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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Columbia Barnard chapter.

We’ve all seen the pictures: puddles of water, bugs, and hairballs everywhere. No, I’m not talking about pictures of the streets of New York City… I’m talking about college communal bathrooms. Some might call these daunting and disgusting spaces their worst nightmare. But, let’s face it, communal bathrooms are a reality most students have to face at least once in their college career, so we might as well get used to them.

Let’s begin with the basics: the essential items you need to survive communal style bathrooms. Shower shoes are probably the most well-known and talked about communal bathroom item you need. A pair of flip flops from the dollar store will do, or you can jazz up your shower fashion with a pair of your favorite colored slides. Whatever makes you happy and fits your budget works. In addition, having a shower caddy to place your toiletries in helps simplify the walk from your dorm to the bathroom—because you don’t have to carry items individually in your hands—while also keeping your items away from dirty bathroom surfaces. I recommend getting a mesh shower caddy or a plastic one with holes on the bottom of it to prevent water accumulation and mold. Finally, having a robe is not an absolute must, but I do recommend it. Robes allow you to feel more comfortable and secure walking to and from the bathroom to your dorm than you would feel wearing a towel. At the end of the day, the bathroom items you buy come down to your preferences and budget, so purchase whatever works for you!

Once you have your bathroom necessities, it is important to adopt a good mentality about communal bathrooms—even though that can be quite hard. Having a “we’re all in this together” mentality with the other people living on your floor is a good motto to adopt. When you’re trying to avoid awkward interactions in the bathroom, you can bring this motto up by talking to the person next to you about the rather gross communal bathroom. Before you know it, you and the person you sparked a conversation with will be friends bonded over a distaste for communal bathrooms. On that note, it is important to keep the bathroom space tidy for not only yourself, but for your new bathroom friends. Small actions such as wiping the sink down with a paper towel after accidently dripping water everywhere is appreciated by the other people using the bathroom more than you know.

On the bright side, most communal bathrooms in the Quad are cleaned by facilities staff daily. Furthermore, most bathrooms are cleaned at the same time each day, so you can form a routine around the bathroom cleaning schedule. For example, if you know your bathroom is cleaned daily at 9AM, plan to go to the bathroom around 10AM—if your schedule allows—and you can expect a clean bathroom. This should help make your communal bathroom experience at least slightly more enjoyable. Of course, the hairballs and water puddles are unavoidable, but if you notice an issue in your bathroom such as an out of service shower or a lack of soap in the dispensers, write an email to Facilities and hopefully they can resolve the issue.

Lastly, put into perspective how often you use the bathroom. You are most likely spending 30 minutes or less in the bathroom daily, which is not a lot of time. You can decrease the amount of time you spend in the bathroom, too. Rather than changing clothes, applying lotion and skincare products, and doing your hair in the bathroom, go back to your dorm and get ready/unready there. Using bathroom facilities is a much more insignificant part of your day than you think.

These ideas are just a few ways you can find more comfort in using infamously frowned upon communal bathrooms in college. As time goes on, you will get more and more used to these facilities. Hopefully, at some point, it will feel like a routine to do things like wear shoes in the shower and carry all of your toiletries in a caddy. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get over your fear of going #2 in public!

Claire Cenovic

Columbia Barnard '27

Claire Cenovic is a First Year at Barnard College who loves photography, cooking, and volleyball. She is looking forward to exploring New York City and college life as a whole, and can't wait to write about her experiences along the way.