I'm terrified of the answers
March 14, 2019 10:35 AM   Subscribe

How do I use a multiple-occupancy bathroom while wearing a jacket which I need to remove to use the toilet?

Let's say I need to use the bathroom for something that puts me into unambiguous handwashing territory for at minimum one hand and I am wearing a suit jacket which I can't remove and leave elsewhere before going into the stall. I will take the jacket, hang it on the hook behind the door or over the door, do what I need to do and then I'm kind of stuck because there's two options:
-Take the jacket with the non-wiping hand and awkwardly juggle it or drape it over me while washing my hands risking wetting the jacket or (god forbid) dropping it on the bathroom floor.
-Leave the jacket, go to wash my hands first and risk having someone go in there and have to tell them to wait until I finish washing my hands so I can retrieve the jacket from the stall.

I feel like I'm missing something extremely basic here. Either that or everyone's touching their jackets with poop-hands??

Also, occasionally, I'm in places with cavernous bathrooms and the stalls are significantly far away from the sinks and I hate leaving my jacket totally out of sight to wash my hands.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns to Society & Culture (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I just roll or push up the sleeves while I’m in the bathroom. Unroll when I leave, after washing my hands. I don’t take anything off at all.
posted by MountainDaisy at 10:38 AM on March 14 [12 favorites]

Well, with purses and light jackets, I pin them between my legs for the 20-30 seconds while I wash my hands. Not elegant, but sometimes it's the only option. It's an awkward waddle from the sink to the hand-dryer, but better than touching everything.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:38 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]

I think most people are not using the bathroom in a way that gets actual poop on their hands. The level of yuck of the unwashed hands is not gelt to be at a level prohibiting touching purses, jackets etc with unwashed hands.

If indeed one has reason to not want to touch one's stuff until hands are actually washed, then yeah, leave the personal items there, and sing out merrily "oh I'll grab that in just a sec!" if one sees someone else entering the stall while washing one's hands.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:39 AM on March 14 [29 favorites]

Nearly everyone is touching their jackets with poop (or in women's case pee-) hands, but some are folding that jacket in half (or putting their bag) between their flexed thighs when at the sink and holding it there while they wash their hands.
posted by urbanlenny at 10:40 AM on March 14 [4 favorites]

I carry mine in my clean hand, and then if the counter is dry, I press it between my abdomen and the counter as I wash my hands. If the counter is wet, I usually fold it over my purse, instead, but if you are not a purse-carrying person, that isn't an option. Also, if my hands unambiguously need washing, I usually try to get them to a somewhat more ambiguous state using toilet paper before I leave the stall, so even if I accidentally touch the jacket, there's less to rub off. That is also considerate of anything else I might accidentally touch -- doors, walls, faucets -- with my dirty hands.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:41 AM on March 14

a possible solution for the fastidious: one could carry individually wrapped sanitizing hand wipes in one's pocket, and use them right there in the stall before touching one's stuff again.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:42 AM on March 14 [15 favorites]

and yes, awkwardly juggling at the sink is what everyone does. It sucks. It's one of the reasons I've switched forever to cross-body bags, so I don't have to find a place to put my purse in a public bathroom.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:43 AM on March 14

and sing out merrily "oh I'll grab that in just a sec!"

In my experience, merrily singing out is Not Really Done in men's bathrooms, which does introduce an extra constraint.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:43 AM on March 14 [9 favorites]

I...just don't get poop on my hands when I use the bathroom? So I'm fine touching my jacket with whichever hand I feel like.

As for when I get to the sink for handwashing, I just pin it between my knees.
posted by anderjen at 10:45 AM on March 14 [13 favorites]

Use toilet paper between the offending hand and the jacket until you have the opportunity to clean it off? If this is a frequent issue, maybe carry some baby wipes (even a travel pack) to wipe your hands down enough to grab the jacket very briefly?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:46 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]

I generally just use the cleaner hand to carry the jacket on the walk to the sink, then tuck it under an elbow or hold with a knee while I'm washing. But if something's gone seriously wrong and I really need to wash both hands before I'm comfortable touching an article of clothing (other than, presumably, my pants) then: wrap hands in toilet paper, put on jacket, shove sleeves up to elbows, walk out of stall depositing tp in trash can, wash hands.
posted by aimedwander at 10:46 AM on March 14

I toss my coat over the stall door and let it swing back shut when I go to wash my hands. People think the stall is still occupied because there is a coat over the door. Then I collect my coat. If someone's going to enter the stall with my coat on the door, I'll tell them that I'll get it in a minute. By then I'm 99% done with washing, because I'm a very quick handwasher.
posted by kimberussell at 10:48 AM on March 14 [4 favorites]

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone leave their belongings in a stall while washing their hands, and I’d be confused if someone did. I suspect most people are either awkward-juggling with their hand that has not been sullied by touching anything questionable, or feel their hands are clean enough post-wiping to carry stuff to the sink without concern.

I vaguely recall from my pre-IUD days that once in a while I’d have to empty and re-insert a cup in a multi-stall restroom. It was a “clean off as best you can, then maybe hold your bag with a bit of toilet paper between your hand and the bag en route to the sink if you still look like a refugee from a murder scene” situation, if I recall.
posted by Stacey at 10:50 AM on March 14 [13 favorites]

Man ladies do this all the time. You put it on your lap or pin it between your knees while you are sitting, wipe, and then pick it up because you probably aren't wiping your bare ass with your hand, and go wash your hands.

Once my diva cup exploded all over my hand when I was emptying it into the toilet. In that instance I shoved everything under my armpit until I washed my hands.
posted by pintapicasso at 11:17 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]

I use the non-offending hand to finagle it onto my shoulders like a cape. Although this risks the much worse outcome of a jacket falling onto a public restroom floor...ugh.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:23 AM on March 14

Option 1: over the door, wash your hands, grab the jacket and leave.

Option 2: unless you have tiny shoulders, carefully fold jacket to appropriate width, drape over one shoulder as if your shoulder were a hanger.

Option 3: join the vast number of people who don't wash their hands at all and go through the world spreading poo (not recommended).
posted by betweenthebars at 11:31 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]

Take your coat off and fold it over your arm. If you have a purse/bag, keep it on your shoulder (above the coat). Use your free hand to let yourself into the stall. Sit down and use the toilet. Stand up and get out of the stall without touching anything else but the door, again with your free hand.

Washing your hands shouldn't be a huge deal, because they should still both be free (and only one is "dirty" anyway). If your coat is huge and getting in the way while you're trying to wash your hands, though, lean against the sink basin so that your coat is smooshed against the basin and your body. Then pull your arm up so that your coat is sort of a loose open arch over your arm. That should free up that arm/hand enough to make washing your hands easier.
posted by rue72 at 11:33 AM on March 14

This is why I've never understood why there are hooks on the stall doors. Why not have a coat rack near the sink or something?

Anyway, as an OCD hand washer, I question your premise that you can't leave your jacket elsewhere. There's always somewhere, man. There's bound to be a bench or a cubby or something like that near the entrance, or some clean open space on the floor. If you're traveling, or carrying a bag for some other reason, you can drape it over your bag. I can only recall a single time where I had to bring a jacket into a restroom stall with me, and that was more because I didn't feel like spending the mental energy to look for a place. Taking the time to find such a place may not be the most healthy way to deal with things, mentally, but if it means enough to you that you're willing to take the time, you'll find something.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:18 PM on March 14

I may be missing something as I don't wear very high-end jackets and nothing in my life requires me to wear perfectly pressed clothing, but why does the jacket have to come off? Could you push up, or neatly fold up, the sleeves until after you wash your hands?

Germs-wise, I'm also no expert, but provided you're using sufficient TP, your hands probably aren't much worse than the bathroom door your jacket's touching when you hang it.
posted by kapers at 12:51 PM on March 14 [11 favorites]

I'm trying to picture the men's formal business attire that requires you to remove your jacket to go and getting a little stuck.
posted by praemunire at 12:53 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]

I was recently in the multi-hole bathroom at work when my boss came out of the stall. He left his jacket on hook inside the stall door. So at least, one person does that.
posted by notsnot at 12:56 PM on March 14

The amount of feces transfer from your loo-roll-wielding hand to your jacket is likely to be vastly less than the airborne feces transferred by the air dryers you are re-contaminating your freshly washed hands with.

In other words, carry hand sanitzer in the breast-coat jacket pocket to make yourself feel better or stop over thinking this because you can't really win. All bathrooms users carry trace effluent.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:59 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]

The bottom of the jacket might (ugh) touch the toilet when sitting if you keep it on.

You could also drape it over the top of the stall door which will give a better visual indication that the stall is in use.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:05 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

Take two or more toilet seat papers with your non-wiping hand, grab your jacket, place the jacket next to you on top of the seat papers -- either on the sink counter or a clean spot on the floor -- wash your hands. Dry and put on jacket, throwing away the seat covers in the same bin you've thrown away your paper towels in.

Or, you can, upon entering the stall, place two seat covers over the top of the stall door, then remove your jacket and place it on top of the seat covers so that it hangs partially over the opposite side of the door. Do your business, then leave your jacket while you go wash your hands. Other people will see the jacket and assume someone is still in there. Dry your hands, grab your jacket and leave. If someone tries to go in, just say, "One sec -- I'm not quite done in that stall yet." You don't have to explain further. Most people are polite and will choose another stall or wait.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:37 PM on March 14

To answer a couple of questions above: Once one of my foster kids accidentally got poop on his jacket and was pretty traumatized. Even now, as an adult, he still removes his jacket before using the bathroom.

And the hooks are on the stall doors for people to hang purses or bags that they don't want to put on the floor. Also, most jackets have a small strip of fabric sewn in behind the collar which is there for just this purpose: hanging on a hook.

posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:55 PM on March 14

If we're really just talking about germs, yes: everyone just gets fecal contamination on their jacket.

But if you're worried about menstrual cup carnage or something you can either carry wipes or bring some wet paper towels with you into the stall so you can clean up a bit before you exit the stall.
posted by amandabee at 1:59 PM on March 14

Carry hand sanitizer and/or one of those tiny wrapped handwipes in your pocket. Get it out/unwrapped in the stall. Do your thing. Wipe your hands. Put on jacket. Wash hands properly.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 2:01 PM on March 14

I can use the toilet with a trenchcoat on, I'm not sure what's up with your coat but I am really curious - coat tails? Some kind of uncontrollable flowing material?

I flop my coat out of the way, sit, piss, wipe, stand up and let it flop back.

If you really have to take the coat off, hang it on the hook. Then when you're done, flop it over your shoulder with your clean hand, wash up, put it back on.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:20 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

1. hang jacket on hook on stall door
5. awkwardly pull pants up with hand or hands
6. awkwardly re-don jacket with same hand or hands
7. wash hands
posted by zippy at 2:38 PM on March 14

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the stall door you're draping your jacket over is probably way dirtier than your hands are after you do your thang. Avoiding touching your jacket before you wash your hands is, IMHO, overkill.
posted by kitty teeth at 2:51 PM on March 14 [10 favorites]

I leave my stuff hanging on the stall hook every time if there's no one waiting for the toilet. If someone does head toward the stall, a quick "sorry!" is all I've ever needed to make it ok.
posted by phunniemee at 3:55 PM on March 14

Two ideas, if you can carry a bit of equipment:

1. Keep a small supply of surgical gloves in your jacket pocket. Use for the messy part, then take off inside-out so any dirt is enclosed. Set this on the toilet paper holder while putting your coat back on and toss it in the trash on your way to washing your hands. (Just in case, and to reinforce the social norm.)

2. Carry a little S-hook. Slip it over the top of the stall door on the outside and hang your coat. That way if someone needs to go into the stall while you’re washing your hands, there’s no conflict.
posted by lakeroon at 4:33 PM on March 14

One thing you might consider is bringing a mini pack of wet wipes or something with you. That way, if you have any kind of situation where you’re worried about getting excretia on your clothing, you can clean your hands, leave the stall with your stuff, throw away the wet wipe and then wash your hands.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:34 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

If you're going with the wipes idea... for GOD'S sake don't flush them! These can really clog up pipes.
posted by Marky at 4:51 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]

kapers: "I may be missing something as I don't wear very high-end jackets and nothing in my life requires me to wear perfectly pressed clothing, but why does the jacket have to come off? "

Not the OP but I wear suspenders and I'd rather slip my jacket off and slide the suspenders down my shoulders than deal with refastening the suspenders.
posted by Mitheral at 5:38 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

Make your hand into a fist and use the back of your hand (knuckles) to lift the jacket off the hook on the stall door. Drape it over the crook of the elbow of your non-dominant hand, and balance it there while you wash your hands in the sink.

Personally, I'd just grab it off the door with my "poop hand" because it doesn't actually have poop on it, as I use sufficient toilet paper and have average skills of hand coordination such that I don't come into bare-fingered contact with the doody when I wipe. If that were not the case then I would carry wipes with me so I could clean my hands before exiting the stall or touching anything therein with my shit hand.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:05 PM on March 14

It sounds like you might be excessively economical with toilet paper - use more? Assuming there is paper (which you can’t always)... If there’s any option to (ie there’s time), try to check the roll before you commit to a stall. If you don’t have time and you’re stuck, don’t be shy about asking whoever’s in there if they could pass you some paper under the door. If no one’s around, sit tight, someone will be there soon.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:13 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

Oh, and after reading the other answers which mentioned menstrual fluids: during my extended super-fun perimenopausal years in which I had to deal with roughly 10 gallons of blood every time I used the restroom... I definitely carried wipes. And would often grab a handful of paper towels (if available) and wet them in the sink to take into the stall with me. It was a horror show in there.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:14 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]

I hate to break it to you, but unless you leave the bathroom stall with your pants/underpants/both around your knees or ankles, shuffling awkwardly to the basin so that you can wash your hands and exposing your nether regions to anyone else in the area, you have also been touching your pants with dirty hands. If you can wear a skirt suit, it's possibly less of an issue but I think it depends on the cut since you still might need to pull the skirt back into position using unclean hands.

My solution is to dismiss it from my mind on the odd occasion it occurs to me (usually during my period, when even using toilet paper to clean my hands as much as possible doesn't remove all traces of blood). If that doesn't work for you, yes, get in the habit of carrying either a small bottle of hand sanitiser or a small packet of sanitary wipes in your suit/jacket pocket. It should leave things clean enough that you can touch your clothing without worrying about contaminating it.

And really, do not start thinking about the possible contamination from using a shared restroom at all.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:31 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]

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