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Public Toilet Etiquette in 10 Easy Steps

“Why would a blog on fashion and etiquette even mention toilets?” I hear you ask with raised eyebrows. Well, first of all, 2020 will go down in history as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and personal hygiene has never been more important. Secondly, it is in the most awkward places and situations that true gentlemen stand out.

So follow our loo commandments and spread good manners, rather than germs:

How to remain a gentleman in the restroom

1. Join the queue
Due to the ecumenical nature of the matter at hand, office hierarchy does not apply to toilet queues so it’s first come, first served. However, in an emergency, apologise and ask for permission to go first. Reasonable people will oblige because no one wants to witness the consequences of refusing.

2. Don’t be a chatterbox
Toilets are not made for long conversations either in person or on the phone. Besides, no one wants to see you waving a mobile with a high-tech camera when they’re about to drop their pants. Go in, do your business, get out.

3. The urinal question
Most men instinctively do this anyway but, just to reiterate, you should always leave an empty urinal in between if you have the option and, if you are lucky enough to choose from a row of urinals, take the one at the very end.

4. Is the cubicle free or taken?
You are not at home so lock the door, unless you don’t mind your boss walking in. If you are the one looking for an empty cubicle, knock before trying to force open a closed door. On your way out, leave the cubicle door ajar to indicate it’s not occupied.

5. Bookworm
Toilets are full of germs so avoid taking along reading materials, your laptop or mobile. Besides, they may distract you and hold up the line. If you have to carry a bag, and especially if you leave it on the floor, make sure it then stays off kitchen benches and tables.

6. Gone with the flow
Leave the toilet in as decent a state as possible. Flush and wait to see if you need to flush again or use the toilet brush. If you don’t want to touch either, use some toilet paper but not your foot. Finally, take a look around to see whether there’s a spill on the floor or toilet seat and clean it up.

7. It’s a big world out there
Travellers will come across different sewage disposal systems and a gentleman will observe relevant signs and adapt. E.g. if you see a sign advising you not to flush toilet paper, simply use the bin and, if you find that you are expected to wash rather than wipe, try it out!

8. Houston, we have a problem
Let someone know if the soap or toilet paper runs out or if the toilet is clogged. It can be awkward, especially if they think you are the culprit, but it’s the decent thing to do and being a gentleman is all about doing what’s right even when it’s not easy.

9. If you’re happy and you know it
Wash your hands. For 20 seconds. While singing Happy Birthday. Ok, that last one is optional but it does add a sense of occasion. Seriously though, handwashing is a public health superweapon.

10. The answer to everything
Popular culture would have you think that people still argue over the toilet seat but actually there is nothing to discuss: Lift to pee, put back down when you finish, regardless of whether you share the toilet with women or not. End of story.

Using the toilet is one of those things we do repeatedly throughout the day, with very little thought. This is why it’s important to remember that good manners start at home and kids should be encouraged to adopt polite habits early. If you have more burning questions on etiquette, sign up to our newsletter and get in touch to tell us what you’d like us to cover next. Now wash your hands.