Facebook during your bathroom time, you may want to reconsider. Keep in mind that others may be waiting their turn, and lingering around the restroom door isn’t the most comfortable scenario. On the other hand, if the restroom is occupied, it’s courteous to step away and return later. It’s unnecessary to wait outside the door, which could potentially be embarrassing for the occupant. However, if waiting is not feasible, forming a line is an acceptable option.

  • Don't peak through the stall gaps

    Flush toilet in Public three rooms toilet and open door

    ananaline/ Getty Images

    Making stall doors with a gap has benefits. If the door went all the way down, people couldn’t see if someone needed help. The gap helps in emergencies and lets responders assist without breaking in. Also, the gap can stop actions like sex or drug use, in stalls. But don’t make things weird by staring at people through them. That’s just uncomfortable.

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