How To Exit A Bathroom (Mostly) Germ-Free

You will probably not get ebola from touching a public restroom door handle. But if you touch a restroom door handle with your bare hands, you might have a lot to think about when you’re eating a grilled cheese sandwich later: streptococcus, staphylococcus, E. coli and shigella bacteria, hepatitis A virus, the common cold virus, and, well, the thought of whatever some stranger was touching right before they touched the door handle basically being on your sandwich.

Obviously, washing your hands is the civilized thing to do before exiting a public restroom. Alas, some members of our civilization ignore this simple act, unwilling to spend 30 seconds on hygiene after they’ve spent a few minutes using a toilet in a restaurant, coffee shop, airplane, or bar.

We have a few options to remedy this: When you see someone leaving a restroom without washing their hands, you can chase them down and tackle them, then put them in a submission hold until they promise to return to the restroom and wash their hands. You can also publicly shame them outside the restroom, loudly announcing to coffee shop patrons or those waiting at airport gates that THIS ASSHOLE DIDN’T WASH HIS/HER HANDS AFTER USING THE BATHROOM, ISN’T THAT GROSS. You could dedicate your life to doing both of these things, possibly while wearing a brightly-colored lycra costume with a cape, and adopt the identity of a superhero named Cleanliness Man or Antibacteria Woman.

If confrontation isn’t your thing, or you realize the futility of trying to police every public restroom user in the world, or you don’t want to wear a lycra superhero costume, you can try to get out of every public restroom without touching surfaces that have been sullied by the lazy, disgusting, degenerate non-hand-washers of the world. Sometimes it’s simple and easy, but sometimes it resembles something I call “Restroom Kwon Do,” necessitating the grace, control, and body contortion of a trained (or at least novice) martial artist. The important thing to remember is there’s no wrong way to do it (as long as you don’t hit someone in the face with the door on your way out).

Here’s a quick how-to guide:

wash your hands


11 replies on “How To Exit A Bathroom (Mostly) Germ-Free

  • Zamboni

    Lower-waste clarification of Yes/Yes/Inward/Paper Towel:

    Having washed your hands, *retain your paper towel* when you dry them and take it with you to the door; now use it to open the door.

  • John Lynch

    As a climber, mountain biker, etc and an infectious diseases doctor, I couldn’t agree with you more. I am definitely not paranoid about “germs” (it is my job after all), but every public thing you touch has been touched by someone who didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, scratched their private bits (mostly dudes I think, but don’t know) or put their finger up their nose (it does fit perfectly, so no blaming on my part). We having had a saying in ID, I forget who coined it, “the world is covered in stool…the question is how deep where you are”. Good luck out there, wash your hands, get a flu shot and things should be OK.

  • Melinda

    Utter stupidity: restrooms without a trash can in range of the door. Because I really want to wander around holding a nasty paper towel while I search for a trash can. For some reason, I run across this all the time.

  • Ben

    I thoroughly enjoy all the flow charts you scratch out; doesn’t matter if it was written on a napkin or on paper, always hilarious

  • ScottE

    As a Uni student, I come into this situation at least twice a school day. On a different note, I have a friend who rates flushing toilets (with his foot) using the V scale. He said he came across a V3, but I’m not quite sure what that entails… Maybe he lost his balance or something.

  • Brooke

    There’s a little thing called the “gryp keychain” that opens door handles and holds bus straps while keeping hands clean. I use it all the time and it’s a life saver

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