A Guide to Urinal Etiquette


As men, we’ve all been in a situation where we’re out in public and suddenly get struck by the need to pee. Of course, women also get this feeling too, but one thing that females don’t have to deal with is the urinals (they need to deal with long queues for the toilets instead, but that’s a post for another day). So you put down your pint and trudge your way to the toilet to do your business. If the bathrooms are empty then you’re good to go, but if there is someone already in the male toilets then a certain etiquette comes it to play.

Ask most men and they’ll probably say that they want to get in and out of the toilet as quick as possible. It’s not uncommon to see groups of women heading to the toilet together, using it as an opportunity to have a girls chat without men around, fixing their hair and makeup in the bathroom mirrors, and a whole host of other things we’ve speculated about (aside from doing what us males do as well, of course). With men it’s different, we tend to just do our thing, wash our hands (hopefully anyway), and leave our bathroom suites within record time. However, when we’re in the boundaries of the public bathroom environment a sort of etiquette comes into play that we’re not always conscious of. It’s just become second nature to do the things I’m about to describe, at least for the majority of men anyway.

There are always one or two people who break the rules, and sometimes the rules have to be broken in any case (such as at a busy football match). For those people, and the opposite sex who may be interested in just what goes on inside a men’s bathroom (although I don’t know why you would be) here’s a guide that shows you how to follow male bathroom etiquette; particularly urinal etiquette.

Following Bathroom Etiquette

It’s sometimes a lot easier and more engaging to describe something with pictures, so that’s why I’ve provided the handy pictorial urinal etiquette guide that follows. Please excuse the terrible drawings!


So, you’ve entered the toilet and here’s the sight that greets you – five completely empty urinals. This one is easy because you don’t have to worry about anyone else who is already in the bathroom, so you can pretty much take your pick of the lot. However, if you want to follow proper etiquette for anyone who may come in after you while you’re still at your chosen urinal then the following should be done.

Correct Etiquette

The correct course of action is to take the urinal on either end of the group. Urinals on the end of a row also have the most privacy. The image shows urinals that are pretty close to each other, so there’s not an awful lot of privacy here, making the ends still your best bet. Some urinals have small privacy screens in-between each one, so it’s not as important to pick an end urinal if you’re conscious about privacy when you’re trying to go. You may be wondering why you should bother about that, but if you’re like me then having someone standing directly next to you when you’re trying to go puts a real block on your body actually responding to you and doing its thing. This is what we call ‘stage fright’.


Here we have someone already in the bathroom. He may be a crudely drawn and skinny looking chap, but he’s nabbed one of the end spots, thus following the male etiquette. In this case you should maintain a buffer between you and the other male, so taking the one on the opposite end is the best choice. You could also take the middle one if you really want to, but since the end one is free you might as well take advantage of that.


If both ends are taken then the middle one is your friend, as you’re still maintaining a buffer on either side between the other two occupants. If there are only three urinals then you’re already out of luck and should head to a stall, but here we’re concentrating on 5 being available.


If two men have taken an end and a middle slot then you take the other end free, as this is still maintaining a buffer. You may think the guy in the middle is breaking the unwritten rules, but someone could have been in the end spot when he arrived. In any case, it’s not really that important!


Ah, here we have a situation where all of the possible spots have been taken. You’ll either have to wait for one of the potential spots to free up or you should use a toilet cubicle instead. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule; if you’re busting to go and none of the cubicles are free then you most likely won’t have a choice – or even care – in this case, slot yourself next to the skinniest person so that minimal personal space invasion occurs. Secondly, if you’re at an event where thousands of people are in attendance, such as a football game, the rules can go out the window and any urinal can be used – otherwise you could be waiting a long time just to have a pee. If you suffer from ‘stage fright’ and can’t pee with someone standing next to you, the best way to overcome it is to try your best not to concentrate on the act of doing it. Instead think about something totally unrelated, or simply stare at a point on the wall and wonder what that suspicious stain is.

What do you do if the urinal is a trench type malarkey? You can still follow the rules by leaving significant gaps between each person, and the ends are still the prime spot here too.

There are a few other rules that are normally followed too:

  • No small talk: Nodding or uttering a greeting to a male already at the urinal is ok, but small talk should wait until you’ve both left the bathroom. This is especially true if it’s a co-worker who wants to talk about that spreadsheet you’re currently working on.
  • No phones: Leave your phone in your pocket when you’re stood at a urinal. Firstly, this means you’re only using one hand – a sure-fire way to end up missing the urinal altogether. It’s also quite unhygienic, and if you’re not careful you may end up giving your phone a wash in urine. Sadly I personally experienced the latter situation, although it was dropped in a toilet instead and proceeded to quickly stop working. We do have a guide to potentially fixing a phone that you’ve dropped in the toilet, but I’ve learned my lesson and my phone now stays firmly in my pocket.
  • No singing or humming a tune: Just, no. This should never be done in the bathroom unless you’re on your own.
  • No spitting: Nobody wants to see that. While I’m at it, no throwing up in it either! Although I realise that the latter is probably out of your control if you’re that far gone.
  • Keep your eyes focused straight ahead, or straight down: It’s a bit awkward for both parties when you catch the eye of the guy peeing a few feet away. Secondly, it’s not a competition to compare that area down there either.

Follow these simple rules and you’ll have no problems with any awkward situations. Just remember to wash your hands before you leave the room.

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