My colleague Joseph Longo recently graduated college and moved from a spacious frat house into a “tiny-as-fuck” apartment in Brooklyn with two roommates. With everyone on a similar full-time work schedule, cohabitation can be stressful — especially when they’re sharing one full bathroom. So what keeps stress at bay for Joe?
The poop closet.
“I’m seriously in love with it,” he confesses. “It’s my favorite thing about the apartment.”
He’s talking, of course, about the infamous “half bathroom,” real-estate lingo for that tiny room with just enough space for a toilet and sink. Often, it’s a converted closet, recently outfitted with a toilet so realtors can call the place a “two-bathroom” and bump up the asking rent.
Brian Davis, founder of Spark Rental, automation software for landlords, agrees. “In an apartment with plenty of closet and storage space, only one bathroom and convenient plumbing lines, it could make sense financially [for the landlord] to convert a closet to a half bath,” he says.
So it may be a sneaky way to inflate the value of a tiny rental — but that doesn’t mean its die-hards can’t see its value. For some renters, the privacy is worth every penny.
“I see them in a lot of multi-bedroom homes and apartments,” says Jack, a plumber in Chicago. “I guess that arrangement just gives the ‘user’ that extra-cozy, private working space.”
“I’ve lived in a few apartments over the years that have had poop closets and I’ve grown to appreciate some of their qualities,” says James, a 31-year-old in Denver. “Do you need to run water to mask sounds? Did you run out of toilet paper? Do you prefer to wipe with wet toilet paper as a result of your hygienic standards or your desire to minimize damage on your raw butthole? Everything is within arm’s reach.” Out of TP? There’s no need to stand up and crouch-crawl to the cupboard to grab a new roll.
Longo appreciates how hidden the poop closet can be in the home. “A newcomer to the apartment is always going to think it’s a closet,” he explains. “A poop closet is an illusion. It’s all about perception.”
Is it tough to build one? Jack says the plumbing “isn’t too complicated.” It’s just a toilet, compared to a bath or shower. But sometimes the landlord decides to omit the sink altogether — a divisive move.
A sinkless poop closet is where things get a bit hairy. “As someone who works tirelessly to keep his butthole sparkling-clean, the idea of leaving the confines of the bathroom with poop hands disgusts me,” James says. “I want nothing to do with a bathroom without a sink.”
Jeff George, an industrial designer and landlord in Chicago, agrees with this sentiment. “No one should have a poop closet in their home unless there is a sink in it or right outside,” he says. “And if the sink is outside, the doorknob should be made out of copper, zinc or nickel for antibacterial purposes.”
Could a sinkless poop closet actually lower the value of an apartment? “An extra toilet in the house is usually better than no extra toilet,” Davis adds. “But if it feels haphazard, such as a toilet stall off of the kitchen that requires you to use the kitchen sink, that’s significantly less attractive to home buyers than a standard half-bathroom.”
Then there’s the question of hygiene. According to professor Dave Westenberg, aka “The Germ Juggler” on Twitter, there are a few studies about how germs spread in bathrooms via what is called a “toilet plume.”
Upon flushing, your toilet releases a plume of microbes can be released into the air, “and if you flush after pooping, that aerosol will include gut microbes,” Westenberg explains, adding that “newer toilets employ technologies to reduce the plume, which is actually pretty cool.”
In theory, if there is only a toilet (and nothing else) in your bathroom, the microbes in that toilet plume — those poop particles floating around — are going to affect fewer surfaces. Especially given the lack of shower and the humidity it can produce, most of the microbes will simply land on hard, dry surfaces and not last very long.
“So, having a toilet separate from the shower or bath will likely limit the spread of toilet microbes to those surfaces,” Westenberg tells MEL. “If the toilet is in a room with a shower or bath where items can get moist, the microbes released in the plume can land, survive and perhaps even thrive on those surfaces. There is good reason that the ‘germiest’ places in your house are things like toothbrushes and sponges: They retain moisture and they contain plenty of ‘food’ for microbes.”
Still, he cautions, the difference is negligible. No one is safe from a toilet plume.
“Microbes are everywhere, no matter what we do,” Westenberg explains. “So even if the toilet is in a separate room, your shower or bath, towels, toothbrush, etc., will still be covered in them because humans spread microbes to everything we come in contact with.
“That is not a bad thing,” the professor concludes. “That’s just life.”