How To Improve Public Bathrooms

by derek on June 14, 2007 · 22 comments

Improve Restroom

Take a moment and imagine the following scenario, which you have probably experienced at least once before.
You are out for dinner with your family or friends and you need to use the bathroom. While you are in the bathroom, you notice someone else that has used the facilities and then exits without washing their hands.
Did you just think about how you are going to open the door to exit the bathroom without touching the same spot the last person touched? There are numerous solutions to this problem with one of the more popular choices being the use of the paper towel to open the door and then you toss the towel to the trash as you walk out the door.
Or maybe you prefer to stand there and wait for someone else to open the door so you can sneak through before it closes. Or maybe you put your shirt over your hand to pull open the door.
Hold on to your toilet seat because I am about to tell you how every single public restroom could make one small change that would essentially eliminate this dilemma completely. Are you ready to hear it? When I tell you, you’re going to be amazed at how simple the solution is and wonder why it hasn’t already been done.
Okay, enough suspense already! By changing the bathroom doors to operate where you pull the door to enter the bathroom and push the door to exit the bathroom, you have eliminated the problem of having to touch a handle that is likely covered in fecal matter. Simple isn’t it?
As you enter the bathroom, you would be required to pull the door handle and if you’re concerned about the germs on the handle, you have the option of washing your hands before you take care of business. Then on the way out, you can wash your hands again and push the door open with your foot or lean into the door with your back or arm to push it open.
This would eliminate the need to try and pull the door open with a paper towel and then perform your best Michael Jordan impersonation as you try to launch the paper towel back to the garbage can. Using the pull/push design versus the push/pull design makes perfect sense and I am puzzled as to why public restrooms have not adopted this design. Even the Port-O-Potty has figured out the pull/push design, although that is likely for space concerns but the concept is the same.
What do you think about this basic change to the bathroom door to keep your hands a little cleaner? Do you have any other tricks for making a graceful exit from the bathroom? Are you wondering why I have put so much thought into the operation of a bathroom door?

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie June 15, 2007 at 12:48 am

Hummmm….interesting thoughts there Derek! And yes, I am wondering why you’ve put so much thought into it??!!! 🙂
As I was reading this, however I was thinking, wouldn’t it be good if they had a sensor on the door, that you wave your hand in front of, but don’t actually touch? So you could just walk up to it, and it would slide open?? Maybe that would cost heaps, I don’t know, but then you wouldn’t have to touch it at all.
If you want to be further grossed out, read this recent post:
Have fun!


derek June 15, 2007 at 9:22 am

The sensor would be great but I am sure that would be cost prohibitive.
That article contains some very gross examples. Another one I have heard before is that the toilet water in fast food restaurants is actually cleaner than the ice in the ice machines.


Tim June 18, 2011 at 11:21 am

Having maintained and mended a number of those ice machines, I can only agree with this.
The toilet will probably be cleaned a bare minimum of once a day, while a well-maintained ice machine will be cleaned once a week.
The actual danger involved with consuming the particular strains of bacteria from the toilet will probably still be much higher, though…


used cars dealer June 15, 2007 at 6:32 am

This reminds of Seinfeld..when he was out with a girl and saw the pizza guy using the toliet without washing his hands
it was so funny 😀
anyone remembers that episode?


Tyler Ingram June 15, 2007 at 8:09 am

I’ve noticed that more and more public washrooms are going with the motion sensors for the urinals and faucets. Which I think is great. Even the paper towel dispensers are being automated now too.
Why not just put the doors on double hinges wear you can just push through with your shoulder or something too 😉
Melanie: I like you’re idea. It’s like the doors at the supermarket, you step on the pressure-sensitive pad or the motion sensor and it opens for you.
Now.. did you know the cleanest surface in a washroom is the toilet seat 😉 Of course that would assume people aren’t peeing on the seat!


derek June 15, 2007 at 9:25 am

The double hinges sounds even better as then there is absolutely no need to pull a handle.
Bathrooms are full of germ infestations. One may actually be able to argue that if they limit the things they touch to only their own being that they are cleaner without washing their hands. Not that I recommend that. 🙂


Leo June 15, 2007 at 1:59 pm

The thing about the double hinges is liability. I personally like to kick doors open. Just a thing I do. Now imagine some little kid on the other side about to enter. Wham! Lawsuit. And now I’m running out the back door without paying my bill, leaving my date sitting there 😉


Natron June 15, 2007 at 8:52 am

Someone in our office always leaves a paper towel on the door handle as they leave. I thought this was strange until I realized that I always use the sleeve of my shirt to open the bathroom door when I leave.


derek June 15, 2007 at 9:26 am

Lol, have you ever grabbed the door with your foot before it could completely close when someone else has entered/exited the bathroom just before you?


ms danielle June 17, 2007 at 5:11 pm

it’s a simple idea, and i’m not sure why they don’t make them open outward without a handle. maybe someone was traumatized in elementary school when they had to walk around the yellow lines outside the classroom doors so as not to get hit by them when they open, and the design just stuck?


derek June 18, 2007 at 2:52 pm

That makes me think of how schools are moving away from grading papers with red ink to try and avoid kids feeling bad about their mistakes. Ugh!


ms danielle June 18, 2007 at 7:27 pm

what? now that’s just going too far!


derek June 18, 2007 at 8:24 pm

No kidding. It’s all part of the “pussification” of America. Many kids sports teams no longer keep score so there are no “losers” and teachers don’t use red ink to avoid giving the kids a complex.


Chris Gray August 10, 2007 at 3:58 pm

ShoeMoney had a good post on the Bathrooms of the US Airports yesterday…good read. He has some really great “alternative terms” for good old number 2.
Speaking of bathroom “weirdness”…there is one individual at my place of employment that actually eats in the stalls. I heard the dude crunching away on a bag of chips a week or two ago. I about lost it. I don’t know about you but I keep lunch time and bathroom time separate events. LOL


Chris Gray August 10, 2007 at 4:16 pm

Sorry to double post…I got wrapped up in the personal jibber jabber I forgot why I stopped by to comment.
At work they have handicap accessible button that automatically opens the door when you press it. Most everyone uses them to combat this problem…you just get an elbow on the button as you head out the door…not a bad solution.


derek August 10, 2007 at 11:26 pm

Chris, I saw ShoeMoney’s post and thought it was hilarious. But he forgot to reference the term “droppin’ Bo and Luke Duke”.
Funny that you commented on this post tonight as I just got home from having dinner out with my cousin. We went to Hooters and their bathroom doors are actually the right way, pull to enter and push to exit (that sounds wrong). 🙂


BrianS August 20, 2007 at 11:37 am

Agreed. I came up with the same idea. If you like this idea check out


North shore plumbing October 9, 2008 at 8:23 am

Every public bathrooms are full of germs and i always avoid to use that if possible. but, really great ideas to get rid of germs. Its helpful.


Bathroom Decorating October 9, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Some people are naturally sensitive to germs. Some seem to grow more sensitive once they get older. The thing is, if you start freaking out over germs, then you could freak out over any place you go. Your body builds a resistance against them. There have been studies that show that kids who are overly protected from germs are MORE likely to get sick. I think if you see something obviously “germy,” then it will help psychologically to stay away from it. But that probably mostly in your head.


Keith@bobrick,toilet,accessories,washroom,equipment,shower rods March 22, 2009 at 8:56 am

There’s a lot of room for improvement in public toilets and looks like you spend a whole lot of time thinking about it 🙂


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