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Bathroom Etiquette Rules & Urinal Etiquette – Public Toilet Rules & Strategies

Updated on February 19, 2013

Bathroom Etiquette Rules & Urinal Etiquette

So Gents, we’ve all been in the situation where we’ve been waiting in the bathroom queue for a spare urinal when one becomes free between two large gentlemen. What do you do in this tricky situation? Should you barge your way in or hold back and wait for a bit more space?

To any lady who is reading this, it might seem crazy that men even consider these questions, but believe me they do and here I will guide any confused gentlemen through the full range of urinal and bathroom etiquette rules and detail the key bathroom strategies to prepare you for any eventuality at the urinal.

The basics of bathroom & urinal etiquette

The ultimate aim of bathroom etiquette is to pee as far away from someone else as possible, hence your choice of urinal is key. There are many factors to take into account: How many urinals there are, where the other users are standing, how desperate you are to pee, are there cubicles free, how many other people are waiting etc. Ultimately though, the simple rule is if someone is at one end of the urinals you should aim for the other end, if there is a space between 2 gents, you should hold fire and delay until there are further spaces free.

Obviously just hanging around the toilets and waiting is not ideal so you should check yourself in the mirror, wash your face, tie up your shoelaces, do some stretches or do any other delaying tactic you can think of to buy yourself a bit of time until a desirable urinal becomes free.

The cubicle is your last resort and should only be used in emergencies. Using the cubicle is a failure and is highly frowned on in urinal etiquette.

We will now look at some specific situations:

Bathroom etiquette for one urinal…

This is a very simple situation so the etiquette is clear; the options are very limited so you simply have to wait. You can busy yourself if you like; however as all the other guys are in the same situation you just wait your turn. However this must be done with dignity and respect for the current owner of the urinal. No poking, no talking and no hurrying. Just stand and wait.

Clear urinals, go for it...
Clear urinals, go for it...

Bathroom etiquette for two urinals…

The 2 urinal etiquette is one of the toughest you will face as there is a high chance that you will be peeing next to someone else. If you arrive and both are free you have hit the jackpot and should hurry to your business before you are disturbed. However, if one or two of the urinals are already engaged it becomes more complicated.

If there is a queue behind you will simply have to take the first opportunity and grab the first free urinal, otherwise you risk being overtaken in the queue and there are few fates more embarrassing than being skipped. Your urinal cred would crash and you would have to walk straight out of the bathroom.

However, if there is no queue you have bought yourself some time, so you should use delaying tactics (hair fixing shoelace tying etc.) until both urinals are free and then hurry straight to your business before you are disturbed.

Avoid the middle...
Avoid the middle...

Bathroom etiquette for three urinals…

When faced with the triple, you should avoid the instant urge to impress your dominance by taking the middle urinal. This would be a disaster for all users, not only do you rob all users of the chance to pee in splendid isolation, but you also hugely increase your chances of gaining a neighbour both breaching the rules of bathroom etiquette.

No, when faced with three free urinals you should pick one of the end urinals, preferably choosing the one furthest from the door making it easier for the next user to pick the easy urinal which is closest to them.

However, three free urinals is a rare luxury, you will usually be faced with at least one foe. When one end urinal is taken you quickly claim the other end urinal, easy. When two ends or middle and end are occupied, slip straight into your delaying routine (hair combing, arm stretching etc. and wait for an end to come free. If you ever come across someone occupying just the middle, you should call the authorities and have him removed for crimes against bathroom etiquette and then occupy one of the und urinals yourself.

In the case of a triple occupation, you should quickly wash your hands to provide your excuse for being there and leave, giving yourself a good 5-10 minutes before returning.

Bathroom etiquette suggests that taking the end urinals is usually a safe option
Bathroom etiquette suggests that taking the end urinals is usually a safe option
This guy is using excellent warning techniques
This guy is using excellent warning techniques

Bathroom etiquette for four urinals…

So now we’re getting serious, the permutations to consider here are starting to grow so your next move is critical. Generally the usual rules of bathroom etiquette apply here. When faced with four free urinals etiquette suggests you should head straight for the furthest urinal and when one end is taken opt for the opposite end.

Remember though you are always aiming to have free urinals next to you so what do you do if you and another user are ensconced in the end urinals and another gentleman comes in. You know he will be mulling over his options, if you see him combing his hair or doing some stretches you know he is doing the decent thing and delaying while you finish.

However if you see him approach you know he will be choosing which urinal to go for, here you must send out warning signs to make your adjacent urinal less appealing than your opponents (remember the guy at the other end is now your opponent as he will be trying to make his adjacent urinal less appealing than yours). Some tactics that can be used here include reducing the space next to you by shuffle a little to the side, yawning while stretching out your arms or breaking wind loudly. Beware though; your opponent will be trying the same tactics which can often lead to a battle of shuffling sidesteps, violent arm movements and wind breaking.

If you are ever in the position of walking into the bathroom and being faced with two gents dancing around while waving their arms and farting you should recognise what is going on and simply turn and walk out and never, ever return.

Always try and keep a space between yourself and a neighbour
Always try and keep a space between yourself and a neighbour
Taking opposite ends is a good approach
Taking opposite ends is a good approach

Bathroom etiquette for five urinals…

Again your options are increasing; however in general your standard rules of urinal etiquette apply here. Always use the furthest urinal away from anyone else and if that isn’t available delay until an opportunity presents itself. There are however some specific situations that require further analysis.

When faced with 5 free urinals the natural urge would be to move towards one of the end urinals say number 1 urinal, however in doing so you would leave yourself open to someone moving into the number 4 urinal, this could have disastrous consequences as it would leave no non adjacent urinals and greatly increase the chances of another user seeing urinal number 2 as an option. If you do find yourself in this scenario start shuffling those feet and stretching those arms out to buy you enough time to finish and leave.

However counterintuitive it may seem, the correct etiquette to follow when faced with five free urinals is to take the middle urinal. Here you are commanding the bathroom and providing two clear options for the left and right ends and securing your position.

Bathroom etiquette for more than five urinals…

Beyond five urinals things start to break down as you are dealing with banks of urinals which are beyond the scope of this analysis.

A point to note here though is that any bathroom that has banks of six or more urinals is catering for large number of people and may be subject to cyclical use. This is where, for instance in a busy bar at a sporting event you will get cycles every half an hour or in breaks when everybody goes to the bathroom. Here bathroom etiquette dictates that you should wait until just before the game starts again and pop in quickly, with a bit of luck the bathroom will have cleared out and you will be able to follow the standard bathroom etiquette rules.


This guide to bathroom and urinal etiquette should have provided you with all you need to know for bathroom visits free from embarrassment and discomfort. Remember always locate yourself as far from another person as possible, position yourself to give others the most options and make any free urinal next to you as unappealing as possible for another user. If you follow these simple rules you will be fine.

If you have any of your own strategies I’d be very keen to hear them.


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    • CarNoobz profile image

      CarNoobz 5 years ago from USA

      Hahaha! Hilarious...

      When I'm next to another guy, that's exactly how it is...

      "Just look straight ahead. Just look at the wall 6 inches from your nose. Just read the super tiny graffiti written in between the cracks of the tiles..."