Monday, March 13, 2017

Should a bathroom door be kept open or closed when not in use?

There seems to be some disagreement on whether a bathroom door should be left open or closed when it is not in use. This can depend on the situation and location of the bathroom, but personally I think residential bathroom doors should remain open when no one is in there.

The main reason to support this is the fact that you can easily tell when the bathroom is available for use because it is clear that no one is inside. If the door is closed, it can be hard to tell if someone is inside without knocking or calling out, “Is anyone in there?”. I don't like having to knock on a bathroom door just to find out if someone is in there. It can be even more awkward for the person inside having someone knock on the door and having to yell out, “Yes, someone is in here!”

So why would people close the door when no one is inside? I did a little research and I saw some arguments made that a bathroom is a private room and not something you really want to have on display especially when there is company over. I get where they are coming from, but everyone knows bathrooms exist. It is not something we need to hide away. If there are visitors over such as for a party, they are going to need to know where it is, and they should not have to knock to try to figure out if someone is inside.

I know if I am over at someone's house for a get together and I see the bathroom door closed, I assume someone is in there. I would guess many people would think the same thing and wait until a later time to check back to see if it is open. Then 10-15 minutes go by and you check again and it is still closed. Eventually someone decides to knock on the door or check if someone is in there and it turns out, it was empty the whole time! This kind of situation should not happen which is why bathroom doors should be left open when not in use.

Another argument mentioned is that keeping the door closed keeps unpleasant odors from going to the rest of the house. In rare cases, I could see if you might want to leave the door closed with a fan on for a while, but most of the time, this should not be an issue. If anything, keeping the door open will help ventilate it to help disperse the odor more quickly.

What are your thoughts on this debate of whether a bathroom door should remain open or closed when not in use? Feel free to leave a comment below. 
Update 11-4-20:
The other day I walked by a public bathroom that has a door. The door was closed with the light and the fan on inside, so of course I assumed someone was in there. Hours later I walk by it again and it is still closed with the light and the fan on. This is odd because usually this bathroom is open. I hang around for a few minutes to see if anyone leaves but no, it is still closed. So finally I decide to go over to it and knock on the door. No answer. I slowly turn the handle. It is unlocked and the door opens. Guess what? No one inside! So the bathroom was closed with the light on and the fan running for hours! Who knows how many people were not able to go to the bathroom because they thought someone was in there. Stop closing the bathroom doors when there is no one inside!


  1. Yes, if people are concerned about smell they should clean their toilet or maybe call a plumber.

  2. One point I'd like to add... Bathrooms are prone to mold... leaving them open will prevent that. I know someone that demands the bathroom door remain closed at all times. She has multiple reasons but none of them have value. She is likely grossed out by the sight of the bathroom when she is near it (I know- very strange, but only if you knew this person...). Bottom line is, if after a shower, a bathroom door is routinely closed, then there WILL eventually be mold in there (just as there is in my friend's bathroom). Thanks for the write-up here!

    1. I'm at my boyfriend's place and his sister always complain to him that I leave the door open WHILE using it.

      So this whole time I was confused because I know I always close the door and lock it.

      But what she meant was that she wants it closed after I use it.

      And I didn't discover that till last night, till I heard her close the door hard after I had used it.

      And this whole time I'm thinking it shouldn't really matter, I mean she can probably smell the bathroom.

      But still, small fades away much faster when it is open.

      I dont know lol.

      I just feel like she wants to be mad at me over trivial things.

  3. I had to google this situation because my in-laws always close the doors even when they are at my house. It's like you mentioned, how do you know if someone is really in the bathroom. At their house I've sat and waited next to the bathroom wondering if someone is inside and you're right it's an uncomfortable situation especially if someone is in there and you knock. Now the person in the bathroom feels pressured because they know someone is right there waiting.

    I don't understand the part about keeping a bathroom private because first off if someone needs to use the bathroom they are going to see it anyways and secondly people usually don't roam around someone's house UNLESS they are looking for the bathroom or maybe the kitchen so closing the door so that guests don't stumble upon your bathroom and looking inside it seems like paranoia.

  4. I looked up this question because my wife insists on keeping the bathroom doors closed shut all the time- even after we have spent almost 35k (yes, 35k)! on renovating the two first floor bathrooms just last year.
    As an engineer, I know that keeping the doors open as often as possible will keep them ventilated and prevent molds, etc. But beyond that, the bathrooms are south facing and let in a lot of light, and especially the main bathroom attached to our master bedroom, which gives me a wonderful view of large trees in our and our neighbor's yard while I am lying in my bed.
    Hopefully this blog will help her change her mind.

    1. And forgot to mention that most bathrooms don't have the 'return' for the air - hot or cold - as all other rooms in the house has. This design assumes that the bathroom doors will be left mostly open for the air to return to the furnace/cooler via the returns in adjacent rooms.

      But as I said above, just common sense should prompt one to leave the bathroom doors open whenever possible - prudishness should not justify keeping them closed all the time.

  5. Hi! And when the kitchen is in front the toilet? Thanks.

  6. A freshly used bathroom spreads germs and odors to adjacent rooms. Why not close bathroom door and open bathroom window?

  7. I insist that doors should be closed at all times whether they are in use or not. People like my room-mate (Jamaal) have no sense on this topic and deserve to share a public washroom.

  8. What if your bedroom is attached to the main bathroom(I know,stupid designers,stupid design) because you know, you don't want to find out after waking up that the bathroom door is open and all the water vapor and smell in it's glory is out for you(it's not paranoia when when bad smell is after you :P)....And you know the best part,people do that even after installing the fucking exhaust fan so yeah give me one scientific reason to keep the door closed and I'll fucking post it on the bathroom door.....

  9. Why bother having a bathroom door if your not going to keep it shut after all why do you need privacy for a crap, we all have to go.
    Top of my stairs is a small landing with 2 bedroom and one bathroom all of which have doors. The place looks neat and tidy with all 3 kept closed.
    We have a window and a fan that runs for a set period of time when the light is switched off and the house is fitted with a PIV unit that ventilates the whole houser on the premise that no room is airtight so a closed bathroom door will ventilate as well as an open bathroom door.

  10. I like to keep the door closed.

    If the light is off (you can clearly see if it's on or off), no one is in there, unless you guys occasionally take a shit with the lights off, which would be weird.

    It's a bathroom, please keep the door closed.

  11. I've been leaving the bathroom door open. I've visited nice homes and the bathroom doors are always closed.

  12. It really annoys me when people close bathroom doors, especially Dad, because I don't know if anyone is in there or not. It is just ridiculous to close them when no-one is in there. So whenever my family has left the bathroom and closed the door... I open the bathroom door to let everyone know the bathroom is available to use - to do everyone a favour.

  13. I have to keep the bathroom door closed so little Sushie doesn't poop in the sink. Meow!