Public Toilet Etiquette – The Do-dos and Definitely Don’ts

Ellie Wright gives it to readers straight: this is the guide to looking after public toilets, for those that unfortunately haven't yet mastered the art!

My biggest fear as I’ve grown older has become public toilets. The toilets in school were bad enough, with lumps of wet tissue paper rolled into a ball and throw up at the ceiling, and the congestion of 20 girls cramming to do their make-up by the sink whilst others were trying to wash their hands. Or even the horrific state of nightclub toilets, the extra layer of vomit is a serious contender, but half the time being too drunk to actually process this. Maybe, that’s subconsciously why I get so drunk… knowing I’ll avoid using the toilets for the whole night otherwise.

Call me a “drama queen” if you like; realistically I would never expect toilets to be glamourous, sparkling clean with the smell of Dettol hanging in the air. Since effectively, what we are using the toilets for is not at all glamourous. But for that particular reason itself, consider whether you personally are guilt-free when it comes to ensuring public toilets are being used, not abused. Quite frankly, I don’t care – or want to know how you treat your own toilet at home – that’s private information, and also inappropriate. But public toilets are not just yours… so please let me guide you on the Dos and the Don’ts.

  1. Only use as much toilet paper as strictly necessary.

This does NOT mean unravelling metres worth of toilet paper, not only to block the toilet itself, but to carpet the floor with too. Is it necessary? Imagine being the person who steps into the public sphere with toilet paper stuck to their shoe for the rest of the day – all your doing. Or, perhaps that’s your aim… is it?

As well as this, think of the next toilet user who faces the dilemma of just having the toilet roll to equip themselves with, and not the actual toilet paper… yeah. Not nice.

  1. Report Broken or Blocked Toilets.

Because if you don’t report them, everyone else will carrying on having the exact same problem as you. Quite simple, really.

  1. AIM. (Where you are supposed to.)

Does any more need to be said? Boys – I can understand, or at least try to understand your difficulty. But Girls – no excuse, even if you “squat” using public toilets: always complete a quick “check” because the user after you does not deserve to clean up your business. Moment of consideration: other people have to sit on that seat too you know!

  1. Always flush, and flush and if in doubt…flush again!

Please. Your business – is your business. The only exception to this is the anxiety when you know there is a queue of people outside waiting to use the toilet after you, but the toilet is refusing to cooperate – 3 attempts seems like more than enough. Besides, everyone outside can hear your continued failed attempts. If so, refer to my advice for number 2. I have no advice for avoiding embarrassment – perhaps warn the next toilet user? Or, is that more embarrassing than keeping quiet?

This is a shout-out to the Ladies – if anyone has an issue with mother nature and its occurrence in public toilets, I suggest you stop reading.

  1. Sanitary towels and tampons Vs. Toilet.

The fact there are signs up on every toilet door in the ladies stating (in capitals): “PLEASE DO NOT PUT SANITARY TOWELS AND TAMPONS IN THE TOILET.” amazes me. You people are smart and old enough to be studying at university, so why haven’t you learnt that this blocks the toilet? Just take a moment to think of the poor soul that has to unblock the damage you’ve done…yeah. Think about that. And use the bin available in every cubicle. Please, I challenge you to give me one valid reason why you wouldn’t.

Sidenote: under no circumstance should the next toilet user know you are on your period. Enough said.

These are my main fears when using public toilets – please, lets work together to not only make public toilets a stress-free experience, but also develop a healthy relationship with the cleaners -where they do not think all students are monsters – at least when it comes to our bodily functions!

Ellie Wright

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Featured image courtesy of ‘bob walker’ via Flickr. Image licence found here.


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