Locker Room Etiquette

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We have all been drilled on the basics of gym etiquette, rack your weights bla bla bla, but I want to cover a very advanced topic – Locker Room Etiquette. I’m not making this stuff up, I’ve seen this all in the locker room at the gym where I do cardio. Lets start off our discussion of locker room etiquette with a little quiz, what is the purpose of this device:

crotch dryer

  • A) foot dryer
  • B) crotch dryer
  • C) sock dryer
  • D) pee drip on your pants dryer
  • E) butt dryer

I know this device is really, really confusing to many people because I rarely see this device being used properly. This was a trick question, none of the above answers were correct. Its actually a *hand* dryer, to dry your *hands* after washing them. If you want to dry any of the above things, its probably best if you bring your personal hair dryer.   When people use the hand dryer for any of the above purposes, it diminishes its value for its primary function.

OK, for those of you new to gyms there are two devices that look very similar but have very different purposes. Its important you memorize what they look like and their uses. It might help to make flash cards and quiz yourself while taking the bus to work.

Device A is garbage can. It is for putting paper towels and garbage in, not for peeing into. Often they are not water-tight so if you pee into them, it leaks out making a smelly mess.

Device B is a urinal, its for peeing into, not for putting garbage in. If you put garbage in here, it clogs the urinal and pee flows all over – again , a smelly mess. As you can see in this photo, someone didn’t do their homework and thought this was a garbage can.  You can see where the confusion comes from, the garbage can and urinal look so similar –  they are both wall mounted roughly rectangular devices.  With some hard work on the flash cards you will be able to tell which device is which instantly.

OK, lets look at another area of the locker room.  Again, a pop quiz.  What is the purpose of this area?

hair salon

  • A) an area for cutting your long beard off
  • B) an area for shaving all your hair off with electric clippers
  • C) an area for clipping off all your body hair
  • D) a toenail clipping counter

Another trick question!  None of the above!  Although this area LOOKS like the one in your own bathroom, its not.  This is a high traffic shared facility and even the most meticulously cleaned locker room is only mopped a few times a day.   The clumps of hair you shave off will stick to everyones damp shower feet as they walk past leaving them with fuzzy bunny-slippers on their feet by the time they get to their locker – kinda gross actually.   Please do these activities at  home.

Marking your territory

I know humans are a territorial species and its natural to want to stake out your space in the locker room by spreading your pile of belongings all over the floor in a 3×3 foot pile in front of your locker.  Please don’t do this, it blocks all eight lockers in the area.  The locker room is a shared space, you can’t ‘reserve’ the space in front of your locker by piling  your belongings all over the floor while you are taking your 30 minute shower.   All that does is frustrate people and force them to walk over pile of things to get to their lockers.  If you must mark your territory, you might consider doing it as dogs do – this is far more effective than the pile technique and will cause your locker mates to run out of the locker room in terror freeing up lots of space for you.


In Roman times, men spent entire days lounging around naked in the gymnasium complex socializing, having business discussions, and relaxing while going from steam room to cold plunge to the massage rooms.  Like it or not, these are not Roman times and this kind of behavior is frowned upon in the modern locker room.  Some people have mastered the art of functional loitering.   They amazingly find a way to remain completely naked for 30, 40 or 50 minutes while appearing to be busy doing productive things the whole time, truly amazing.  The locker room is a crowded, shared facility.  Please don’t putz – do your thing and get out.    I know I’m a weird efficiency minded engineer but I can shower and change in under 5 minutes without hurrying, or in 3 minutes if I hurry.    Its one of the reasons I keep my hair shaved off, it saves incredible amounts of grooming time.   I certainly dont hold people to my 5 minute standard, this isnt a submarine, but really guys, 50 minutes???  The locker room is not a hookup place either, nor is it a place to show off or a place to oogle either.  Any of these activities tend to make others uncomfortable, if you want to do any of these activities please use any of the thousands of  hookup websites on the internet as that is a much more appropriate location for this activity.  Its also good etiquette to wrap yourself in a towel if you are going to remain naked for any extended length of time, like shaving at a mirror or brushing your teeth.  Dragging your jewels all over the counter or benches is frowned upon.


Locker rooms are notoriously poorly ventilated and stuffy. Please, please, please do not use spray deodorants and colognes in the locker room. It makes peoples eyes water and leaves them gasping for air like fish drying on a dock.


Even if you are a very busy, important person please do not hold the people in the locker room hostage to your conversation. Most locker rooms echo horribly and as nosy as people are, they still would rather not hear about your diverticulitis.


How to put this delicately, well, I can’t.  Mucous (hawkers or stuff coming out of the nose) does not belong on the gym floor, the steam room floor, the shower floor, or the locker room floor.  The proper way to dispose of snot is with a handkerchief or kleenex tissue.  If you are sick and coughing up  lots of phlegm, the polite way to dispose of it is to do it quietly in the toilet bowl.  If you want to blow snot into your own living room, thats fine, but dont make other people walk barefoot in it.  The tile floors in locker rooms are slippery enough, putting slippery snot on them increases the slip hazard.  If you want to clog your own bathroom sink with phlegm, thats fine too, but if everyone did that in the gym all the sinks would be clogged within 10 minutes.

In Summary

I’m the furthest thing from a neat-freak and I’m actually very easy to get along with.   I love getting dirty and love excuses to stay dirty.  Multi-week backpacking or cycling trips without shower facilities don’t bother me. Dirt is dirt, who cares.  But please remember that a locker room is a high volume shared facility, think about what you are doing and how it affects the one hundred people per hour that use that area.