Afternoon Inquisition

AI: To Pee or Not To Pee

Much of Texas is in the middle of one of the hottest summers on record, and battling very serious drought conditions. So this story caught my attention.

As a conservation measure, a Brazilian environmental group is trying to get the country’s residents to urinate in the shower. The idea is simple; flushing the toilet fewer times a day saves water. A single household flushing even one less time in a day would save 1,157 gallons of water in a year.

The organization even released the following ad to promote the idea. It’s in Portuguese, but it’s pretty easy to follow. It depicts people of all walks (and even aliens and King Kong) wizzing in the shower. (I particularly like the basketball player. He’s peeing, showering, and dunking all at the same time.)

Urine is sterile, so peeing in the shower is harmless, except of course, if you have a disease that can be transmitted through pee, like hepatitis.

So it’s confession time . . . .

Are you a shower-urinator? If not a regular, have you ever drained into the drain, so to speak? What were the circumstances? Do you conserve water in other ways?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Yes I am. Why do people find this such a big deal?

    If I have been outside in 120 degree weather, and am sweaty and dirty, or maybe I went to the river and have river water all over me, or maybe I got stuck in a dust storm (this has happened; I was CAKED in dirt from head to toe) … well, that’s a lot of grime.

    I betcha there is more icky stuff in the grime you wash off your body *in the shower* every day then there is in your pee.

  2. Urine is sterile, so peeing in the shower is harmless, except of course, if you have a disease that can be transmitted through pee, like hepatitis.

    Really, though, how likely is it that you’re going to spread hepatits by urinating in the shower? If the water is on, it goes directly into the water. I guess if the next person came in, had a cut on their foot and just got unlucky, but that seems unlikely, especially since this is private showers we’re talking about. I think they’d much more likely to pass on hepatitis through other means.

  3. Also, not to be gross or anything, but most people in the US don’t own bidets and such. Which means we wipe with paper. Which means lovely fecal particals are likely left. And get washed down the drain when you shower, especially if you’re good at scrubbin’ ever crack ‘n corner.

    Like I said, the other crap (pun!) that gets washed off of you in the shower is probably much ickier than some urine.

  4. I always pee in the shower. It used to gross my wife out, but in the end she converted. The new rule is I can pee in the shower, but only when she’s not there.

    I agree with @marilove. Pee is about the least likely way I can think of to pass a disease to someone else in the tub.

  5. Yes, I pee in the shower. I also don’t flush every time I pee in the toilet. I tend to have very dilute urine so smell is never a problem. I usually go 2 or 3 times before I flush.

  6. Yup. Only at home when I’m alone, though. It’s all going down the drain and I’m disease-free. I also don’t flush for every pee. It’s not like it smells like anything (except for maybe first thing in the morning). Isn’t everyone glad now that they know what time of day my pee is smelliest?

  7. Why not just follow the old rule?

    If it’s yellow, let it mellow.
    If it’s brown, flush it down.

    Aside from that – I, too, pee in the shower occasionally.

  8. And you know, I have to say that Skepchick (and particularly the AIs) have been a much more pleasant environment lately. There was a bit of a weird period there for a while. Whatever everyone is doing, please keep up the good work. And kudos.

  9. Absolutely.

    But really, are you saving any water? Unless you’re multitasking you’re not helping at all. Probably the best you can do is to pee, wash with one hand, and brush your teeth with the other hand (some definite risk factors here).

    I help the environment by peeing outside on noxious, invasive weeds.

  10. @catgirl: Yeah, I do the same thing — I drink a LOOOOOT of water, so my urine is very diluted, so I don’t flush every time, especially at night because the flush is noisy and wakes me up.

    I also RARELY turn on the bathroom light. I can pee just fine without it!

  11. @HERD_Dad: Well, yes, you are saving a tank of water if you flush every time you pee. If you don’t flush every time you pee, then probably not.

    I think most people pee in the shower out of convenience, anyway.

  12. I should mention that even though I will gladly pee in my own shower, I would never pull a George Costanza and pee in a public shower with other people around.

  13. Nope, never. I’m all for water conservation and and I know that urine is sterile as it exits but I’m super oooged out by the idea. Don’t like coming across someone else’s pee mellowing away in the toilet either, gives me the shivers for some reason.

  14. Yeah many times. I also pee on the compost heap if I’m in the garden and need to pee

  15. @Elyse: Oh no, I don’t. I guess I do turn the light on during the day sometimes, if I plan on being in there for a while. Otherwise I pee in the dark. I even do it at friends’ houses if I’m familiar with their bathroom and just need a quick pee lol. My friend Brian was confused once: “Are you peeing in the dark?!” lol

  16. It’s never occurred to me. And also there is often a cat in there with me, and I don’t think he’d appreciate it.

  17. @marilove: Honestly, no. But then again I apparently do not go as frequently as everyone else. My friend can’t sit through a movie, while I can go an entire 9 hour shift without having to go.

  18. Actually brushing one’s teeth in the shower is not such a good idea. You are supposed to brush for two minutes. Even if you’re multi-tasking, you’re taking longer. Better to just brush your teeth at the sink without the water running.

    But peeing in the shower? Sure, why not. It’s about the only time girls can confidently pee while standing.

  19. @Bookitty: Well, maybe not. Sometimes (especially in the summer) I let my conditioner sit on my hair for 2 minutes. It’s a great time to brush! And some people like long showers, so for them, it makes sense.

    I am a super quick showerer. I can get up at 6:25am, and be out the door by 6:37. This includes a shower, throwing on clothes, brushing my hair, teeth, and putting on shoes.


  20. @Sam Ogden: Most dehydrated girl ever, probably.

    I never used the bathrooms in high school for anything other than smoking, or brushing my teeth after lunch. I was stunned when a doctor told me people go more than two or three times a day.

  21. @Eliza:

    I drink 1 cup of coffee in the morning, water until the non-standard, varying, threshold time then switch to boozahol (usually wine or gin)

  22. @marilove:

    The more efficient way to use conditioner is to put it in, then let it work while you are washing your body, then rinse everything at once.

  23. Can I nominate an ickiest COTW? That would be @russellsugden: .

    I have a tendency to hold it for long periods of time, so when I do go, I get bored waiting for the drainage. When I shower, even if I don’t feel the need, as soon as the water hits me, I start to realize I need to go….badly. I don’t think too much about it, as long as the water is flowing well. If its starting to back up in the shower, I try (but often fail) to resist. I understand the nature of urine, I just have issues with bodily waste secreations-that’s my own little…oddity.

  24. @Eliza:

    My brother was given the nickname of “camel” after traveling with him so many times. He goes only once or twice a day. Unfortunately, I’m the complete opposite.

  25. @Elyse & @Sam Ogden: It is always freezing in my office so the thought of drinking something other than coffee gives me shivers!

    When I die, I figure it’ll look something like a staking scene from Buffy, only less pale and toothy.

    To bring it back OT — the Carmen Miranda-esque character in the video made me laugh out loud.

  26. @catgirl: That’s what I usually do, as I don’t actually brush my teeth in the shower. But it only takes me maybe 20 seconds to wash my body.

    I am like SUPER WOMAN in the shower.

    1. Put shampoo in hair, suds up quickly, and rinse.
    2. Repeat.
    3. Put conditioner in hair.
    4. Suds up body real quick.
    5. Wash face.
    6. Rinse hair and body and face all at once.

    and then I’m out, usually in 7 minutes.

  27. I’m with Eliza. It’s just never occurred to me. I could probably come up with a reason why I don’t do it, but it would be way TMI.
    I would like to add one thing, though. Urine in your bladder is sterile. Your penis or vulva, however, is not. Therefore, the urine that leaves your body is no longer sterile.
    That being said, none of the shower water that comes off you is sterile either, so I’m not really grossed out by the thought of peeing in the shower. The “urine is sterile” myth is just a pet peeve of mine.

  28. I have a very old clawfoot tub with very old plumbing. The drain is on the slow side so no, I do not pee in the shower. If I did I’d be soaking my feet in pee.

    I don’t hear much about conserving water here in Michigan. I think being partially surrounded by large quantities of fresh water has something to do with it.

  29. @Glow-Orb: Yeah, I knew that, but I do think it’s probably still more sterile than much of the other stuff coming off of your body :)

    Like when you wash your butt crack.

  30. Wow.

    I must say I’m a little astounded. I seriously thought I was the only person who pees in the shower and doesn’t freak the crap out about it.

    I guess I forgot where I was. You freaking logical pee hippies.

    I only do it occasionally, but hey if it saves water I’m gonna do it all the time!

  31. @marilove:



    Right now, Houston is not doing too badly with the drought. We officially only have “recommendations” to conserve water. But a lot of central Texas is having a rougher go of it. No lawn watering. No car washing. Things like that. Though no rationing yet, as far as I know.

  32. Right after my then-girlfriend and I got together, I mentioned – in what context, I don’t remember – that I usually peed in the shower. (Oh yes, ladies. I’m taken.) She seemed appalled by the idea, and we didn’t discuss it for very long.

    Four years and a wedding went by before we stumbled onto the mutual realization that she didn’t realize I meant “while I’m in” the shower. She was picturing me walking into the bathroom, whipping out my junk and hosing down the inside of the tub.

    And she married me despite this.

  33. I always go to the bathroom in the shower. The hard part is smashing it down the drain with your foot.

    If they incorporated #2 into the plan you’d save more water.

    **alternatively, piss on your plants. They like the N**

  34. Yes. I do it. Shhhhhh, don’t tell anyone -especially my husband! Methinks he’d be grossed out. Not sure why…
    I hate using water unnecessarily. Not that it’s not cheap, clean and plentiful where I live, but it won’t always be that way, likely, and why use more than I need to?

  35. @kevinf:

    I better not pee in my plants, as the only ones I have are on my balcony. One of them is even a hanging plant, and that might get a little dangerous.

  36. I vaguely remember a funny line from an old episode of “Will and Grace”.
    Something to do with Grace taking a home pregnancy test . . . and being asked if she threw the pee applicator on the floor of the shower . . .

  37. I hate to throw cold water (so to speak) on all this fun, but I have a serious question:

    “Urine is sterile, so peeing in the shower is harmless…”

    Even though you qualified that sentence by an admonition of hepatitis, I have to question whether or not urine is really sterile if it’s coming out of a human body. Is there some way we could get a medical opinion on this?

  38. @CycleNinja: Well, it IS sterile inside of your body. That’s the entire point of urine. Until it exits, and hits air and your body. Then it’s no longer sterile.

    But it’s still probably not any worse than the other grime and fecal matter coming off of your body when you shower.

  39. Sometimes I pee in the shower. My OBGYN said that because of how the female urinary system evolved, the only way to be sure you get ALL the urine out of your bladder is to let fly while standing up sometimes.

    I also subscribe to the “If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down” ideology. It saves water if you don’t flush every time you pee.

  40. Yes, on occasion, I do pee in the shower. And I do wait to flush . . since I work all day, I tend to just flush in the morning before I go to work. Also, my short showers are the stuff of legend among friends and lovers. I can get in, shampoo, condition, wash everything and rinse the conditioner off before the water is fully warm . . yes, I often start with the cold water when I’m not feeling old and achey.

    And I don’t water my damned front lawn more than a couple times a summer, never in the backyard, which looks like the hillsides to the east of us . .sere and natural.

  41. My cat pees in the shower. We tried to stop him for a while but hey, it saves on litter and he whines at the door if we lock him out of the bathroom. Though one time we went away for the weekend and he took a shit in it to teach us a lesson.

  42. I always pee in the shower. Not to save water or anything but because I like to multitask and I feel like I am saving time. Also I’m in warm water listening to water flow all around me and frankly, I plain ol’ have to pee in that situation.
    My boyfriend thinks it’s kind of gross but hey, he blows his nose and then looks in the tissue so we’re even.

  43. @marilove: Just remember, you asked. In the most diplomatic terms possible, I have IBS, so a trip to the toilet is usually for #2 and I just pee while I’m there.

    @CycleNinja: I’m a veterinarian. Does that count as a medical opinion?

  44. @moopet:

    My dog does too!

    It all started when he was on prednisone for allergies back in 2004. It made him pee all the time so we had to get up during the night to let him out every couple of hours.

    Once he was off the meds, he was still trying to get 3-4 playtimes during the night. Finally I told my husband that under NO circumstances were we to get up during the night and let him out. I was not going to be trained by my dog.

    One night, I heard him peeing. Peeing hard. It sounded like rain, I swear. I was so pissed because I knew he was going on the carpet.

    I yelled at him… and then he jumped out from behind the shower curtain. Now, every once in a while, I find dirty dog paw prints on the tub floor when I go to shower.

  45. Answers to OP:

    Never when married (Co-ed showers every morning because we had the same schedule–soap, shift, rinse–).
    Since single, heck yeah, whenever the urge strikes. I never though of it as conserving water, just lazy. Now I have a new, green, virtue!!

  46. I do pee in the shower, but it’s not a planned sort of thing – if I’m already in there and I have to pee, I pee. If I’m getting ready to shower and I have to pee, I wait and pee in the shower. It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about – I know guys do it all the time (they’ve done it in front of me while we were sharing – mildly gross, but so long as he didn’t spray me with it, no biggie).

  47. P.S. The whole sharing thing’s been a few years, and things may have changed, I suppose, but I doubt it.

  48. I never thought I’d admit this… but, yes… yes I do pee in the shower. It’s a big time saver and it keeps the toilet from sucking up all the cold water for 2 minutes while the shower scalds the crap out of me.

  49. I’ve always said there are two kinds of people. Those who pee in the shower, and those who pee in the shower and for some reason lie about it.

  50. Hey guys,
    Nice to meet some like-minded people :) Heard about the site from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s plug at the Origins symposium.

    To the OP, yes sometimes, but more after reading lately how urine isn’t all that bad and vile as society has lead us to believe. And also from seeing the Bear Grylls Man vs Wild episode where he’s in the Australian Outback and says if in an emergency of dying from thirst, it’s ok to drink your pee, but within a few hours before the bacteria really take over.

    But now after reading here from the doc above that urine is not sterile once it leaves the body, is it still safe to drink your urine if in an emergency? I guess if it’s a matter of life and death, you’ll do it regardless.

  51. If I need to. I rarely do though, as peeing is usually the first thing I do after getting up in the morning.

    Conserving cold water is not much of an issue here, as we have an awful lot of it, but I try to conserve the hot water by:

    a) Not standing in the shower for ages just daydreaming and enjoying the feeling.
    b) Turning the pressure down when I shampoo and soap up.

  52. It’s more of an ‘In Case of Emergency’ action for me. Luckily I don’t have to break the glass door first.

  53. Well since my power shower broke down and I’ve been taking baths for the last 3 months or so, no.
    But as soon as the shower is back up and running when my landlord gets off his ass and fixes it, I’ll let fly in the shower again

  54. All the time. Sometimes when I’m not actually taking a shower. Sometimes when someone else is taking a shower. Sometimes in a rain shower.

  55. Frequently. Getting out of the shower to use the toilet is retarded. I’ve also been known to piss the the backyard, because we have fences and walls and stuff and it’s not hurting anything. (Generally did this when I got home from school on the bus home alone and had to pee too badly to wait until I could unlock the door and get inside. School bathrooms SUCK.)

  56. @Glow-Orb: Oh, that makes sense. :) And don’t worry, I don’t have IBS, but whenever I’m stressed or tired or sick, it ALL goes to my stomach. Not that TMI. I know people with Crohn’s and IBS and I’ve been explained much, much worse!

  57. I was told as a little girl that it was ok to pee in the shower, as long as I squatted down first.

    Along with a lot of random stuff my parents have taught me over the years, I have rejected the squatting…. But yes, I will on occasion pee in the shower.

    Had a EX-bf who peed in the sink though, that was gross.

  58. @Jammin: The bacteria in the urine comes off your own body, so I guess if you would be willing to lick yourself to save your life, it would be okay to drink your urine.
    That being said, if you were dying of thirst you probably would be producing very little urine and the urine you did make would have a very high sodium content. I would think that it would do you more harm than good. (Like drinking sea water.) This is all based on the assumption that you have functioning kidneys. Otherwise all bets are off and you probably shouldn’t have gone to the outback to begin with.
    Now if you could distill it, that would solve all your problems. Of course by the time you figured out how to do that, you could have built a radio out of coconut shells and called for help.

  59. 0:26 – is that Stephen Hawking? ;)

    I pee in the shower. It was just IN me, and I’m getting ready to wash myself – why not? I, too, don’t flush every time. So glad I married somebody who shares these habits.

  60. @catgirl: COTW

    I’ve peed in the shower. If it’s late at night though I’ll pee out my window the garden. I also totally subscribe to the adage, If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down.

  61. We in South Australia have had water restrictions for a few years now – driest state in the driest continent etc.

    One trick that saves a lot of water is to collect the shower water in a bucket while it is warming up and put that on the garden.

    But back to topic yeah, I pee in the shower. It’s a natural reflex when there is the sound of running water.

    Protein chemist here – nothing the size of a virus will pass through the glomerulus into the urine unless you have bad nephrotic syndrome.

    Shower water in our state is treated the same as toilet water in any case.

    Whether “grey water” should have the current restrictions relaxed, so it can be used for irrigation, is under debate. Grey water (showers etc) has the same bugs as “black water” (toilets) but at a lower concentration.

  62. @Sam: just wanted to say, what a good question this was (as always).

    Did you make up your mind to go into politics yet? You would be good at it. Go smack ’em!

    We in SA actually got a Senator into Federal Parliament on the single issue of water policy.

  63. I don’t have much time to respond to everything. However, I’m going to bounce around on a few things worth mentioning:

    1) I occasionally pee in the shower, but it is usually because I keep my bathroom pretty clean and if I have to pee once I’ve gotten in the shower, I’d prefer avoiding having to dry the floor and toilet because I dripped on them with my wet body.

    2) I used to avoid flushing the toilet after I pee, but after moving in with Photoguy I had to stop because he thinks it is gross, even if he can’t see that there is pee there, he sees the toilet paper and he has an extremely sensitive nose. During the day, when he’s not there and I’m busy with work, I sometimes do it anyway. I don’t want my callers to hear me flush unless they know I just whizzed.

    3) Regarding sterile urine. No, the vulva is not sterile, it tends to have bacteria all over. However, urine from women often doesn’t make contact with the vulva. Some of us are quite talented and can get the urine out of our bodies at such a rate that it passes directly from the urethra into the toilet. Thus, the urine being sterile (unless we have an infection) is still something that holds true for us. Furthermore, given the way our bodies work, for men, the urethra can become pretty damned close to sterile. Unless a man is ejaculating between urinating or sticking foreign objects into his penis, he’s unlikely to have much bacteria in his urethra. The body is pretty good at keeping that area clear. So even men are capable of having sterile urine come away from their body. All of this sterile-not sterile thing is kinda irrelevant in the shower question, though, because it makes sense no matter if you have sterile urine or not to rinse the area well after you’ve pissed, otherwise the urea will sit in the shower until the next person comes along to shower. Also, given the information that we have on urine, it seems rather extreme to call the sterile urine thing a myth. (How can we promote skepticism and the outing of myths if we’re going to start taking real data and accusing it of being a myth?) Instead, people just misunderstand that while the urine we produce is sterile, sometimes our bodies make it not-sterile in various ways. Sterile urine is not like cake, it is not a lie.

  64. @SophieHirschfeld:
    I agree that whether or not urine is sterile has very little to do with peeing in the shower.
    That being said, unless you are everting your urethra, the last few millimeters over which your urine passes will contain bacteria.
    I would like to hear your “real data.” Mine is that I submit several urine samples to laboratories every day, and voided samples contain bacteria, while samples taken by cystocentesis from the same patient at the same time do not. This is why when you collect urine for your doctor they will give you a wet wipe to use before and ask you to collect a mid-stream sample. This minimizes the amount of bacteria that will land in the cup, since the first few seconds of urine will wash the accumulated bacteria away. When they culture this sample, the lab measures the number of “colony-forming-units” (i.e., bacteria) in a milliliter of your urine sample. There is a minimum number under which you are not considered to have an infection. If voided urine was sterile that number would be zero.
    If that data is unclear, please let me know and I will rephrase it. You can keep your snarky comments, though.
    Oh, and semen is as clean as urine. But more nutritious.

  65. Hmmmm….now that you’ve got me thinking about it, I know I do it quite often, but everytime … or not? I am seriously considering putting a tally sheet on the bathroom door to find out, it’s so sub-concious now.

    …on second thoughts I don’t think my boyfriend would appreciate that…

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