Person checking list on a clipboard while looking at a disgusting toilet. On the back of the toilet is a duffel bag containing things listed in the article

Public Restroom Skills

We all have those friends, or family members, or spouses. The ones that get to choose not to poop in a public bathroom. I find this slightly comical, because in my opinion, as a person with Crohn’s disease, the only way to avoid pooping in public restrooms is to not go out in public. And unless I’m feeling overwhelmingly crummy, I’m generally not interested in staying home just in case I might have to go to the bathroom.

In the last 10 years of dealing with irregular, inconsistent, urgent and frequent bowels, I have used MANY types of public restrooms.

There are the restrooms at nice restaurants, where there’s an attendant handing out paper towels and trying to make small talk. Then there are the bathrooms at fast food joints where there are only one or two stalls, little if any toilet paper, and often sticky floors.

What about the “outhouse” at a gas station or convenience store along the highway, where there might not be light, or a clean surface, or even a proper facility setup? And my most dreaded but sometimes necessary option, the port-a-potty - which is a poor excuse for a bathroom in any capacity and mostly just stands as a bucket to do your business.

Tips for using a public bathroom with Crohn's

During (and after) many of these bathroom experiences, I have thought about what I needed to make the entire experience less stressful, or even less traumatizing, and I want to share these tips with you.

  1. Charmin To Go. If you don’t already know about these tiny travel rolls of toilet paper that fit so nicely in your purse/backpack/pocket and even come in their own plastic case, please look them up right now. Buy them, and never leave home without them. In my very humble opinion, there’s nothing worse than having a … Crohn’s … bathroom trip and finding one ply garbage toilet paper or NO TOILET PAPER AT ALL. This is not a drip-dry situation, folks!
  2. Baby Wipes. Again - these come in a small(ish) package and have SO MANY functions. Toilet seat dirty? Give it a quick wipe before you put a seat cover down. Messy situation on your behind? Use these instead of going through a million pieces of bad toilet paper. Are hands dirty afterward? Baby wipes to the rescue.
  3. Hand Sanitizer - same situation.
  4. PooPouri travel size - no bigger than a chapstick, you can spray it in the toilet bowl before you go, masking the scent and concealing your business a little - if that’s something you’re worried about! Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to eliminate or mask sounds, but… let’s just say I’m still thinking about the options!
  5. However, here’s a tip to prevent the splashback noise! Drop a few squares of toilet paper into the toilet before you poop, and it’ll “catch” your poop, muffling the sound AND preventing your behind from getting splashed!

Other restroom obstacles I’ve faced when out and about are bathrooms needing codes or keys to enter, broken stall locks, overflowing toilets, and those that frequently flush automatically while you’re in the middle of your business.

Tips for restroom issues that may come up

Here are a few ideas on those:

  1. If you’re in a new place, ask for the bathroom code before you need to use it. If you’re already in an urgent position, step in front of any line and show the employee your restroom access card.
  2. If the stall you're in (or the only stall) won’t shut or has a broken lock, try looping your purse/bag over the top outer corner of the stall door and wedging it on the inside. This can often keep the door closed!
  3. Many of us have dealt with clogged or overflowing toilets at home, and while often more embarrassing/stressful, dealing with them in public isn’t much different. On most toilets, you can turn the faucet against the wall clockwise to stop water from flowing.
  4. What about the toilets that flush automatically every 3 seconds? Put a piece of toilet paper in front of the sensor to stop it from going off!

What skills/products/strategies have you adapted for pooping in public restrooms? I’d love to hear them below!

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