Some public restrooms are just nasty to say the least, but even the ones that look clean may have many nasty germs inhabiting them. I'm not interested in the full process of keeping everything of myself clean while in a public restroom. I'm only interested in how to keep my hands as clean as possible while in there, and especially having clean hands when I have exited.

I've tried many things over the years, like trying to hold it till I got home, using a urinal where possible and not flushing so I don't have to touch the flusher handle. Washing my hands really good when done. Etc. I'm hoping there is a better way?

Also, this question will refer to regular fast food type, gas station type restrooms. Where there is 1 toilet, 1 sink, and 1 hand towel dispenser, like shown in the picture. No automated sensors or anything special.

  • 6
    You should probably just learn to not freak out at the germs. I have the same problem of being disgusted at public restrooms, but instead of trying to find a way to keep my hands clean, I've been dealing with it, trying to teach myself that a few germs are okay. It's better for my immune system to have something to do than to go to extreme measures to stay clean.
    – Justin
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 0:03
  • 2
    You need to watch more Monk. Really.
    – Braiam
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 3:42
  • 11
    No matter what you get from the answers here, please don't just "not flush".
    – TIO Begs
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 14:22
  • 1
    @Quincunx you are so damn right. The human body is tougher than we want to admit.
    – MaxD
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 8:53
  • 1
    @J.Musser Rather use the resize function of imgur. That way the image is already scaled and it loads faster. The way you did with the <img>-tag and height="x"- or width="x"-properties the big image is loaded anyway and is then scaled by the browser.
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 10:04

5 Answers 5


After a long journey through time, space, and visiting many public restrooms, I have found what I believe to be the ultimate solution!

  1. I enter the restroom
  2. I urinate into the toilet if the seat is up. If the seat is down I grab a paper towel from the dispenser, lift the seat up with the paper towel protecting my hand from touching the seat, and then toss the paper towel into the garbage.
  3. I grab a paper towel from the dispenser.
  4. I flush the toilet with the paper towel protecting my hand from touching the flusher handle directly.
  5. I turn the hot water on and the cold water on a little with the paper towel.
  6. I push the soap handle to dispense the soap onto my free hand.
  7. I throw the paper towel in the garbage.
  8. I wash my hands thoroughly and definitely avoid my hands touching anything sink related. If my hands accidentally touch the sink, then grab a new paper towel and start over at #6.
  9. Grab a few paper towels from the dispenser.
  10. Dry my hands well.
  11. Turn off the water with the same paper towels that I dried my hands with.
  12. Toss those paper towels into the garbage.
  13. Grab a new paper towel from the dispenser.
  14. Walk to the door to exit.
  15. Open the door with the paper towel protecting my hand from touching the handle directly.
  16. Put my left foot on the door to keep it open.
  17. Toss the paper towel to the garbage.
  18. Exit the restroom with clean hands!
  • 9
    Step 3. can be left out if 4. is done with a foot :) Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 2:17
  • I wonder where the garbage is placed and how you toss/throw a paper towel into the garbage without a miss.
    – Harish S
    Commented May 31, 2015 at 12:55
  • I often use steps 15-18 as well. It works because there is normally a trash can to toss the towels in near most restroom exits. Ideally restrooms would always have doors that push to exit (and don't require turning a handle) so that you could push them open with an elbow or foot, but unfortunately many restroom doors open outward, forcing you to pull the door open to leave. Commented May 7, 2016 at 5:30
  • 1
    Why not just use the towels you dried your hands with to open the door? Grabbing a new one is a waste of towel. And if you feel the others are too dirty, what the hell do you think is on your hands then???? Also, skip the towel to flush or raise the seat. Just use the edge of your shoe. If you're worried about the germs on your shoe and taking them back home, you have to consider where you are already standing. Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 14:44
  • 1
    Skip all use of paper towels till the moment you are going to wash your hands, a good wash of hands will clean away all germs you got before.
    – Willeke
    Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 9:20

I do many of the same things that Sompuperoo does. I'll just put my procedure here since I handle the lifting of toilet seats and flushing of toilets differently than he does.

Open the door to the bathroom. If you are concerned about having touched the door handle, then wash your hands upon entering the bathroom.

If you wish to flush the toilet before using it, use your shoe to push the toilet's flush handle. The bottom of your shoe will already be dirty, so using it to touch the toilet's flush handle isn't a big deal, and it's a lot better than using your hand. If you wish to flush a urinal, then use the back of your hand to push the handle instead of using your fingers.

If the toilet seat is up and you want it down, or vice versa, then use the side of your shoe to lower or lift the seat. If you plan on sitting on the toilet, place a disposable toilet seat cover on top of the toilet seat. If disposable toilet seat covers are not available, then rip off a few strips of toilet paper and place them so that they fully cover the seat.

When you are done with your business, use your shoe to flush the toilet. If you are at a urinal, use the back of your hand to flush it.

Wash your hands with soap, and then dry them off with a paper towel. If there is an air dryer instead of paper towels, you may use that.

If paper towels are available, then grab one right before you leave the bathroom. Use the paper towel to grab the door handle, so that you hand doesn't touch it. Then use your foot to prop the door open, and then toss the paper towel into the bathroom's trash can. Then use your foot to push the door wide open so you can walk out without touching the door with your hands.

  • 3
    Maybe the restrooms are dirty because of people using their feet? I mean, honestly, have some consideration for the next person to come in.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 10:48
  1. Use the public restroom just as you would use your own bathroom at home.

  2. After flushing, grab a paper towel. If there isn't one, work the handle or wave your hands at the motion sensor or whatever.

  3. Use the towel to turn on the water and adjust the temperature to warm, then get another towel available and leave it there.

  4. Wash your hands: wet them, put soap on, work up a lather. Rub the soap all over your hands -- up to the wrists -- for 15 seconds. Then rinse off for 10 seconds.

  5. Use the towel you left hanging to partly dry your hands, then use it to get a third towel.

  6. Use the third towel to dry your hands. If necessary, repeat step 5 & 6 until your hands are dry.

  7. If the last towel is wet, get one more towel (always use the previous towel to protect your hands from the handle of the dispenser).

  8. Use that last towel to open the door.

  9. Ideally, the wastebasket is within your reach. Use a foot to hold the door open while you toss the towel,then leave.

  10. If the wastebasket is too far from the door, either drop the last towel on the floor(*) or carry it off to somewhere you can dispose of it.

(*) Really, the building management should have the good sense to leave a wastebasket within reach. If they don't, they probably deserve to clean up the resulting mess, but ideally you should be a good citizen: find another wastebasket on your way to wherever you're going and dispose of the paper towel there.

WARNING: This isn't perfect. Paper towels themselves have about a 30% chance of having acquired pathogenic bacteria during manufacture and/or shipping. Short of carrying your own supply of paper towels that you have subjected to UV or some other method of getting rid of bacteria without water, I'm not sure there's anything you can do about it.


The other answers describe well what you can do if it's a decent bathroom, but all too often i've been in public restrooms without soap and water. (Ugh.)

Solution: always carry hand-sanitizer.

If the water works but the soap doesn't, i recommend first washing your hands with just water, to remove some dirt. Dry them well, and then use the hand sanitizer. (It doesn't work properly with wet hands.)

If the water is out, just use the hand sanitizer. When you get back to civilization, wash your hands properly.

Also, complain to the management. ;)

To get out of the bathroom without touching the handle, use the paper towel trick, as mentioned in other answers.


Here is a not-too-serious but technically worthwhile solution that creates plastic waste instead of wasting lots of papertowels :P Also saves on soap and handwashing water!!

  1. Put on single-use gloves when standing before the door of the restroom.

  2. Do your business inside the restroom. (For men urinating, there's one additional rule: left hand to handle objects, right hand to handle body parts.)

  3. Open the door of the restroom and block it with the foot from closing.

  4. Safely remove the gloves. This is a standard technique also for medical personnel and avoids all contact between skin and potentially contaminated glove surfaces.

  5. Holding the gloves on their former inside surface, throw them into the trash can that is hopefully close to the door.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.