How to Handle Gross, Public Bathrooms

public bathroomEven in the best of times, public bathrooms are not on anyone’s list of the top places to change your baby (or go to the bathroom). However, with a baby in tow, forgoing the public restroom is no longer an option, unless you want a very cranky baby. The trick is to have a few supplies on hand to make the process smoother and more sanitary.

Know Where to Go

In case of a baby bathroom emergency, it is always a good idea to scope out the location of bathrooms when you enter a store or mall. Family bathrooms are the best – as they give you a whole room to yourself and occasionally come with extra amenities, like a diaper or wipe dispenser.

The Changing Table Dilemma

Most of the time you’ll get lucky and will find a bathroom complete with a good changing table. Sometimes you won’t. It’s good to be prepared either way. Have a blanket and changing pad on hand that you can use if you have to place baby on the table or floor to change him. Also keep an eye out for benches outside the restroom area – if they won’t provide you with a changing table you might as well make use of this instead.

Have Supplies

Obviously you will always have diapers and wipes on hand, but for those just-in-case scenarios it’s good to have the following:

  • Plastic bags for soiled clothes
  • Extra wipes / toilet paper
  • Antibacterial gel or wipes
  • Toy to distract baby

Some parents like to carry disposable changing pads, which can be thrown out after each use. It may not be the most environmental option, but it is a sanitary one if you regularly use public restrooms.


If the restroom is just too yucky to use, or if the change table is non-functional or unsafe, be sure to take your complaints to the manager of the building, particularly if it is an eating establishment which should have strict cleanliness standards. Follow up a few days later to see if your concerns have been addressed; if not make a call to the health authority.


When no washroom is in sight, or if you just can’t face using it, there are alternatives. If your baby’s stroller reclines, this can be a good place for a change, or even on the backseat of your car. If worse comes to worse, you can put a blanket on your lap and do the change there. Just be careful that baby doesn’t roll off! And finally, if you are only a few minutes from home you can always make the dash to your own clean and well-stocked changing table.


What do you think?

How to Handle Gross, Public Bathrooms

Tell us what you think!


  1. Rebecca says:

    What really gets me is when there is a bathroom big enough for a changing table of any kind and 4 moms with babies in diapers in the establishment, but no changing table! How can a business owner think this is ok. I wish more moms in this situation would change their babies right there so maybe the owner would get the point. It may be passive aggressive but the direct opproach doesn’t always work.

  2. LIZ says:

    sometimes i changed her in her stroller because some changing tables make me gross out

  3. If the car is an option, I usually do that. Otherwise, it’s a changing table in a restroom (I always have my handy mat and portable clorox wipes) or restroom counter if it’s big enough. I will not change her on the floor though. When necessary, I have done it on benches or in my lap while I sit in a chair (not easy considering she is nearly 3′ tall at only 15mo). If a store person comments, I just mention that their bathroom has no changing table and no/very little counter, and they usually agree and let me finish without a problem. My biggest peeve with bathrooms, honestly, are the skinny little teens and twenty somethings that shove or race past handicapped, elderly, and moms with babies just so they can use the big handicapped stall with the changing table…basically puts you in the same predicament as if there weren’t one.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Great tips. Here’s how I deal with public changing table germs: I use toilet seat covers as table covers.

  5. Angie says:

    We’re a one car family, and baby and I go for a lot of walks. I have managed to forget things and bring too much with me at the same time. We really paid attention to what our LO was doing during a change at home and what made him the most calm and comfortable (one LOUD public changing brought me some very rude stares. I tend to be confrontational when others pass judgment) and we try to make it as much like home as possible. Obviously a table, pad and wipes warmer aren’t always available, so we make sure we have ONE familiar toy, wipes and diapers, two onesies, and a blanket. Our LO also loves to laugh while he’s changing, so we distract him with noises and by tickling him.

  6. ralynn says:

    My toddler gets so frustrated when I take him potty when were out because I make this huge fuss is its gross in there so I take a Clorox wipe and wipe down the toilet because with him being a boy he stands and goes so I want to make sure it is clean . It’s very rare I find a clean bathroom while were out so we try to bring a potty with us 🙂

  7. Lindsay says:

    I’ve changed my daughter many times in the car when there isn’t a public restroom.

  8. kerri says:

    I always keep antibacterial wipes to wife off changing tables surfaces or toilet seats to keep germs down as much as possible. And I also wipe surfaces down when we finish using them.

  9. Grace says:

    when i have to go in public restrooms i squat, when i have to change my baby i lay down a blanket/my diaper plastic changing mat, when my daughters have to go i find the cleanest looking potty then wipe it down and lay down toilet on the seat in a square shape for them to sit on

  10. spike430 says:

    My thing about public bathrooms is if you don’t have a stroller or shopping cart with you…it’s just you and your 8 month old baby and there is no change table…how do you (the Mom) go to the bathroom and redress holding a baby??? I so wish all bathrooms had the flip down wall mounted chairs that you strap your baby into so you can go to the bathroom without juggling your baby.

  11. Amy says:

    Public restrooms are gross. I wouldn’t darn change my son in one.

  12. Janice says:

    In a changing emergency I would rather lay the baby on my lap, then go in some scary bathroom. I can always replace my clothes.

  13. Melody says:

    Changed my baby once on my lap…it was tricky!

  14. Hope says:

    I don’t like using public restrooms myself, so I will definitely have supplies on hand to remove germs for my baby.

  15. mida says:

    when i am in tje public i always change the baby in the back of the car i dont use public restroom

  16. Angela says:

    Great article. I love the advice.

  17. Brittney says:

    I always take a blanket to change my baby when I’m in public. I’ve had to change him in the backseat, on my lap, and on some of the changing tables. Most are safe and functional, but I lay a blanket down first and change him as fast as I can.

  18. jennifier33 says:

    I would rather change my son in the back of my SUV than some of these gross restrooms.

  19. meredith says:

    Those changing tables can be scary; I feel like my baby is going to fall off.

  20. lawmaria says:

    i try and not use the restroom. they are very unsanitary. i will use a bench and/or a blanket and change my baby there. my baby is at the age where he wants to touch everything and i dont want him to.

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