How to Use a Squat Toilet in China

How to Use a Squat Toilet in China
By Eric M. Meyer
Senior Editor

Using a squat toilet is very simple, but may take some getting used to for first-timers. Follow these step-by-step guidelines for a perfect execution each time.

How to Use a Squat Toilet

1) Bring your paper – Not a newspaper … Before even heading into a bathroom in China, make sure that you take toilet paper (or a small pack of tissues) with you as it’s still somewhat rare that Chinese bathrooms will provide this (outside of expensive hotels or restaurants).

2) Roll ‘em up – Also, if you’re wearing any clothes that are long enough to possibly drag on the floor, make sure you roll that up before going into the bathroom, or the stall. The floors can often be wet – either from recently being mopped, or from patrons’ inaccuracy.

3) Check your luggage – If you have a back pack, large purse, or actual luggage, you may want to leave that with someone outside of the bathroom. There are rarely any door hooks to hang anything (again, outside of expensive hotels or restaurants).

2 kinds of squat toilet

4) Which end? – There are many different styles of squat toilets, but 2 basic designs – one with a small, porcelain “umbrella” at one end, and one without. If the squat toilet has the “umbrella”, then the hole will definitely be at that end. If it doesn’t have an “umbrella”, the hole can be at one end or the other, or in the middle. If you’re wondering which end to line-up with, then follow this guide:

  1. a) With “umbrella” -- The “umbrella” end is definitely the front, so you want to face this end with your rear end hovering over the other end. The umbrella is to help keep liquids from splashing out, so aim for under it. This will mean that your rear end is not lined up with the hole – which is perfectly fine (or even preferred).
  2. b) WithOUT “umbrella” – Most people like to put their rear over the hole, but it honestly doesn’t matter as it’s all personal preference. Take note that if you do hover over the hole, you may experience some unwanted splashing.

5) Center and Balance – Once inside the stall, you’ll want to make sure you’re far enough back so your front end doesn’t over shoot the front of the toilet (hence, the accuracy problem). Also, you’ll want to not be so far back as to overshoot the back of the toilet. Nearly every squat toilet will have raised grooves where your feet should go. These raised grooves help keep your feet from sliding (and theoretically dryer), but be careful, they can still be slippery.

6) Bend and stay bent – Once lined up correctly, and with your feet in the right spots, just bend your knees all the way putting yourself in a backwards N (ᴎ) position. You will feel some pressure on your knees, especially after several minutes.

7) Not pipe friendly – Once you’re ready to clean up, make sure you place all your paper products in the trash can that will definitely be in the stall with you. Once again, outside of nice hotels and restaurants, most Chinese plumbing cannot handle toilet paper, so if you try to flush it, you may very well cause the whole thing to stop up. This is true even in most modestly-priced hotel rooms. So, use the waste basket for everything.

8) How to flush – Most squat toilets are flush toilets, which means there will be a handle to pull, lever to move, button to push, or some other inventive mechanism to release the water. However, what should you do if you don’t see any of these, and instead there is a bucket of water sitting somewhere near the toilet? If you see a bucket of water, there will usually be a plastic ladle (scooper) inside. The water is (theoretically) clean and the ladle is for patrons to scoop water from the bucket and dump it in the toilet, thereby ‘flushing’ it. You should definitely use it and dump as much water as necessary.

If there is no bucket inside the stall, and no flushing mechanism to be seen, there should then be a community water bucket, or storage area, outside the stalls (yet still inside the bathroom) that you should use as described above. A word of advise – you’ll want to wash properly after using the ladle, or any flushing mechanism.

Empty bucket? If there’s a small bucket (with or without a ladle), and it’s empty, you should see a faucet inside the stall (or occasionally outside the stall). Just fill the bucket up and dump the whole thing.

9) …and about washing – Once finally out of the stall, you will want to wash your hands (as if this isn’t an obvious piece of advise itself). However, in most bathrooms, don’t expect to find soap, warm water, or anything to dry your hands with (not even an electric dryer). Most Chinese just rinse their hands with water and dry them on their clothes. So, it’s best to bring hand sanitizer, or wet-wipes, and perhaps even some napkins to dry yourself off.

Benefits of Squat Toilets

Squat toilets are better than western toilets in two main ways.

a) Hygiene -- With a squat toilet, your bottom will never touch what someone else’s bottom has touched.

b) Alignment -- The position your body is in when using a squat toilet is actually the recommended position by Eastern, and Western, health care professionals. For those who watch the show “Shark Tank”, Lori partnered with and then personally promoted a product that props up the feet of those sitting on a western toilet putting one’s body in a similar position as that when using a squat toilet.

They may not be comfortable for long periods of time, but they are actually better at achieving their objective and are more sanitary.

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