Restroom vs Washroom – Difference and Comparison

In official complexes or buildings, one often finds a washroom and a restroom. While a washroom is used for personal hygiene, the restroom is usually frequented by people who are tired and want to rest for some time. Some countries even have mandatory laws emphasizing the need for a restroom especially for the women folk these are the ladies’ room. The difference in the use of the two terms – washroom and restroom gains significance with the country it is used in.

Comparison chart

Restroom versus Washroom comparison chart
Restroom Washroom
Original meaning A restroom is a place used to literally take a break, although it also has public convenience facility. A washroom is a place where people can wash as well as relieve themselves. Essentially what we call a bathroom today.
Facilities Restrooms have hand basins and urinals. Bathing and changing facilities are normally not included here. Washrooms have toilets, hand basin, bathing facilities, baby facilities and changing rooms.
Types Could be single facilities or larger with basins provided outside the urinal cubicles. Installations or stand alone as well as part of large buildings like railway stations, restaurants etc.
Assistance provided Restrooms may or may not have an attendant. Most washrooms are unattended, although some can have a janitor, an attendant or even a grooming service.
Origination of Term Handed over to the British from the French. American English.

Use of the Terms: Washroom and Restroom

The terms washroom and restroom are interchangeable today. However, they were originally created to especially strike a difference. In general, they are comfort zones to denote a public or commercial personal hygiene facility. They could be stand alone buildings or be a part of any public or official premises like the railway station, airports, educational buildings, hotels, and restaurants or any other place which is frequented or occupied by the general public. Other words that are synonymous include bathroom, toilet, comfort room, public lavatory, powder room etc.

Washroom and restroom are euphemistic expressions used today. They are one of the essential requirements and part of the infrastructure of a building or the city by itself and must have toilets, faucets, soap dispensers, paper towels, mirrors, garbage cans etc.

Difference in use of terms Washroom and Restroom across the World

American English uses washroom for public convenience facility in commercial and public places. The term bathroom is used for smaller and residential facility. Washroom continues to be used to denote public convenience in Chicago and Canada. In the US utility rooms are also known as washrooms. Gender specific washrooms are called as ladies’ rooms and men’s rooms.

Restroom and bathroom are currently used interchangeably. Restrooms do not have bathtubs. South Africa also uses restroom for a convenience facility that does not necessarily house a wash or even a toilet.

Gender Specific Washrooms and Restrooms

Washrooms and restrooms are separated by sex with pictograms of man or woman to indicate respective rooms. Generally the pictograms are enclosed within a circle in case of woman and triangle for man. Unisex washrooms and restrooms are also present in public places like restaurants, bars, offices etc. These are specially convenient for transgenders and people carrying children of a different sex etc.

Washrooms and restrooms also cater to the special-needs people too. The facility is designed in a way that allows caregiver of opposite sex to assist user.

Types of Washrooms or Restrooms

Washrooms can be private, high capacity and low capacity. Washroom within a person’s home is a private washroom. Washrooms in airports, railway stations, stadiums and theaters handle lot of people and hence have multiple facilities separated by gender. Washrooms in restaurants and stores are low capacity washrooms since they cater to lesser number or people. Facilities may be separated by gender or unisex.

Restrooms are used synonymously with washrooms.

Cleanliness and hygiene of public washrooms are of high concern and questionable because of low availability of quality housekeeping. Pay and use toilets are relatively cleaner.


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