Peeing in the shower is one of those things a lot of people have done at some point but may be reluctant to admit. It makes such perfect sense on a practical level, though! You’re naked, and there’s a drain right there. Plus, the whole running water situation doesn’t exactly make it easy to hold in your pee.
You also may have heard that urine is sterile, so you can pee on yourself with abandon and still technically be clean. But is it really OK from a health perspective to pee in the shower, especially if you’re not scrubbing down your legs and feet after you’re done? Here, experts weigh in on this pressing question.
What’s even in pee, anyway?
Your pee is mostly water, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, it can contain a bunch of other stuff, too, Stephanie Kielb, M.D., a urologist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF. That includes urea (a waste product that forms when your body breaks down proteins), urochrome (a pigment that gives pee its color), creatinine (a waste product that forms with the normal breakdown of muscle), and ammonia (a compound that can give your pee a really strong smell when it gets too concentrated). If you’re on certain medications or take water-soluble vitamins, you may secrete those in your pee, too, Dr. Kielb says.
Together as a fluid, these various components travel from your kidneys through two thin tubes called ureters and into your bladder, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Your pee hangs out there until you’re ready to let loose that stream (and maybe a sigh of sweet relief, too).
Fun fact: Pee isn’t actually sterile.
If you thought urine was sterile, we can’t blame you. For a long time, many scientists did, too.
The idea stemmed from the belief that the urinary tract (which includes the bladder) was understood to be sterile, most likely because the techniques used for detecting bacteria in this area were limited. However, emerging research points to the presence of a bladder microbiome, or bacteria that normally live in harmony inside of this organ, Dr. Kielb says. Just as your gut and vagina have microbiomes, so does your urinary tract, which means some of this bacteria can wind up in your pee. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad; bacteria in your urinary tract can actually help keep that part of your body healthy, as it does with your gut and vagina.
However, if you have a health issue like a urinary tract infection (UTI), that bacteria can also get into your pee, David Kaufman, M.D., director of Central Park Urology, a division of Maiden Lane Medical and an assistant professor of Clinical Urology at the Weill Cornell Medical School, tells SELF.
Why should any of this influence your decision to pee in the shower? Theoretically, harmful bacteria from your pee could get into any open skin on an area like your legs and cause an infection, Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, tells SELF. For instance, cellulitis, a common bacterial skin infection that typically affects the legs, can happen when the bacteria Staphylococcus gets into your system through a break in your skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. And, wouldn’t you know it, certain strains of this bacteria are also known to cause UTIs. So, if you have a UTI or one is brewing without yet causing symptoms, you could theoretically pee out some bacteria.
You might think you’d be aware of any cuts on your skin that would make a bacterial infection more likely, but even something as simple as scrubbing your skin with a physical exfoliator can cause micro-tears that give bacteria an entry point. Shaving can cause micro-tears in your skin’s surface, too.
It’s not even close to guaranteed that you’ll get a skin infection simply because a little pee streams down your legs in the shower, even if you do have an infection like a UTI. But it’s technically a risk to keep in mind nonetheless.
But, OK, how gross is it really to pee in the shower?
Aside from the very rare risk of infection that we detailed above, there’s no real health risk to peeing in the shower. And when it comes to judging how hygienic it is, that might be subjective. If you don’t want urine lingering on your body or in your tub after your shower, make sure to soap up yourself and the area before you leave the shower. And, sure, there are some things you could to make this slightly more…streamlined…like spreading your legs (so your pee doesn’t run down them) and peeing close to the drain (so urine isn’t swirling around your feet as much).
Also, even if you’re a proud shower urinator, it’s most polite to limit this habit to when you’re at home instead of in public places like the gym shower. You wouldn’t want other people to pee in there, would you? The golden rule definitely applies when it comes to peeing in the shower.
Likewise, if you share your shower, you should really be cleaning the area with soap and water after you pee. Because, manners.