Bathroom Etiquette: your arguments settled

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Bathroom Etiquette

Bathroom Etiquette

We’ve all been there. Your having a nice dinner with friends or a few after work drinks, when someone accidentally triggers an impassioned debate around some of life’s most important and universal, yet in many respects unspoken and mysterious customs: bathroom etiquette. Never fear, Cleanworks is here to provide authoritative answers so you can stop your bickering and move on with your life.

Toilet seat up or down?

A question seemingly as old as time itself and the source of many a couple’s argument (well, as far as sitcoms would have us believe anyhow). The good news is, that there is a definitive answer: the seat should be down – all the way down.

The process of flushing a toilet aerates the contents, resulting in what’s known as a ‘plume’ of vapour (containing water, bacteria, urine and faecal particles amongst other things) which not only travels a considerable distance vertically, but has been shown to take several hours to settle completely – meaning that the vapour will slowly but surely come into contact with most things within the immediate area, including towels, people and toothbrushes.

Which way does the toilet roll go?

According to the 1891 Patent for perforated toilet paper submitted by our own personal hero Seth Wheeler, the modern TP roll design we are familiar with was intended to be hung in an ‘over’ position which places the next piece closer to the user than the wall.

This position makes tearing the paper away from the roll more ergonomic and reduced the likelihood of the unravelling when executing a single-handed pull or of the user’s hand coming into unwanted contact with the wall behind the roll. You’ll notice that this is the direction it is hung in hotels or other professional environments which use single rolls rather than a dispenser. That said, in a similar vain to the moon landing and flat earth theory, some people still refuse to concede this one.

perforated toilet paper patent

Scrunching or folding – is there a correct way to use toilet paper?

Now we’re getting really personal. Most surveys conducted on the topic seem to indicate that folding is a marginally more popular technique than scrunching, while similar sources suggest that folders use less paperthan their scrunching brethren. Although popular consensus and conservation of resources do make for strong arguments in favour of folding, we’re going to stop short of declaring it ‘correct’. It’s your private time, you do what you want.

What things should you never put in the toilet?

1. The toilet paper roll. This is probably the most common offender and can result big trouble. While you may get lucky every now and again, more often than not this isn’t going to make its way out of the bowl, which means someone is going to have to fish it out! Use a nearby bin (preferably recycling) or leave it neatly on top of nearby the toilet. Even if your concerned that the empty roll looks a little unsightly if you’re a visitor in someone else’s loo, that a sight better than forcing yourself or your host to find a way to scoop the thing out. Even if it does make it out of sight, it still has the potential to catch and contribute to a blockage further along in the pipework before it reaches the sewerage system.

2. ‘Flushable’ wipes. So-called flushable wipes are the bane of water system operators everywhere. Queensland Urban Utilities estimate they dislodge and remove approximately 120 tonnes of these non-dissolving, totally inappropriate wipes from the State’s sewerage network each year. Australia-wide, the cost of clearing blockages associated with flushable wipes is around $15 million each year and growing.

3. Any sanitary hygiene products. This includes, but is not limited to paper towels, tampons, sanitary pads, baby wipes (even if they claim to be flushable), nappies and incontinence products, earbuds, condoms, cotton balls, makeup removal pads and so forth – basically any bathroom product which isn’t toilet paper. Toilet paper has a unique design which causes it to very quickly and easily disintegrate when saturated with liquid. This prevents it from causing blockages and other congealments in the building’s pipes and the city’s sewage system. If there is no dedicated sanitary waste bin, gently wrap the offending item in toilet paper or paper towel and deposit in the closest bin. This may feel a little awkward if you are a guest in someone else’s lavatory, but it’s going to get a whole lot more awkward if it doesn’t flush or catches further down the line and your host’s toilet starts backing up.

4. Animals. Don’t flush fish or any other pet – especially if they’re still living, choking on raw sewage is about as cruel as death as there is. If your pet has already made its way to the big pet store in the sky, the best thing to do is to discretely bury it in a garden bed where it can safely break down and feed the growth of new plant life. If you don’t have access to a suitable area of soil, then bagging it up with the rest of your household garbage is the way to go.

5. Food. Believe it or not this is actually one of the biggest toilet-related problems we encounter. Food that has not been processed by the human digestive system is not the same as food that has. We have experienced pizza dough becoming a sticky mess that lodges itself in the S bend and acts like a plug, we’ve found apples wedged in place, and even plastic-wrapped sandwiches which have caused blockages so bad that the entire toilet needed to be removed from the floor to clear the blockage!

6. Clothing, teddy bears, documents … these things also have absolutely no business being in the toilet. And yet we’ve mentioned them for a reason.

Is there other bathroom-related etiquette I should be aware of?

1. Wash your hands with soap. For the love of all that is wholesome, wash your hands every time you enter the bathroom!

2. Flush. Every time. No matter how large or small your contribution to the toilet’s contents is. Most toilets have economical low-flow flushing as well as full and half flush settings. The environment can handle it. The people you share the toilet with cannot. (city plumbing is designed to operate on a minimum number of flushes – when the campaign to let the yellow mellow a few years back, bad things started happening to city sewage!)

3. Replace the roll. If you finish the toilet paper roll, remove the empty roll and replace it or tell someone if a replacement isn’t available. There’s nothing quite as uncool as getting caught on a bathroom without access to an adequate paper supply – not even your worst enemy deserves that.

4. Leave it as you found it. If something went astray during your time on the toilet, take responsibility. Even the best of us could be caught out by a wayward flow or slightly off seating position. It’s not the end of the world. But the important thing to do is to accept what’s happened and clean up the offending biological material so the next guest doesn’t have to deal with it.

5. Wipe the sink. If you splashed water all around the place when you washed your hands, it’s good form to give the rim and bench area a quick dab with a paper towel or similar to neaten it’s presentation for the next guest.

6. Use the odour spray. If the toilet you’re using has a fragrance or odour-eating spray, that’s a not-so-subtle message that you should cover any smells made with said spray. Whether you think it’s mild or likely to pass shortly or not, respect the wishes of the toilet’s owner.


Cleanworks knows a lot about bathroom etiquette – that’s because we clean hundreds of commercial and workplace bathrooms every year. If you’re looking for a reliable, high-quality cleaning service for your organisation you should talk to us on Ph: 1300 306 889 to talk to us about how we can help.

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