Office Washrooms Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts

woman wash their hands.

Regarding workplace washroom etiquette, what’s acceptable behaviour in your office washrooms?

Research from the UN organised “World Toilet Day” states that:

“Disease transmission at work, mostly caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices, causes 17% of all workplace deaths (International Labour Organization (ILO) 2003)”

But here’s the problem:

Office washroom etiquette is not just about keeping the office washrooms clean. You may even have a managed washroom service such as Fresh & Clean. As they ensure your washrooms remain clean, pleasant, and safe throughout the day…

Your employees ought to follow the golden rules of washroom etiquette while visiting the washrooms.

Look at it this way:

If every employee does what they feel like in the washroom without following proper manners, then the toilets can quickly turn into nasty deplorable rooms that everyone in the office loathes visiting.

Don’t you think it would be helpful if everyone at your workplace was equipped a list of Washroom Do’s and Don’ts?

Let’s lay bare the washroom Do’s and Don’ts and restore order in your office bathrooms once and for all.

Office Washroom Do’s for Men

Leave a Gap Between Urinals

If you get into the washroom and there is someone at the urinal, leave a gap between you and them by skipping the urinal next to him.

Better still, use the furthest urinal from him.

The only exception to this bathroom etiquette while at the urinal is:

  • If it’s an emergency
  • There is no other space left

Put the Toilet Seat Down After Use. Flush with the Lid Down

If you are a realistic man, you will admit that when peeing, aiming can be imperfect. Therefore, it makes sense to lift the toilet seat before you pee. It saves you from wiping up once you’re done.

But, do you put the seat back down afterwards? One researcher concluded that the toilet seat should remain up.

But, frankly, you should put the toilet seat down every single time. And for good reasons:

It’s sanitary: It makes sense to put the toilet seat and lid down when you flush the toilet. Failure to do so allows germs from the toilet to spread into the air.

These germs will settle on nearby surfaces. And as a result, increase the risk of viruses transmitting to you and your colleagues who use the washrooms.

It looks less nasty. Toilets are always kind of gross. When the toilet seat and lid are down, you’re spared the visual reminder of pee and anything else that’s under the toilet.

Use the Urinal for Number One. Anything Else Use the Toilet

Use the urinal for number one. Anything else, you have to go inside the stall and use the toilet. Don’t forget to flush with the toilet lid down.

If you are visiting a new office, use these expressions to ask where the toilet is located.

“Where is the bathroom?”
“Can you tell me where the restroom is?
“Where is the lavatory?”
“Which way is the washroom?”
“I need to use the toilet, where can I find it?
“Can you point me to the WC?”

Still, want to learn some more toilet vocabulary and phrases? Watch this video.

Office Washroom Don’ts for Men

Don’t Take Reading Material to the Washrooms

Reading in the washroom when you attend to the call of nature: filthy habit or blameless bliss?

You may find the bathroom to be perfect solitude for uninterrupted reading. But the truth is: reading in the toilet is bad for you.

Don’t carry the newspaper when going to use the bathroom.

You may even be tempted to carry your phone and catch up on social media and personal emails but don’t fall for it.

On one hand, your workmates also need to use the toilet. So, finish relieving yourself as quickly as possible and get back to work.

On the other hand, think about the contamination caused by the nasty microbes that will be lying on your glossy magazine cover or your newspaper pages.

If by any chance you happen to run your hand over the soiled pages, pick your nose or rub your fingers in your eyes you may get an infection.

And guess what: one in six mobile phones is contaminated with faecal matter.

Office Washroom Do’s for Women

Ensure Proper Disposal of Feminine Hygiene Products Every Time

Sanitary products should go into the sanitary bin. Can you imagine how unsightly it would be if sanitary products are disposed of in the wrong places?

  • Do not flush sanitary products as they will block the toilet. All feminine care products, which are made to absorb, should never be flushed into a public or septic sewer system. Though some tampon packages say “flushable,” the reality is that they do not immediately disperse, disintegrate or decompose.

Tampons clog toilets and septic tanks and contribute to pipe blockages, which lead to unscheduled maintenance calls, time-consuming clean-up, and expensive repairs.

  • Do not wrap your feminine products in toilet paper and then throw them in the dustbin. It’s unsightly and will create a bad odour in the washrooms.

While at it, keep the following points in mind:

  • No one should have to view, smell or handle your discarded products
  • Never leave your sanitary products lying on the floor
  • Immediately wash your hands after discarding your sanitary products and using the bathroom

To ensure proper disposal of feminine hygiene products, use feminine hygiene bins designed for women.
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  • Installed Safeguard vapours to continuously remove odours
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Be Polite and Courteous

Common courtesy and politeness help ensure that every toilet users feels comfortable while attending to nature calls.

Here are ways to show politeness and courtesy while in the toilet:

  • Give space and privacy. If someone is in the bathroom sobbing or sulking, let them be.
  • Don’t peek under the doors. Knock on the door first if the stall appears to be occupied.
  • Lock the cubicle or stall door when you enter to avoid embarrassments.
  • Remember to flush the toilet after use.
  • Inform your co-worker of any mishap. It could be a skirt stuck in underwear, an open fly, or toilet paper stuck to a shoe heel.
  • Leave the stall door ajar when you leave – to indicate that it is unoccupied.
  • If you make a mess on the toilet seat, wipe it up.
  • Pick up your personal belongings after you use them.

Office Washroom Don’ts for Women

Don’t Use Hairspray and Perfume in the Washroom (or Office)

Don’t get us wrong. We are not against you wearing your favourite scent. You can use the office washroom to freshen up but don’t go overboard.

Some of your colleagues may be allergic to your perfume or hairspray. Therefore, if you decide to spray yourself while in the bathroom, you may cause your sensitive workmates to get headaches, dizziness or nausea.

Don’t Go to the Bathroom in Groups

Going to the bathroom in groups is a habit that may have stemmed from your younger years. But now you are a professional – kill the toilet buddies habit.

You may also be a victim, whereby you have to deal with a friend who sees your toilet break as a time for a quick chat. Talk to your friend and make them understand that it is unprofessional to tag along to the bathroom. Plus, it is a waste of company time.

Don’t Perform an Entire Beauty Routine

Using the bathroom to powder your nose or a quick makeup touch up is okay.

What is not okay is inconveniencing your colleagues who would like to use the bathroom sink.


Because you have spread your makeup all over the bathroom sink. And there is no space for the next user who wants to wash her hands and get back to work.

Consequently, you create an unnecessary queue at the bathroom sink beside wasting your colleagues precious time.

The solution is simple:

Save your elaborate beauty routine for your home dressing table. Don’t carry your makeup, little brushes, liners, and lipstick to the office washroom.

Don’t Gossip in the Toilet

“Gossip is saying behind their back what you would not say to their face. Flattery is saying to their face what you would not say behind their back.” – unknown

A popular saying from an unknown source says “Anyone who will gossip to you, will gossip about you.”

Think about that.

So the next time someone wants to fill you in on some juicy gossip, especially when in the bathroom, remind them that if they cannot say anything nice, they shouldn’t say anything at all.

Let’s take a look at the effects of gossip:

  • Affects your reputation. You get the reputation of a gossiper.
  • Wastes your time and energy.
  • Affects the quality of your work.
  • Demoralises or demotivates your colleagues.
  • Can affect the state of the mental health of the person who is the subject of the gossip.
  • Fuels divisiveness, leading to isolation of the ‘less popular’ employees.

Office Washroom Etiquette Do’s for Everyone

Flush the Toilet After Use

Pee left in the toilet smells after a while. Moreover, if you don’t flush, you will end up with a clogged toilet from the excess toilet paper sitting in the toilet basin.

Just flush!

If you are in the cubicle doing a number 2, don’t forget to flush – even twice. It also helps to use an air-freshener before you get started. Save the other bathroom users from any odours.

Replace Toilet Paper

If you use the last bit of toilet paper, then you ought to put on a new roll. And throw the empty carton in the trash; don’t just throw it behind the toilet for someone else to deal with later.

If for any reason you can’t find extra toilet paper to replace, alert the concerned persons for their action.

Always endeavour to leave the toilet in the way you would like to find it.

Use the Toilet Brush

You’ve used the toilet properly and you have flushed the toilet. But wait a minute, there seems to be a little problem – you’ve left behind some marks.

Use the toilet brush and clean it off. And flush again. And wipe the toilet seat.

Remember how you must leave the toilet stall better than you found it?

Don’t forget.

Office Washroom Etiquette Don’ts for Everyone

Don’t Talk to Anyone While in the Stalls

The office bathroom is not the place to engage your workmates with chit-chat or elaborate conversations.

Therefore, don’t talk to anyone in the stalls attending to a nature call.

A simple “Hi” or “How’s it going” while at the urinal is okay. Or while you are at the sink washing your hands.

Saying any other words beyond that is crossing the line.

What if you are the one on the receiving end? You are in the bathroom and a colleague won’t stop talking. What do you do?

You have to let the other person know where you stand. And your response will vary depending on who you are talking to. You don’t need to clarify anything – it should be obvious.

Be short and to the point.

Here are some suggestions to consider for your response:

  • Can we talk about this shortly? This is neither the time or the place
  • Can we talk about this in 5 minutes?
  • Can we talk about this when I get back to my desk?
  • Can I come and catch up with you in a few minutes?
  • Sorry, I just don’t feel comfortable talking in the bathroom

Once you are outside, be the one that reaches out that person. That will ensure that the person does not feel like you are avoiding him or her.

Don’t Take Food or Drinks to the Toilet

Are you thinking of having your mid-day snack in the toilet? Stop right there. Don’t take any food or drinks into the toilet.

Firstly, it’s G.R.O.S.S.

And we all know it is unhygienic. The washrooms are a breeding ground for pathogens. Of all the places in your office, why would you choose to eat in the bathroom?

It doesn’t make sense, right?

Don’t Take phone calls while in the Lavatory

If you are attending to a personal phone call, look for a secluded area.

For office phone calls, answer them while at your desk.

Do not take calls in the bathroom. It is unfair to the person on the other end of the line.

Do Not Linger in the Bathrooms

Once you are done doing the business that brought you to the washroom, get back to your work desk.

Don’t be tempted to linger in the toilet. You’ll be wasting company time which you’d otherwise use to complete your work tasks.

Lingering also promotes gossiping. And as we already discussed in this article: gossiping is bad for you and your workmates. Therefore, avoid lingering in the toilet.

Let’s Wrap Up

The office washrooms should remain clean, fresh and well stocked with basic supplies throughout the day.

Fresh & Clean offers managed washroom services, intensive biological treatments, along with urinal and shower deep cleaning.

Learn more about Fresh & Clean Services for your workplace.

But as we’ve discussed, every employee has a role to play – observing washroom etiquette.

That’s how you make your office bathrooms a happier place for everyone.

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Photo courtesy of freepik by Dragana_Gordic