The Least-Used Bathroom Stall

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Now onto a topic that crosses my mind so many times per day that it is probably second only to the 2008 NCAA Championship basketball game.

The least-used stall in the public restroom.

Let me just say, I haven’t engaged in too many conversations with people about this because, quite frankly, I don’t want to give away any strategy that has been carefully learned through the years, thus sabotaging my own efforts in this compulsion. Notwithstanding, as this is the stuff blogs are made of (maybe?), I want to initiate dialogue about this and hopefully, I won’t be caught in too many habitual public settings with the readership where this discussion and trading of secrets would backfire for all of us.

And obviously, almost 100% of my findings/observations come from experience in women’s restrooms, not to alienate any male readers. Your feedback is also welcome and eagerly anticipated.

When I was in high school, young and na├»ve, I assumed that the handicapped/”big” stall was the least-used, usually being farthest away from the door and all. Plus, there was all that room in there, which even made it more appealing.

I migrated toward the stall closest to the door once I figured out that most people like going in the biggest bathroom stall; it seemed if there was ever one person in the bathroom, said stall was always the one occupied. Yet then, during my very first in-person conversation about this topic, the person with whom I was speaking stated that she had read an article that said the stall closest to the door was the least-used. I do not see how this can be true. If you go into Target and there are 8 stalls to choose from, I almost ALWAYS see people choose the first one, while washing my hands or whatever... Are they maybe too lazy or scared to pick a more "random" stall because then they think maybe everyone else is doing the same thing?

(The three-stall bathrooms are really the hardest for me because you have a 33% chance that you’re using the most-used stall.)

Signs of an unused stall:
1. The seat is still up from the previous night’s cleaning (after years of research this is the clue of which I am most proud)
2. There is no debris or toilet paper scattered about
3. The water in the bowl is not rippling at all from a previous use

If this is TMI, sorry. But am I the only one who goes through this thought process? I have strongly determined my preferred bathroom stalls in each of the bathrooms at work, but I wonder if it’s just me who carefully considers these signs during the selection process.



  1. well.. here at work, there are only 3 stalls, and people usually pick either the end or the first one; therefore, I pick the middle.

    but i do, also, look for the one that still has the seat up from cleaning the previous night.

  2. Wow. This is a VERY important topic. I too look for the one that has the seat still up from cleaning. But do you think they actually cleaned the toilet seat? Or merely stuck in the cleaner & flushed it? I have always pondered that...I too read an article that says less people use the First Stall, so I have been usually going to the first one.

  3. I have NEVER thought about this. Sure, I like a clean stall, but I have never thought about the least used stall. Usually, I just peek in each one to find the one that looks the cleanest. I have never paid attention to a pattern to see which one that might be. Hmmm...

  4. Anonymous4:51 PM

    Here's what's happening ever since the research was released that the least-used stall is the first stall -- People are now all going to the first stall which now makes it one of the most used stalls. The original research showed that the most used stall was the second stall. So, I now avoid the first and the second and take a risk on the third. Or...I just go for the big stall because i like the space AND Oprah had some germ testers on and they showed that toilet seats are actually incredibly sanitary because the germs on them die almost instantly. So, better to sit on a toilet seat than a kitchen counter or any place cleaned with a sponge.

  5. I have to admit I'm a little ill-equipped regarding this subject. I only recently found out that most people push the flusher with their feet--I had been using my hand for the first 25 years of my life.

  6. Anonymous6:25 PM

    This has crossed my mind before and I have noticed that in public bathrooms, hardly anyone chooses the first stall. In fact, in my observations it has consistently been middle to back. Therefore, I choose the first to middle.

    Now work is a different story, as there is one bathroom, one toilet and co-ed privelages. This has proved to be quite disastrous, as you can imagine.


  7. You are DEFINITELY not the only one who thinks about it. Ever since I lived in a dorm with a comunity bathrrom- I have thought long and hard about the situation. I had once heard that it was the 2nd stall from the door that was the least used (in a bathroom with more than 3 stalls). I then heard it was the MOST used. Then, as I was reading your blog- Brad looked over my shoulder and said "It is statistically proven that the stall closest to the door is the least used." Coming from a dentist who was once an engineer- who can argue?

  8. Oh, thank goodness! I thought I was the only one who put this much thought into public restrooms! Do you also do the whole paper towel to turn offthe water, get a paper towlel to dry your hands and open the doors routine?

  9. √ But am I the only one who goes through this thought process?

    I go through it. Every single day.

    Airports are usually a big dilemma, lots of rows of stalls.

  10. I have no idea who you are, but this is the most fascinating blog post I've ever come across. I thought I was the only one who thought about that kind of stuff. I am very relieved there are more of "my kind" out there...thanks for your hilarious and yet deeply serious post!

  11. Anonymous9:32 AM

    I'm sorry to admit this but I do go through this thought process every time and every time I think I change my mind on what stall to use. At my work there are at least 5 stalls...I sometimes try to study and remember which stalls are being used when I go in there. I seem to want to use the last two stalls but according to what people are saying they are the ones most being used. I always see someone in the second stall, not so much in the first stall but unfortunately the first stall is our handicap stall so what does that mean? I think we need to ask those attendants who stay in the bathroom at random places like hotels and bars who have all those products and want you to tip them....I think the next time I see one of those people I'm going to ask them to do a study of which stall is used most and give them a big tip at the end of the night! :) I'm glad I found your blog...everytime I have been in the bathroom I told myself I'm going to google this question and of course as soon as I get to my desk I forget so this time I remembered and I was shocked to see something about it..Thanks.

  12. Anonymous11:38 AM

    I have often wondered.....definitely have thought about this subject. Glad to know the consensus is door #1. More importantly though is i have learned to get in and out without touching any part of the resttroom. Elbows and papertowels! I never use the part of the roll torn off from the previous person.

  13. Well i am currently sitting in the first stall and researching this so it at least sounds as if like minded people are using the first one. so I may just stick with that, not to preclude the above clues to review:) sorry for tmi;)


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