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13 Bathroom Etiquette Rules to Follow as a Guest in Someone’s Home

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If you’re staying as a guest in someone else’s house, you owe it to them to follow whatever rules they set and respect their dwelling. Unfortunately, cultural nuances and communication ambiguities can make it difficult to follow expected rules of etiquette properly.

From a general standpoint, what are the most important bathroom etiquette rules to follow if you’re a guest in someone’s house?

Bathroom Etiquette Rules to Follow as a Guest in Someone’s Home

These are some of the most important bathroom etiquette rules to follow:

1.   Understand the context. Bathroom etiquette varies from country to country, and sometimes from region to region. For example, in Spain, bidets are very common – and it’s expected that you’ll leave the bidet clean and dry for the next user. In Japan, technologically advanced washlets are everywhere – and it’s a good practice to avoid playing with settings you don’t need or don’t understand. Make sure you understand the context of your unique situation, including the social and cultural dynamics in play.

2.   Bring your own toiletries. Your host might be kind enough to offer you toiletries, but you shouldn’t depend on that. Plan on bringing your own toiletries, including soap, shampoo, dental cleaning products, and personal hygiene products. It may also behoove you to bring your own washcloth and towel. Your host will probably expect you to use the shower, but you shouldn’t expect them to provide everything you want for that shower.

3.   Knock before entering. Different households have different standards and practices for bathroom entry; for example, in many households, the door is left open to indicate it’s vacant. However, you should always knock, no matter what, before entering. This will help you avoid the unpleasant situation of walking in on someone using the bathroom.

4.   Lock the door. If you’re using the bathroom, lock the door. It’s a simple step that can prevent accidental entry and has no real downside. If someone knocks while you’re in the bathroom, feel free to respond, even if the door is locked.

5.   Use only the bathrooms you’re directed to use. Your host may direct you to a bathroom adjacent to the room you’re staying in, or they may point out multiple bathrooms that you can use. Don’t go into any bathrooms that aren’t pointed out to you; some people prefer having private bathrooms that aren’t accessible to guests.

6.   Follow any house rules given to you. This one should go without saying, but be sure to follow any specific house rules that are given to you. If the host has any specific requests for how the bathroom or its contents should be treated, acknowledge them and follow them carefully.

7.   Always cover yourself while walking to and from the bathroom. Regardless of how comfortable you feel in this situation or what you do at home, it’s a good idea to cover yourself when walking to or from the bathroom. For example, you can drape yourself in towels or wear a robe – or you can simply make sure to be fully dressed before entering or exiting the bathroom.

8.   Hang up your wet towels. If wet towels aren’t dried properly, they could develop mildew (and a musty smell, to boot). Regardless of whether you’re using your own towels or the host’s towels, it’s important to hang those wet towels up to dry.

9.   Don’t dawdle. Unless you have a bathroom that’s totally dedicated to you, avoid dawdling. Spending extra unnecessary time in the bathroom could preclude other family members or guests from using it.

10.   Take a short shower. Similarly, it’s polite to take a relatively short shower. You don’t have to rush, and you certainly don’t have to time your shower but consider spending a bit less time than usual. You don’t want to arbitrarily drive up the water bill for your host.

11.   Flush responsibly. Flushing waste and toilet paper is fine, but that’s about it – there are many other things you should never flush down the toilet. Flushing tampons, dental floss, wet wipes, condoms, and other materials down the toilet could cause massive plumbing issues in the future. Never flush these problematic materials in someone else’s toilet.

12.   Clean up after yourself. Every time you use the bathroom for any reason, you should take a moment to clean up after yourself. That means briefly wiping down surfaces, putting away your possessions, and generally leaving the bathroom in better condition than you found it.

13.   Say thanks. Finally, make sure to say thank you – and do it at the beginning and end of your visit if you want to make sure your gratitude is properly expressed. You should also consider bringing a gift to demonstrate thanks to your host.

When in Doubt, Ask

Most people don’t like talking about the bathroom or any activities that take place within it. And in many contexts, it’s treated as a social taboo. But if you’re staying with someone you love, trust, and respect, you should feel comfortable asking questions and hashing things out if you’re confused about anything or if you just want to make sure you’re both on the same page. 

While these etiquette rules should be suitable for a wide range of contexts and situations, it never hurts to ask questions if you’re feeling uncertain.