Monday, September 24, 2012

Manners Monday: Bathroom Behavior

I hope everyone had an awesome weekend and is doing great! I feel like it's been forever since I've blogged. Most of you know I was away for 2 weeks visiting family and friends back home in Toronto, it was SO needed. Everything from re-connecting with some of the most important people in my life to getting to see how their children are growing up to taking in the first signs of fall were what I had been hoping for. I even got to meet a dear friend's first baby-a 7-week old baby girl named Savannah. She is such a doll! Since I was staying in her home for 10 days of my trip I got to see her and hold her often which was so great. I was so ready to blog once I got back home but then unfortunately was hit with a flu bug almost immediately-probably the result of recycled plane air. ;) After 4 days of feeling blah and a day trip to the beach, I'm feeling better-it's mostly thanks to a natural homeopathic flu remedy that I swear by so now I'm back in the blogging game again. ;)

Both leaving for my trip and in the airport waiting to catch my flight back to Florida, I encountered two interesting bathroom situations. I have been meaning to write about bathroom etiquette for a while but this trip just sealed the deal. It is clear to me more than ever that some people have a real disrespect when it comes to the public restroom environment. So, that is why it's the topic for today's Manners Monday post.

There are some simple considerations that if we all follow them will make things better for everyone involved. Here is a list in no particular order of things to be mindful of while in a bathroom whether it be your own home, while visiting in another's house or a in pubic restroom.

10 Rules for Better Bathroom Behavior

1. Privacy. Shut & Lock the bathroom door-even if you're at home, I can assure you that your family members don't want to see what you're doing in there. Strangers most definitely don't want to catch you in the act.

2. Get in & Get out-Often times in a public washroom there is a line. It is important to try to be as quick as you can out of consideration for others. Even when you are out of the stall and need to wash your hands it's good to wash and dry your hands quickly and do a momentary mirror check and move on. It's not the time to pull out a bunch of cosmetics for touch-ups when you have people trying to get past and wash their hands in a confined space, it will only annoy others.

3. No Smoking-On my first flight I popped into the closest restroom to wash my hands one last time before boarding the plane. I could barely breathe, someone before me had smoked a cigarette in the bathroom, if you can believe it! The whole area reeked of stale smoke and for someone allergic to cigarette smoke, I got out of their as fast as I could and found another one. That is probably one of the most disrespectful (not to mention illegal) things that one can do and a public space.

4.Wrap it up-When it comes to feminine products, be sure to wrap everything up properly with either the wrapper from a new product or toilet paper and ensure it went completely into the receptacle. There's nothing worse than entering a stall and finding used products lying on the floor or stuck to the disposal container itself. (I'm sorry that I even have to include this here but I keep seeing it in public washrooms so obviously some women out there need to hear this one more time or maybe for the first time-hopefully they'll somehow stumble upon this post.) Next to this would be to ensure even the clean wrappers from such products themselves are placed in the trash and don't get left on the floor if they've fallen.

5. Flush! When I was working at the airport, I can't tell you how many times I discovered stalls where people hadn't flushed and I always wondered what's so hard about flushing a toilet? This is in a tidy and diligent airport that gets cleaned properly by the hour! If you don't want to touch the button or lever in a public bathroom for fear that others have used their shoe-use your own shoe to flush (most people do and touching the handle would be super germy anyway).

6. No Cell Phone Zone-I will never understand why people want to talk to others while they're on the toilet and with the sound of flushing toilets in the background among other sounds. I would be not only disgusted but disturbed at why a friend felt the need to call me during such a time. The phone call can wait 3 mins! Even texting or touching your phone at all in a bathroom (especially a public one) is just a recipe for disaster, it is one of the dirtiest and germ-filled places and now those germs will be on your phone touching your face.

7. Reading Material-Some people enjoy bringing reading material in bathrooms for longer visits. If you're at work or in a public restroom, avoid doing this. It just signals to others that you will be in there for a while-giving them a clue as to what you'll be doing. It's just awkward for everyone.

8. Leave it as Clean as you Found it- In our own homes, we want to leave things as neat and clean as possible and there's no reason why the same rules should apply when we are in another's home or in a public restroom. If you dropped toilet paper, pick it up with a clean piece off the floor and dispose of it properly, the same holds true for paper towels. If you like to dry you hands and use the towel on the door handle so you don't have to touch it, if there's no garbage bin beside the door, take it with you outside and find a trash bin elsewhere, the floor is not a dumping ground for used paper towels. It goes without saying that any sprinkles on the toilet seat created by you should be cleaned up with toilet paper. A good way to avoid this is to line the seat with toilet paper or a seat liner so you can sit and are not hovering and making a mess.

9. Handicap Stalls- It's always best to leave a handicap stall available just in case someone comes in and needs to use it. However, especially if you are in an airport and have a big carry on bag and a lot of stuff, or need to change your clothes, squeezing into a tiny stall is sometimes not an option. I'm a private person and when I used to work at the airport I would use this stall everyday after lunch so I could floss and brush my teeth since our company did not have its own individual bathroom. I was quick about it though as to not take up that stall. Thankfully out of the whole 8.5 months that I worked there, only one time did someone in a wheelchair need the stall that I was in, and I was very quick to say I'd be right out. I notice it's also a popular one for mothers with more than one child, especially when they have a large stroller to maneuver.

10. No Bathing in Public Restrooms-This might seem like an obvious point but you'd be surprised at the amount of people that do this to some extent and in general what they choose to use the sinks for. About 4 years ago when I was still a member at Bally's fitness, I saw a women dying her hair in the sink of the women's change room. (I'm guess she didn't want to fuss with the cleanup in her own home?). On my way out of the gym that day, I let the front desk know about it. I was told that they did know about it and that it's become a problem. Literally 2 weeks later there was a plaque up on the wall near the sinks that said 'no dying of hair in sinks'.

While preparing for my flight back home to Florida, I popped into the restroom to brush my teeth after eating a meal. I was horrified at what I saw upon stepping up to the sink- by the way this restroom had handicap stalls without sinks so I was forced into the common area. ;) I watched a woman washing her face then making snorting noises (cleaning her sinuses?) but what followed was shocking to say the least. The woman was older and wearing a long dress that appeared to be a particular type of cultural attire. She took off her shoe and whipped her foot above the counter and into the sink!! All the while, I'm looking for my toothbrush in my toiletry bag and looking up thinking 'oh, no you did not just do that?!'

She followed by washing the other foot and drying off with paper towels and putting her shoes back on. Just as I located my toothpaste and started to zip up my carry-on bag she walked over to me and asked if I had any lotion. I could see where this was going and since my body lotion with a pump top was in my checked luggage and the only thing packed in my carry-on bag was a pot of face cream that is not for sharing, I simply said, "I'm sorry, I don't". She proceeded to tell me that her face got really dry from the plane air. I'm not sure if this woman had ever traveled before or just didn't understand the importance of packing travel size necessities in her carry-on bag or handbag along with not bathing in the bathroom.

One last thought...out of politeness, if another woman in a stall next to you didn't look first to see if there was toilet paper and she asks you, be kind enough to hand her a wad of it vs. a couple squares. She might need more and may be too embarrassed to ask for it. :)

I'm sure there are hundreds more that could be listed here, but these are the ones that stood out in my mind or those which I see happen frequently.

What's the weirdest or most shocking thing that you've come across in a public washroom? Leave a comment and share with us!



  1. The woman washing her feet was most likely Muslim. They wash their feet before they pray. This is just one of many examples of how what is considered rude in one culture is perfectly normal in another! :)

    1. That makes perfect sense now. Given her attire and the fabric piece that she covered her face with when she left I had thought that she probably was but didn't want to assume. I did not know that they wash their feet before prayer. Thank you for opening my eyes to this! :)

    2. I understand that foot washing is part of the Muslim religion, but could they not do it in a more sanitary way that shows respect for the people around them? Perhaps washing their feet with a pre-soaked towelette or something similar instead of sticking a foot into a public restroom sink?

    3. I agree with you! I always carry a small package of unscented baby wipes when traveling to clean my hands on the plane after a snack or somewhere that I've been that's germy. Those would make much more sense for traveling in the privacy of a bathroom stall. I think that is the part that I didn't understand. Every culture does things differently but when passing through another country or doing rituals in the country you live in that is not your original country, it's important to be mindful and respectful of others around you who may be disgusted or offended.

    4. I'm not disagreeing with either of you that there may be a better way to clean one's feet, but it's possible that the woman wasn't familiar with our culture and genuinely had no idea that her behavior was offending others. If you plopped me down in a foreign country right now, it would be very likely that I would inadvertently do something considered strange or offensive to them just by going about my day as normal. I would just hate for people to assume the worst about this woman when she may have simply not had any idea.

    5. Thank you Anonymous! Because she spoke perfect English I just assumed that she was from North America but one must never assume. I appreciate your gracious attitude towards this woman and you are right, culturally speaking most of us would likely offend others with our basic everyday day-to-day habits. While I have worked with several Muslims and do know certain parts of their rituals such as taking off their watch before praying as to not focus on time and pray at certain times of the day, this was new for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. :)

  2. The weirdest bathroom thing I've ever seen was, on a trip down to Texas, there was a sign above the toilet that said, "Please do not flush toilet paper. Throw it in the trash can to your right". There seriously was a trash can filled with yellow/brown stained toilet paper. It was the nastiest thing ever. Needless to say, I disregarded the sign and flushed my toilet paper down the toilet.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Maria. I have seen this before both in other states but most often in other, older countries. Usually they do this because the plumbing is old or the toilet is real low flush and they don't want plumbing issues. It's the same reason why feminine products aren't supposed to go down the toilet. I'm with you-it does gross me out to see the trash can filled nearby. lol.

  3. Great Post!! it is amazing what people feel comfortable doing in public washrooms... When I traveled for work a lot... I once was in line waiting for a vacant stall ... when I noticed a couple of women in line in front of me with small bowls filled with water. I didn't think much about it.

    As I waited ..they came out and then went about emptying the bowls into the sink and setting them down on the counter upside down* while they washed their hands. It wasn't until they walked out that the a lady right in front of me comment a the portable bidet.

    * emptied not rinsed or dried - just upside down on the counter.

    That was the strangest thing for me.

    1. Hmmm, I've never heard of that before. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Im a muslim and having said so, I feel horrified to see fellow ladies washing their feets in public bathrooms (hotels, airports). First, the islam says, that if there is no water available, muslim can wash up with dust before prayer. Meaning, literally dust, sand, wet napkins, dry napkins. Second, some people are just not considerate of other cultures and people. No generalization, just particular example from the post.


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