Communal Bathroom Etiquette 101

And you thought living together was hard...

If you've ever had to share a bathroom with an entire hall of girls, you've probably been through this scenario. As soon as you walk through the door the mess practically blinds you! The crumpled paper towels have formed a heap around the trash bin, the stall floors are littered with bits of toilet paper, and there's something ominous floating inside one of the toilet bowls. You hurry to the other stall, lock the door, sit down and OH MY GOD WHY IS IT WET! Sound familiar yet?

How about this one? You walk into the bathroom, shower caddy and fluffy towel in hand, only to discover that every single one of the shower drains is clogged with hair. You practically flood the bathroom trying to take a shower! Or how about this? You try to check your reflection in the mirror, but you can barely see yourself through all the dried flecks of toothpaste glued to the glass.

Why is it that individually we college girls are all so clean and hygienic, but when you group us all together we become farm animals? Most likely, it's because most of us have never encountered a communal bathroom before. The college bathroom is a weird concept when you stop to think about it. It's somewhere between a public restroom and a private bathroom. There is a custodian to clean up our messes, like with a public restroom, but there is also a personal responsibility to keep the area clean, as with a private bathroom. Unlike a public restroom, we have to go back to the same bathroom every day, maybe even every few hours, and if each person leaves a mess, it's unlikely that it'll be cleaned up before your next visit. It's unfair to your fellow hall-mates, rude to the custodial staff, and just plain gross!

We spend almost 8 days in the bathroom a year. That means in the four years we'll spend at college, a month of that time will be in those nasty communal bathrooms! This etiquette guide is meant to make those 30-something days easier to live through.

1. Wipe the seats!

The first time I encountered the wet toilet seat, I was incredibly confused. This isn't the Men's room, I thought, so why is there pee on the seats? It turns out that many college girls are freaked out by the idea of their butts touching the surface another butt has been on, which is totally understandable. My roommate firmly believes that you can get "butt herpes" from toilet seats, no matter how many times I tell her to stop being silly. There’s nothing wrong with hovering above the seat when you go to the bathroom; what’s wrong is when you forget to clean up after yourself! You see, when you pee without sitting down, there tends to be a splatter effect. What we’ve got here is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Girls refuse to sit down on toilet seats because they’re afraid of how dirty the seats are, and by doing so, they’re getting the seats even dirtier. So do us all a huge favor and wipe down the seats after you’re done.

2. Clean up your hair
We college girls love our hair. We love taking care of it, brushing it, styling it. What we don’t seem to love is cleaning it up. While that might not have been a big deal at home when you had your own shower, when there are ten to twenty girls using the same shower on a daily basis, there’s bound to be some hair build-up. Almost nothing is grosser than walking into a shower and seeing a giant dark clump of hair hugging the drain. And no one wants to even touch that, let alone wriggle it out of the drain and into the trash. Everyone has to do their part and clean up their hair before the clump even has a chance to form. What I do is comb out my hair with my fingers after I condition it. Most of the hair that I shed ends up on my hand and I stick the strands to the shower wall. At the end of the shower, I gather all the hair up into a small clump and throw it away before I leave the bathroom. There are many other variations of this technique, so test them all out until you find a way of cleaning up your hair that is quick and easy.

I’m at a loss for this one. Maybe you were distracted and just plain forgot. Maybe the sound of a toilet flushing is too loud and scary for you to stand. Whatever it is, you need to get over it, because flushing is MANDATORY. No one wants to walk into a stall and see something left over from the previous visitor. You’ve effectively made that particular stall a no-woman’s land. There’s no beating around the bush, just flush.

3a. Courtesy flush
The courtesy flush is a second flush that just makes sure that all traces of your visit are washed away. In most cases, the courtesy flush is unnecessary, but if you have a feeling that one flush just isn’t going to do it, stick around and double-check. The person after you will thank you for it.

4. Toilet paper snow
It’s well-known around Princeton that our toilet paper leaves much to be desired. It’s thin and scratchy and rips way too easily. Its delicate nature means that when we’re trying to tear the right amount off the roll, we often end up with little snippets of toilet paper that are too small to be used. In our distracted state, it’s understandable that our first instinct is often just to drop the tiny piece of TP on the ground. After all, it’s so small you can barely see it. You know what else is so small you can barely see it? Snowflakes. And what do you get when snowflakes pile up on top of each other? A giant heap of snow. You get the same thing with those tiny bits of toilet paper. Soon, the entire floor is littered with toilet paper and you feel like you’re in some twisted winter wonderland. So next time you end up in this situation, think before you toss that bit of paper to the ground and, instead, slip it into the toilet that you’re sitting on.

5. Be aware of the mess you’re making
Most of the things I listed above are small, perhaps even insignificant. But it all adds up. So start being more conscious of the way you’re acting in a bathroom. If you splatter the mirror with toothpaste, take a second to clean it off with a damp paper towel. If you miss the bin when you throw out your paper towel, don’t leave it on the ground, pick it up! And if you overturn the sanitary waste bin, I know it’s gross, but it’s your responsibility to clean that stuff up! Stop making excuses for your carelessness and depending on the janitorial staff to clean up after you.
So ‘fess up to your mess-up!