UX Pickle

Why do public toilet doors mostly open inwards?

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As a designer, this is a very interesting question to ask. Why does it open inwards and not outwards? There are no official building codes that toilets follow worldwide e.g., the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety code does not specify the direction public bathroom doors must open.

There are building codes that actually require the opposite in case of emergencies.

Most public toilet doors open inwards for a few key reasons: Do not block hallway, emergencies, privacy and keep unpleasant smells out. Let’s go over each one.

They don’t block the hallway

Have you ever been in a public restroom where the door opens out and somebody is trying to get in while you are trying to get out? It is not a pleasant experience. Toilets that open inwards prevent this from happening as they do not block the hallway.

For privacy

When you are in a public restroom, you generally want as much privacy as possible. This is especially important in toilets that do not have locks. If the door opened outwards, people in the stall would be more exposed. Inward-opening doors provide more privacy.

To keep unpleasant smells out

Nobody wants to be greeted with a waft of unpleasant smells when they open a door. Toilet doors that open inwards prevent this from happening as they keep the smells contained within the stall.

While the above are some reasons that explain the inward opening design, the real reason behind the bad design is convention and lack of incentive to change it. It has always been this way and so there is no real reason to change it.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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