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Illustration by Ruth Basagoitia

Peeing in the shower may be something you do from time to time without giving it much thought. Or maybe you do it but wonder if it’s actually OK. Maybe it’s something you’d never consider doing.

So, is it OK to pee in the shower?

For environmentally conscious folks, it’s not only OK, it’s great for the planet because it conserves water that would be used to flush the toilet.

Water conservation aside, however, you may wonder if it’s safe or sanitary, since the shower is a place you want to emerge from cleaner than when you entered.

The truth is that while urine isn’t as clean and pure as some people think it is, most of the time it’s not likely to cause health problems if you occasionally opt for the shower drain instead of the toilet bowl.

Despite rumors to the contrary, urine is not sterile. It can contain dozens of different types of bacteria, including Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, which are associated with staph infections and strep throat, respectively.

However, bacteria counts are relatively low in healthy urine, though they may be much higher if you have a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Healthy urine is mostly water, electrolytes, and waste products, such as urea. Urea is the result of proteins breaking down.

It’s unlikely that your own urine could cause an infection even if bacteria in the urine made their way into your body through a cut or other wound on your legs or feet.

And if you’re concerned about the presence of urine on the shower floor presenting an unusual cleaning emergency, think about times you’ve showered after a day at the beach or having worked or played outside.

You picked up more than your share of dirt, mud, and who knows what else on your skin or in your hair. You’ve probably washed far less sterile things than urine off your body and down the drain.

While it’s important to regularly clean and disinfect your shower, a little pee on the shower floor or drain doesn’t mean you need to change your cleaning routine.

Just give the floor an extra rinse before you turn off the water.

From a courtesy standpoint, it may be best to avoid peeing in the shower if you share a shower or are using a public shower, unless those who share the shower are on board with the idea and no one is walking around with a contagious infection.

What complicates the shared shower scenario is that you may not know if someone else has a UTI or other infection.

Because infection-causing bacteria could be present in some urine, there’s a slight chance you could contract something, especially if you have a cut or other open wound on your foot.

Infections such as MRSA can be transmitted via a shower floor.

Aside from convenience, many people champion shower-peeing for its environmental impact.

SOS Mata Atlantica Foundation, a Brazilian environmental organization, grabbed global headlines in 2009 with a video urging people to pee in the shower.

Through the ad, they suggested that saving one toilet flush a day would save more than 1,100 gallons of water a year.

And in 2014, two students at England’s University of East Anglia launched a #GoWithTheFlow campaign to save water by urinating during shower time.

In addition to saving water, you can also save on your water bill and a little on your toilet paper expenses, too.

Can urine treat athlete’s foot?

The practice of urine therapy, in which a person consumes their own urine or applies it to the skin, can be seen in cultures around the world.

Because urine contains urea, a compound that’s included in many skin care products, some people believe that peeing on your feet may help prevent or treat the fungal infection known as athlete’s foot.

There is, however, no scientific evidence that urine can treat athlete’s foot or any other type of infection or issue.

Urine isn’t the only bodily fluid that makes it to the shower floor. Sweat, mucus, menstrual blood, and even fecal matter can be in the mix with that nice, hot shower.

To help keep yourself and anyone else using the shower as safe as possible, wash and disinfect your shower every 1 to 2 weeks.

In between cleanings with bleach products, give your shower floor a few seconds of a hot-water rinse before exiting after each shower.

If you’re the only one using your shower, you’re probably safe peeing in there, too. And if you do pee in the shower, then make sure you regularly clean it.

But if you’re sharing a shower with family members or roommates, find out if everyone is comfortable with how that shower is being used.

If you’re using a public shower in a dormitory or other facility, be considerate to strangers and hold it in.

For your own health, wear a pair of clean shower shoes or flip-flops when using a public shower, especially if you have any cuts, sores, or other openings on the bottom of your foot.