Your Restroom Etiquette Questions Answered

Restroom, toilet, loo, whichever term you use it’s one of the most sensitive etiquette topics as it’s one of the most, ahem, personal… Here are some of the most common questions when it comes to restroom etiquette.

Can I go to the restroom during dinner?

This depends on the formality of the dinner. Ideally you should always try to go before you sit down at the table.

At very formal dinners ensure you do so as you should not excuse yourself until after your main course has been finished.

At less formal meals, or in the company of close family and friends, then it’s perfectly acceptable to excuse yourself. Simply say, “please excuse me” before rising from your chair. No need to explain where you’re going.

In any case, you should never excuse yourself during the main course. Either go before or after it’s served.

Is it rude to go to the restroom in groups?

Women tend to enjoy flocking to the toilet in groups. There are many reasons why, but the question here is, “Is it rude?” This answer can be tricky as it varies depending on environment and whose company you’re in.

The main factor to consider, is how it affects the people you’re with. If you’re out at a party, bar or other social gathering with a generally even number of men and women, then by all means feel free to round up the girls and make a trip of it. But if there are, for instance four women and one man, then it’s better to go two by two or one at a time. You don’t want to leave anyone alone or in an awkward position.

If you’re at a sit down dinner, especially one on the more formal or more intimate side, then I advise going alone or in groups of no more than two. The reasoning is that flocking to the toilet in groups can tend to look childish and can even draw unneeded attention if it’s an inappropriate environment. Again you must consider whom you’re leaving at the table. If it’s a double date type situation it’s perfectly fine for the women to head to the loo together.

What do I do if I clog the toilet?

If this heart-pounding situation occurs, firstly look around for anything to help unclog the toilet, but an appropriate something, like a plunger. Never use your host’s towels or anything else that may be missed. And never flush like a maniac, the last thing you want to do is cause a flood.

If you can’t find anything to help then close the lid of the toilet and as quickly as possible try to find your hostess and ask for assistance. Trust me, she would rather you suck up your embarrassment than make the situation worse my inexpertly attempting to solve the problem. If she finds you a plunger, thank her and take care of the issue yourself.

If it’s a busier event where you won’t be noticed as the culprit you may be tempted to abandon the situation and let someone else deal with it, but it’s courteous of you to inform your hostess and make her aware of the situation. You can be sly and tell her you found it that way, but wanted to let her know. This saves you from the blame (she can never be sure if it was you or not) and also saves her face, which she will very much appreciate.

What do I do in case of unpleasant smells?

This can be cringe-worthy awkward, but sometimes things happen. If you have some perfume in your purse spritz a couple pumps, but don’t overdo it or it’s obvious you’re trying to cover something up.

If you are hosting an event it can be courteous to provide some light air fresher to be used by guests if need be, or to place some diffusers nearby.

Another way to prepare is by carrying a little lifesaver known as Poo-pourri. This miraculous product can be discreetly sprayed into the toilet bowl as a precaution to prevent any unpleasant smells.

Now, if you happen to be empty handed you have two options. Either stealthily listen to hear if anyone is outside the door and try to make your escape when the coast is clear, or if you’re forced to make a clear exit you can give the next woman in line a little grimace and shake of the head to say “beware it’s bad in there,” and pray she believes it was that way before you entered.

Can I use my phone?

If you’re going in to refresh your make-up or wash your hands it’s perfectly acceptable to text, after all it may be your only chance as it’s rude to do so at the table. As for talking, you can make a quick call, but please no lengthy chats. You don’t want to hold up the line, or if it’s a communal bathroom you don’t want to invade another’s privacy.

As for using your phone while on the toilet or enclosed in a stall, that’s a big no. It’s unsanitary and even if it doesn’t bother you if anyone notices what you’re doing they may silently judge you and from then on always view your phone with disgust. Something just easier to avoid.

Which towel should I use to dry my hands?

If at someone’s home you may come across the dilemma of not knowing which towel to use. Always go for the smaller towel. Never use a larger bath towel as this is a private towel for showering/bathing. If there’s not a smaller towel available, either ask for a towel or simply shake your hands off and go find a paper towel.

What to do if I run out of toilet paper?

Try to make a habit of checking the supplies before you start your business, however sometimes we realize the situation too late. In this unfortunate case it’s ok to call out to any other women who may happen to be nearby or if it’s a solitary bathroom this may be the one and only time where it’s ok to text in a quick help if you have a close friend outside. If you’re alone? Shake and dry, and if you’re sure you’re alone you can attempt a quick dash to the next stall.

Is it ok to be social in the restroom?

It’s fine to have a little chat if you’re in there with girlfriends, but try to keep talk with strangers or acquaintances to minimum pleasantries. If you’re having fun with your girlfriends then try to keep the chatter down, as it’s a private place. And please no selfies. Not only is a toilet not a charming background, you don’t want to risk invading someone’s privacy. Of course if it’s a gorgeous restroom with the perfect floral wallpaper, then exceptions may be made.

HOMEWORK: Do you have any other tips to share? Or any other restroom etiquette questions that you need answered? Please let me know in the comments below!


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