Bathroom and Restroom Etiquette

Show good manners even in unmentionable places

Woman washing hands in bathrrom
  gradyreese / Getty Images

Have you ever been in a public restroom and witnessed other people doing things that are rude and unbecoming? Have you ever had to clean up after a guest who used and left a mess in your bathroom?

One of the least discussed etiquette topics is bathroom etiquette, but it's one that needs to be addressed. Whether you need to use the bathroom when visiting a friend or you're using a public restroom, follow these guidelines for good restroom manners. Knowing some basic etiquette rules will give you confidence that you are doing the right thing.

If you are the host or hostess of a party or just having friends over for drinks, check the bathroom before the guests arrive. Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper, soap, and hand towels. A spare roll of toilet paper on the shelf will come in handy if you're hosting a large group or even a few people for a long period.

Close the Door

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you'll be surprised by how many people don't bother closing the door all the way when they use the restroom. Close the door and make sure it clicks. If you are in a public facility, lock it. If someone accidentally walks in on you, not only will you be embarrassed, the other person will be red-faced as well.

Check First

In a public restroom, don't just push open a stall door. Someone may have missed the latch, or the lock might not work. Check under the door, and if you see feet, go to another stall or wait for the person to finish.

Avoid Chatter

Don't confuse the restroom with a conference room. It's not the place to chat about business or hold long personal discussions. Remember that there may be other people there, and they shouldn't be forced to listen to something they don't need to know.

Allow Personal Space

When you go into a restroom, don't crowd other people. Be respectful of the personal space of others. Men, unless the restroom is crowded, skip a urinal to prevent someone else from being uncomfortable. And never look at another man as he does his business.

Ignore Your Cell Phone

Don't chat on your cell phone while using the restroom. The person in the next stall over doesn't need to know the details of your personal life. And you certainly don't want the person on the other end of the line to have to listen to the loud flush. That's just rude.

Flush the Toilet and Cover the Evidence

Before you leave the restroom, make sure you flush the toilet. Stick around and check to see if everything has been whisked away. You don't need to leave something behind for the next person to deal with.

If you are in someone's home, you may need to flush more than once to reduce sounds or lingering smells. Use an overhead fan if one is available. Some people carry small containers of air fresheners for this purpose but remember that your host or other guests may have allergies.

Dispose of Personal Hygiene Products

Anything you use for personal hygiene needs to be wrapped and disposed of in a trash receptacle. Avoid flushing anything but toilet paper because it might clog the system.

Replace Supplies

If you use the last of the toilet paper, soap, or paper towels, show respect for the next person and replace it. However, if you don't see spare ones lying around, inform someone that this needs to be taken care of.

Wash Your Hands

Never leave a restroom without washing your hands. This is both an etiquette issue and a sanitary necessity. You can prevent the spread of germs by keeping your hands clean at all times.

Dry your hands after washing them. If you are in a person's home, reach for a hand towel rather than a bath towel. In a public restroom, you should have access to either paper towels or air dryers.

Clean up After Yourself

Leave the restroom or bathroom in as good of condition as you found it. This means that men should check the floor around the toilet and wipe up splatters. Both men and women need to check the toilet seat and make sure they are clean.

After washing your hands, avoid splashing water or soap all over the counter and mirror. If there is a paper towel available, wipe splatters around the sink.

Don't Hog the Mirrors

Ladies, it's fine and even expected for you to freshen your makeup in the restroom. However, if someone is waiting to wash her hands or use the mirror after you, don't dilly-dally. Do what you need to do and then get out of the way as quickly as possible. If there is a restroom attendant, thank the person and leave a tip to show your appreciation.

Report a Clog

Whether you caused the clog or someone before you did, make sure the host or office manager knows about it. It's much better to discreetly let the person know rather than have the problem get worse later.