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What Did Ancient Romans Do Without Toilet Paper? (sapiens.org)
573 points by JoachimOfFiore on April 4, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 538 comments

For 22 years I used toilet paper until I traveled to South East Asia where every toilet has a seperate sprinkler. After a few toilet visits I decided to give it a GO. Man, toilet paper feels strange and plain stupid now. Water is way cheaper, doesn't hurt your "behind" and I feel cleaner afterwards. Paper seems an invention to sell something we really don't need (by Mad Men :-)).

After our trip to Cambodia we wanted to bring the "Bum Gun" to the UK. For those who haven't tried it, it's the weirdest thing and sounds disgusting.

To quote a crazy Canadian we met, "if you had poo on your arm and you wiped it off with toilet paper, would you say its clean?"

That said, SE Asia really lends itself to the Bum Gun. Its warm and can be humid, so you're not really worried about being a bit damp afterwards. I can't imagine being in a suit in cold UK winter and using one.

Looking forward to trying a Japanese toilet with those sprays...

"if you had poo on your arm and you wiped it off with toilet paper, would you say its clean?"

If you had poo on your arm and rinsed it with a gentle spray of plain water, would you say it's clean?

If I had poo on my arm, I'd use soap and water to clean it then rinse well. Of course, if my arm was what was generating the poo, I'd probably be less fastidious about keeping it clean and free of poo. And I'd see a doctor.

> If I had poo on my arm, I'd use soap and water to clean it then rinse well.

That is why the only acceptable option is using a bidet, with soap of course. It boggles my mind that some people can withstand even the thought of cleaning themselves with just paper or wet wipes.

Animals don't use toilet paper or bidets.

Animals don't have oversized glutes that allow them to stand upright, and run long distances to catch prey, and a high fat/carb, low fibre diet that most humans have.

Ever had an intelligent conversation with one?

>If I had poo on my arm, I'd use soap and water to clean it then rinse well.

This is the correct answer.

Baby wipes or go home.

Plumbing wasn't designed for them in most places. Most of them are not really "flushable" like they claim.

Thankfully we also invented rubbish bins to dispose of stuff instead of throwing it down our pipes.

That's because people use "face wipes" instead of "wet wipes" meant to be used for the bum.

Nope. At least from all the articles I have seen from different waste treatment plants in America. Those wipes that are advertised as flushable don't breakdown that much and they just end up getting pulled out at the waste treatment plant.

That's because you are not buying the right ones. Real biodegradable & flushable wipes are okay for waste treatment plants. You need to purchase those that do not contain any trace of plastic fibers.

If you are so worried about clogging anything, put them in the compost bin.

And then there are those of us on a septic system - "Septic safe" still causes issues.

And do not get me started on antibacterials... RID dosages to the rescue! (not necessarily a product endorsement).

No. Not really. flushable bum wipes are not really flushable.

What? You can't say "no" to an entire line of products. Simply make sure that you buy wipes that are flushable AND biodegradable. Flushable simply means that the wipe will make it out of your home. You also need to live in a country where there are rules in place stopping manufacturer from lying on the packets.

If they are made of, let's say, viscose rayon which is wood pulp (well, any compatible plant fiber) there's no reason why it would clog anything at the processing plant.

Edit: Well, it would also depend on how your local plant processes waste. Give them a call and ask them.

How is it possible to design a wipe that 1) does not disintegrate when wet inside its box and 2) disintegrates when wet in a sewage system?

Even Andrex's maximally biodegradable 'flushable washlets' offering contains 2% plastic fibers.

I'm not sure about which of the two is the best solution with regards to hemorrhoids but I use "wet toilet paper" in combination with normal (dry). Dry -> wet -> dry -> usually done. It works good enough for me, and I am pretty sure that a little bit of soap and water wouldn't make my hands clean if I had poo on them. Because when I wash my ass under the shower or in the morning, and it smells a bit like poo, that smell is hard to get rid of. The question is of course whether that's a problem from a hygiene PoV. From a smell PoV, I do not want to smell poo on my hands except from my newborn. That poo I don't mind.

> gentle spray of plain water

gentle, my eye. Here its usually forceful enough that it seems it would fountain out through my head. IMO way better than smearing things around and calling it clean.

>Looking forward to trying a Japanese toilet with those sprays...

Why wouldn't you just use the 3 seashells?

>if you had poo on your arm and you wiped it off with toilet paper, would you say its clean?


Do those sprays have the pressure and duration to really spray everything down?

I can poor water from a bottle of water onto the poo on my arm and I'd still think it'd be unclean. I'd need some positive pressure to think otherwise. Oh, and some soap.

I've been Tunisia where they had a hose like this in the hotel, as you can see it has variable pressure, and even without setting it to the maximum it's sufficient.


Some of them also have variable temperature.

Combine it with your hand and you get clean, even better when there's soap. Then wash your hands properly.

On our bicycle-journey through Asia we had a dedicated squeezable poo-bottle and poo-soap ("Kackflasche" and "Kackseife" in German).

Googled "kackflasche".

Was disappointed.

10 minutes later he used the hostel toilet and came back saying that it had torn him a new one.

You know a high pressure hose that pushes back when you spray it? It was like that. Vicious.

In terms of duration, it was just like a normal tap, I assume fed by the local water supply so you're not limited.

I'd use it for max 10 seconds to feel fresh.

I'd say most people (in west) have shitty arses.

Sometimes, while in a toilet cubicle, I hear other people wipe once or twice, then leave - their arses are definitely shitty.

Me - I bring in a cup of water, and wet the paper to give my arse a proper shine.

Not everyone has messy shit. I often have literally nothing on the toilet paper. Increase your vegetables, and fiber.

Agreed. Switching to vegan brought my TP use way down. Becoming gluten-free, however, was so transformative down there that I'm still having trouble adjusting.

I usually tear off the sheets before I'm done, so that if I go multiple rounds, my TP is prepped. Usually, that means I tear off 3-4 strips of 2 squares each if it's thick paper, or strips of 3 squares if thin. After going gluten-free, I rarely end up using all the strips, and I'd say about a third the time, I'm done after using my first two squares of it, so the rest is wasted.

depends on how furry your butt is. I have the south asian furry butt curse.

Nah, just doesn't come out all sticky. Definitely a hairy ass.

I doubt it has literally nothing on it. You can eat nothing but fiber, but bowel mucous is still dirty.

Haven't you ever done a shit that when you wipe there's nothing on the toilet paper?

Nothing visually, I don't consider the paper clean.

I don't understand who would fade for your views on this, and there's no reply explaining so I'll chime in: you're right and I agree.

You can think that you've won the poo lottery by pinching one off that seems to wipe clean, but no one is going to recommend sticking that paper back on the roll or putting it in their pocket to wipe their child's face with later just because they don't see anything on it. That's absurdity, and anyone arguing otherwise knows they wouldn't do the same because they don't actually believe it's clean.

That "clean" paper has enough on it to inoculate a fecal assay, and for some people, that's enough to cause issues. There's also the case of it wiping clean but not being completely cleared yet. Not everyone needs maintenance wipes, so not everyone even knows or understands how unreliable wiping as an indicator is.

The mods of HN are suffering from wipe privilege, and it needs to be addressed.

Some googling found this informative (and entirely SFW) "bum gun" video:


> if you had poo on your arm and you wiped it off with toilet paper, would you say its clean?

My dad says the same thing but he uses wet wipes.

Those things are supposedly hell on every septic, and even (older?) sewer, system.

You can put them in the trash.

If you had poo on your butt, would you wipe it off with toilet paper and throw it in the trash?

No because it would stink up the place and someone can touch your poo while taking out the trash

> No because it would stink up the place and someone can touch your poo while taking out the trash

How about menstruation pads? Are you afraid to touch those as well when you take out the trash? Because what you said is true for anything which resides in a trash bin or compost bin. Heck, my plastic bin sometimes smells like rotten fish. It is disgusting. But that's what you get when you eat fish.

Yes. I've spent time in countries with poor plumbing systems and picked up the habit. I've found that it does not stink up the trash since it dries quickly. Additionally, if you put the poo side down it all stacks up in the bin until you take it out. Since I started doing this at home I have not had to unclog a toilet.

How do you get them from the stall to the trash?

Women's bathrooms have trash cans in the cubicle.

Mind. blown.

Unisex bathrooms do as well.

you bundle it like a paper basketball and shoot it from the stall.

Boy was my aim way off! Will have to put some more work in on my sky-hook.

You must be talking about a public toilet? I think most "normal" or home toilet routines go out the window when using a public restroom.

I don't think throwing them out of the window is the answer either.

And then there is the mountain-climbing poo experience... I would guess that eventually (when the plastic degrades) there is some rather lush, fertile groundscaping at the foot of some of those places.

I have raised chickens, after a year or so to "cook" (I am a low-intensity composter) we end up with some pretty rich compost.

probably less so than tampons though, but that doesn't make it right I guess.

Has he been able to solve the problem of bridging the gap between the bathroom stall and the waste bin? Ir does he flush them? Most stalls in the colonies don't have waste bins in the stall. So you are faced with the problem of how to dispose of your dirty nappies. If you walk out of the stall to the vin before going to wash your hands you will be on the business end of some odd looks. This why most wet wipers flush. There are, however, alternative methodologies.

He owns his own business (funeral home) so he has his own bathroom for employees. He's hardly ever at a public restroom so I don't know what he does. I recall him carrying around a 10 pack of disposable wipes so he probably flushes them.

Agreed. They use water in Iran, too. Other than religious considerations (that only water will really clean mess), it actually feels better and cleaner.

Plus, their toilets have a different shape, something like this:


As far as I've heard, this form of toilet is better and easier for colons.

All Arabs and Muslim countries use water to clean too, and that toilet too is used by 90% in Arabs homes and in public toilet is considered must have since it's easy to clean.

A good spray helps clean the toilet bowl of poop too, which is ten times harder once it dries to the porcelain..

Easier to wash too, and to lose your smartphone into

But worse for your knees...

Squatting is a more natural position for evacuating

A proper squat puts zero pressure on the knees. That's why people with ACL injuries are still able to do squats.

Grab a copy of a basic barbell weightlifting book, and you'll see - it'll say the same thing.

Maybe what the other commenter was referring to was something like weak leg muscles that manifest as pain in or around the knee.

A lot depends on the age from which you've been squatting. I don't mean weight-lift squats, just squatting on the ground.

Most people from Asia are able to squat pretty comfortably, comfortably as in heel on the ground and not exerting any calf or knee tension, having done it since childhood. Most Western Europeans and Americans can no, the heel of the foot doesn't rest on the ground and squatting is done on the ball of the foot therefore calf and knee pressure.

After traveling through a decent portion of China I tend to agree. The design of the “facilities” (e.g. “squatty potty”) in a lot of locations made a few in my group question toilet paper all together. Though being back in the states there are a lot of weird looks trying to find ways to mimic the stance...

A few years after my time there I saw the “Squatty Potty”[0] on Shark Tank, but haven’t tried it. Anyone with thoughts?

[0]: https://www.squattypotty.com/

I like Chinese toilets as well, but I think they're a hard sell here. They're more hygienic (no touching), better for health (in terms of poop position) and simpler to clean (just mop the whole floor and you're done).

An honest question: how these handle when you have to drop a "scatter bomb"?

When you are in that position, it doesn't scatter, or at least my limited experience on the topic says so.

Never had an issue, you just have to squat deep enough.

I use things similar to that Squatty Potty and it feels better for me. I discovered this a couple of years ago. Coincidentally we have brand name ones at work, but any stable platform will do--my favorite might be this kids' stool from Ikea: https://m.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/art/60248418/

Having not used such a contraption, it always seems to me that the same thing could be achieved by leaning forward without one?

I lean forward (elbows resting on thighs). I've always done it. I never even thought it was a thing not to lean forward until I saw/heard advertisements for the Squatty Potty.

That, spreading cheeks when sitting down, and a decent diet means almost zero clean up.

It might be possible, but at least for me achieving the same position in a different rotation requires a lot of strength (due to gravity). And I can't poop while flexing half of my muscles.

A squatting posture made a big difference for me. I get more thoroughly emptied out more easily. I literally need to go less often than I used to.

The "hose" is a recent innovation. You can still find the old version occasionally, consisting of a big bucket of water and a smaller bucket for scooping.

But yeah, once you've discovered the beauty of the hose, it's hard to go back. Worse is traveling in other tropical parts of the world with bad plumbing, where the solution to the same problem is "giant garbage bag filled with used toilet paper".

Yeah, when I got back from spending about a year in SEA I immediately bought a TOTO for my apartment. Now I dread having to go when I'm out and being forced to use a barbarian toilet. I can't _wait_ for the States to catch on.

Do you dry yourself before putting your pants on? If so how?

This is the most important. Use toilet paper before and after water use to ensure cleanness.

The hand towel

Or TP to dry.

I carry a portable electric hair dryer. It's rechargable and lasts about a day.

As an Arab and now not living in the Middle East. I feel just sick trying to clean with toilet paper

So, my current employers have the, uh, washlets you describe, real high grade ones with a heater and a dryer. And I use them for the wash cycle, but I've found that I still prefer to dry off using toilet paper; the air dry function, even though it's heated just takes to damn long.

Just like those stupid hand air driers at public facilities. God, how I hate those. Americans have it easy, in general paper towels are available even when the damn air thing is installed. But here in Europe, most often you only get the stupid air machine with no paper towels.

The high end ones take maybe 20s to dry your hands off. Properly drying your hands with paper towels takes at least as long and it wastes paper. What is your problem with an air dryer?

No, it doesn't take 20 seconds, even a 2 (two!) second wipe job does a better job at drying than 30s of air. Apart from that, air driers are incredibly unsanitary, spreading stuff everywhere.


Also see this episode of mythbusters, which goes into much more depth than the synopsis on Wikipedia:


And the high-end ones, which are only marginally better, are very, very loud. Loud enough to trigger tinnitus in myself, for example.

Paper towels don't "waste" paper, they use paper (of which there's no shortage of, in the world) very efficiently. Plus in Germany and Portugal (at least) they have these reusable cloth towels that move between two spools.

If I don't have towels of any kind, I just wipe my hands on my clothes. It's not great but it sure beats the damn useless contraption.

> And the high-end ones, which are only marginally better, are very, very loud. Loud enough to trigger tinnitus in myself, for example.

I basically don't use air dryers any more due to the infernal noise of the new ones. I'd rather go with wet hands.

Or carry a kerchief in your pocket.


A side benefit of the paper towel is that in-swinging doors can be pulled with the paper, not your hand. Imagine how many people _didn't_ wash their hands then pulled that door.

Trivially fixable by a little foot hook on the bottom of the door intended to be used to open the door after you're done.

What if you have no foot? Or the foot hook isn't there? Or you have to turn a knob?

Plus pipelining.

You answered your own question. "The high end ones" all others take anywhere from 30 seconds to infinity. I can probably dry my hands on a paper towel in about 4 or 5 seconds max. I don't feel strongly enough about the subject to argue either way, just adding some more data points to your view on the matter.

Paper towels are much more sanitary. Big part of washing hands is wiping the bacteria and viruses along with water into something. Drying just gets the water, leaves everything else.

No. It's a nice idea, but doesn't hold up. (Gustafson, Vetter, et al. 2000)

I rather trust a fairly recent review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538484/

Only one person can use it at a time, and it wastes energy. Paper is recyclable, and more need for paper means more trees. Paper is low tech and works, and is more hygenic.

I hate it when there are only air dryers in a restroom. Towels can dry anything. Dryers are special built for hands. (sometimes i like to wash my face)

also, the level of noise pollution they create is toxic. Especially the high end/high speed ones.

the problem is that you are actively doing something with the paper towel, while you passively wait for the air dryer.

It's called Bidet, from the french word. Bidets are very common in southern Europe. Bidets are more common in Mexico and parts of Canada than US. Anglo regions are behind on the trend here.

There are lots of places here in SG that have these toilets. They ... freak me out, tbh. Mostly because I have not the faintest idea how you'd use them and "So, how do you do your business" is not among the list of conversations I want to have.

This whole floor (hosting six companies I think?) in a prominent office tower has one shared male restroom. Two booths. One is usable for me, the other one the scary thing. Most people, locals included, fight for the single seat..

>> Mostly because I have not the faintest idea how you'd use them

Once you get a stomach bug and you should have gone to the bathroom a minute ago you'll figure it out :) . Hint: It's like the old days, like we've been doing it for millennia, if not millions of years. https://www.google.com/search?q=how+to+use+squat+toilet

May be a naïve question: have you tried googling the topic?

I honestly did. But the descriptions (just like the StackExchange link's replies) are utterly alien to me (squat..? How?) and I haven't found it in me to go on a video hunt (the StackExchange one links to something which supposedly is safe and helpful).


Not sure how I feel about sharing this here but yeah, this should answer some of those questions.

The Youtuber is.. A 'comedian'..

Thanks, I was waiting for someone to post that one. :)

> (squat..? How?)

This is a thing for westerners; the squat position (with feet flat on the floor) is really hard to do for a lot of them, iirc mostly having to do with ankle flexibility (for me personally anyway). In countries with squat toilets the people are a lot more used to the position / motion. I guess most people could get by with doing a toe squat, but that's harder to keep balance.

this always amazes me...it is like telling me some population of humans cant raise their hands over their shoulders..

Yes, ankles, after 18 months learning Shotokan karate I can almost do a squat now, kids can do it with ease. I think with a toe squat you can't relax as much, which makes it difficult to open your sphincter.

Just pretend you're taking a dump on the floor. You stand over the hole and squat down any which way seems comfortable and just let your droppings... drop.

Maybe I'm weird, but I've been spitting on toilet paper for years.

You can use toilet paper, and then in addition wash yourself afterwards. That's what bidets are used for by most of Europeans.

I'd be afraid of the sprinkler collecting fecal and other matter, and am not too eager to nebulize that onto my behind.

It's not really an issue. It sprays from an angle below that should minimize sprayback (no idea whether that is a word), plus you just clean it when doing the normal toilet cleaning. For sure is better than those overfull American toilets that welcome your butt with splash toilet water everytime you drop something.

The $300 add-on unit I have does self-cleaning after every use. When the sprayer retracts, it again sprays, but since there is now plastic directly above it, it cleans off the sprayer head on the rebound.

My uncle was an engineer for a toilet paper manufacturing plant, that took logs in one end and put TP rolls out the other end. The path was over a mile long. He worked on variable speed electronic drives for the 1000 horsepower motors that turned the machinery.

TP illustrates the triumph of civilization: 1000s of people all doing specialized jobs so billions of people can each avoid a daily unpleasantness.

This made me recall immediately the "I, pencil" article. It's stunning to remember that almost anything one gets to touch or see throughout the day is a product of almost always global collaboration, if we include a things conception with its production, and also transportation, selling, etc.

Going off of that, when I realized that an ice cube was proof of incredible engineerning and that in terms of mankind, it's brand new tech !! I "couldn't believe it". I got that the concept of freezing water was some complex thermodynamics, but never realized it implied I couldn't make an ice cube without it when it's hot outside ! I thought the French had been drinking cold champagne all these years ! (turns out they have, since mostly only the rich ere drinking it and they were using various caves to keep cold temperatures, and they shipped ice from the Alpes; no source on my hands, but that's what I remember when looking into it).

Shizzles, I couldn't make a simple flame by myself ;p

Before refrigeration, people would use evaporative cooling to keep things cool: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaporative_cooler

And cooler cabinets, where they had blocks of ice in a compartiment at the top of a closet (of sorts).

(source: guided tour of a late-1800s castle with a fully equipped French kitchen complex. Complex because they had rooms for separate tasks.)

Ice Houses were really popular; especially in the UK:


Harvesting ice in the winter was a common and wide spread activity in North America (and most of Europe). Short article on Hudson River ice harvesting http://www.genealogy.clifflamere.com/Aid/History/IceHarvesti...

This is the result of free markets. Centralized economic planning is simply unable to deal with the complexity.

Please don't take HN on generic ideological tangents. They lead to generic ideological flamewars, which are more or less all the same, and therefore off topic here.

Wut? Do you really think you can convince me that USSR did not have toilet papers or pencils? Or send the first man to space? This is not about what economical model is better. People can collaborate both under central economic planning and through free markets. One might certainly be more preferable to the other, but that's totally a different conversation (I'm not a fan of either, for the records).

You will laugh, but yes, USSR also had troubles with toilet paper from time to time (while launching satellites i guess) - https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&pr...

In my Soviet childhood it was quite permanent, actually. So permanent as a child I would be surprised to hear it's a trouble :-) We used newspapers cut into rectangular pieces, and it was such a usual thing that cultural norms already existed around it. Where I lived, for example, cutting newspapers for bathroom use was definitely a men's chore. A lady could be very angry at her husband, not finding accurate pieces in time of need.

Wow, thanks! This is why I like to err in public sometimes, you never know how interesting things will come your way.

The soviet union was one problem after another of limited availability of goods. I'm glad you are open to this info.

Free markets are self-organizing, and are constantly adapting, evolving, and innovating. Centralized planning (socialism) cannot hope to match it.

Free markets also have no concept of human suffering; they centralise power with the most ruthless and exploitative, and so preference those human traits.

Equating centralised planning with socialism is wrong though. You can have the latter without the former.

> USSR did not have toilet papers or pencils?

No. Just that it could not produce them reliably with efficiency. Consider this from Friedman's book "Free to Choose":

First, the wood comes from a tree, "a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon." To cut down the tree and cart the logs to the railroad siding requires "saws and trucks and rope and . . . countless other gear." Many persons and numberless skills are involved in their fabrication: in "the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors; the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to heavy and strong rope; the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, ... untold thousands of persons had a hand in every cup of coffee the loggers drink!" And so Mr. Read goes on to the bringing of the logs to the mill, the millwork involved in converting the logs to slats, and the transportation of the slats from California to Wilkes-Barre, where the particular pencil that tells the story was manufactured. And so far we have only the outside wood of the pencil. The "lead" center is not really lead at all. It starts as graphite mined in Ceylon. After many complicated processes it ends up as the lead in the center of the pencil. The bit of metal - the ferrule - near the top of the pencil is brass. "Think of all the persons," he says, "who mine zinc and copper and those who have the skills to make sheet brass from these products of nature." What we call the eraser is known in the trade as "the plug." It is thought to be rubber. But Mr. Read tells us the rubber is only for binding purposes. The erasing is actually done by "Factice," a rubberlike product made by reacting rape seed oil from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) with sulfur chloride. After all of this, says the pencil, "Does anyone wish to challenge my earlier assertion that no single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me?" None of the thousands of persons involved in producing the pencil performed his task because he wanted a pencil. Some among them never saw a pencil and would not know what it is for. Each saw his work as a way to get the goods and services he wanted - goods and services we produced in order to get the pencil we wanted. Every time we go to the store and buy a pencil, we are ex changing a little bit of our services for the infinitesimal amount of services that each of the thousands contributed toward producing the pencil. It is even more astounding that the pencil was ever produced. No one sitting in a central office gave orders to these thousands of people. No military police enforced the orders that were not given. These people live in many lands, speak different languages, practice different religions, may even hate one another - yet none of these differences prevented them from cooperating to produce a pencil.

Toilet paper, lightbulbs, stockings. I brought carloads of that stuff from the west back in the stone age.

They/we did, of course. But the supply never matched the demand up or down. Usually it was lack of.

The USSR had pencils, yes.

> USSR did not have toilet papers or pencils?

They had cars made of toilet papers. /s The car industry is a great example of how centralized planning is a total failure.

Yeah, we certainly can't produce toilet paper unless 50% of the population is in poverty.

I believe OP was talking about trade throughout the world.

To take your sarcasm further, it appears we can't: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/kass/ct-venezu...

(Yes, I know we could)

Freer markets means less poverty though.

Haha, do they?

I think the question is how do you define free? Free for powerful to do anything they want? Free subject to govt control? The tension is between those points.

The term is "free markets" which have a reasonably agreed upon definition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_market

Absolutely, nothing has brought a greater level of prosperity and equality to the world than free market capitalism. This is simply an empirical fact. Just like it is an empirical fact that every socialist nation in history has created huge levels of poverty and inequality.

I feel like the fall of the British Empire and subsequent reversion to the mean is probably responsible for most of that prosperity.

The revision to what mean? The pre-British empire mean? Because pre-British empire wasn’t exactly a prosperous period.

Hey, remember when the USSR started and they eliminated homelessness within 10 years. And also, were the first to space. In addition, had citizens that were better fed than the US, had more doctors per capita. And this is just from State Capitalism, not Socialism.

No I don’t, because that never happened. I do remember millions of soviet citizens dying from famine though, and millions more dying from state sponsored killing. I don’t remember any famines taking place in developed free markets during that period. However, I have a pretty clear memory of the two class system that developed in all of the socialist nations that existed in the 20th century. One of the starving poor, and another of the rich oligarchs.

That's not inherent to markets, it's caused by allowing a market system to have a feedback loop where investments are rewarded proportionately to their size (capitalism). The people able to participate in the feedback loop inevitably become wealthier than those who can't until the market prioritizes what they want over everyone else.

Shameless plug, I made a short podcast episode about this, from a systems perspective. It looks at what it takes to clean your teeth...and how systems have a tendency to spiral out this way. It’s a feature of problem solving systems: they generate new/different problems that need to be solved, and therefore propagate the system into something like global collaboration.


Toilet Paper is one of my favorite "How it's Made" episodes. Feel free to check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z74OfpUbeac.

My favorite part is at 4:43 with the Circular Saw!

oof, look at those wee small rolls at the edges... seems the machine is a bit out of sync!

I think those are trimmed off because they're uneven?

They might be trimming the first inch or so, so that there's a neat edge

One can recognise an engineer to how long one can watch, fascinated, "how it's made"! It's a great show.

Except TP is not the solution. If a bird pooped on your arm, would you rather use a dry paper towel to clean it off or water?

I don't get the false equivalency between your arm and your anus. The anus is neatly tucked away, and is supposed to handle fecal matter. You're not going to accidentally rub your unclean anus on some food or in your face, unless you cook differently than most people and is more flexible.

Would you put your face in your shoes for hours at a time, or rub it on the ground when you walked? Probably not, but thats no problem for the feet, because they're a different body part with different strengths and requirements.

That's a common argument, and a flawed one at that IMHO. If a bird pooped on a table, would you rub it off with your bare finger with some soap water, or would you use paper? (Granted, even this might give you the hint that dry paper isn't always the best idea.)

Well no, the whole point is that there's shit on you in the first place already, not touching it is not an option.

You clean your arse with water so that it's clean and not just wiped with paper, just as you afterwards will wash your hands instead of just wiping them on a paper towel.

Well, that comes down to cultural or personal preference. Some cultures consider feet unclean. Some people consider the anus unclean. How clean you try to make a body part depends on how clean you consider or expect it to be.

Soap and water. Never just water alone.

If a bird pooped the human way (same diet and result) the solution would be a piece of dry paper or leaf

It is not just unpleasantness. It is an essential tool for the contamination risk management.

Wiping with TP is still relatively unpleasant and ineffective in terms of cleanliness.

It was funny to see this HN post tonight. This week I'm doing upgrades to the DCS (distributed control system) operator stations at one of the largest tissue manufacturing sites in the US. I was just telling my fiancé how funny the security is here. You would think they were enriching uranium.

When I first got into the paper industry, which resulted from coming out of grad school during the Great Recession, I thought i would be a top performer within six months. I have to admit though that it took me longer to be proficient in my current position than it did in my former position as a metrology engineer in a semiconductor fab. There is more technology in the paper industry than one might assume.

The way US homes are designed it's hard to add a bidet to an existing bathroom, but doing away with toilet paper must be a goal. Unless you wash, you cannot feel "good" down there. That's the truth.

There are lots of products (on Amazon) that are quite easy to add to an existing bathroom.


Yep. However I think that you responded to the wrong comment.

not really. It was about the great engineering that goes to design TP. I said to do away with it totally

I agree, corncobs work just fine

Go in the morning then take a shower... my normal routine.

I think a machine vision directed spray is the future. I don't fancy collecting the training data though.

LOL, "a machine vision directed spray", missing a '/s'? My toilet has a built in bidet. When the spray comes on, I move my butt to positions the stream to dead center. There's really no need for any added complexity.

Toilets seats with built in bidets have already been perfected in Japan and South Korea since the nineties. Anyone who suggests the need for computer vision aided complexity has never used one of these. They just work, and you learn to use them properly really fast.

They just want to gather the footage for research

I only used one in Korea once, and to be honest, it worked so well without doing anything special that I assumed they were already using some kind of recognition.

And those toilets have been readily available in the US for over a decade. I did opt for a higher end model, but it wasn't hard to find either.

It's knowing when it's done

I can already see the news reports about racist toilets.

over-engineering much

Better safe than sorry

Please no. I don't want asshole recognition software tracking my movements from washroom to washroom.

But the potential for offering targeted hemorrhoid treatment advertising could heavily subsidize the cost of the Amazon Toilet

Two answers to this one

1) iPhone X already has this feature.

2) GDPR will require you to opt-in to asshole tracking, and you'll also have the right to request your asshole scans be forgotten.

Surprisingly relevant Adult Swim Infomercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJklHwoYgBQ

A sewer pipe that could detect what’s passing through it would actually have all kinds of practical uses!

I wonder how feasible it would be to embed chemical sensors into such an environment.

Governments sometimes analyse waste water for drugs and drug metabolites. You can't pinpoint specific houses' drug use, but you get get trends and general population data.

Targeting action on drugs by monitoring sewerage plants is some sort of genius.

Are you suggesting that each human has a unique anus-print? Or is this just some shitty theory of yours?

Each human actually does have a unique anus print and I'm pretty sure it was pornhub that figured this out. If I find the article I'll edit.

and the data can be stolen by an analytics company which may use it to manipulate elections.

How else would we elect the biggest asshole?

Once I had a very serious conversation about this, bussiness conversation

No need to go that far. Even the $300 unit I purchased off of Amazon is, uh, remarkably accurate.

And of course it will be sending the data to the cloud, to improve ad targeting.

Or you can just use wet wipes

Beware, many of those "flushable" wipes aren't actually: https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/09/putrid-130-ton-mass-...

Especially for septic systems. In related news, it is very expensive to have a plumber come fish "flushable" wipes from your septic system when they are blocking the tank and backing the "water" back up into the house.

I asked a plumber about those once and he laughed and said there’s no such thing as a flushable wipe - but they’re great for business.

What's the limitation? Why can't we make actually flushable wipes?

Shear stress. You want something that won't tear when it is pulled against your skin, but with enough friction to remove viscoplastic residue.

The way to make a cloth that supports such high shear stress without tearing is to use a very long fiber. This precludes the fiber from dissolving in water. Some experimental materials actually dissolve not in water but in alkalines such as fats that are found in most sewer systems. But not all sewer systems have the proper conditions so these materials then do not dissolve.

Doubt it would take off, considering the low adoption rates of "regular" spray toilets in the west. It's a relatively marginal improvement after all.

Bidet use is accelerating rapidly* in the US. Which doesn't surprise me, really. When I got one, most of my family was surprised. As they tried it out of curiosity, most of them were really happy with how clean they felt, and have gone on to get one for their own homes. I'm sure they have other friends that come over and will experience the same. It's an exponential effect.

(* source: https://www.proremodeler.com/bidets-finally-making-inroads-u... )

If I have taken only one thing away from living in Japan for near-on a decade, it is that the washlet (aka the cyber-bidet) is, quite possibly, mankind's greatest invention.

The predecessor to the above were small squeeze bottles full of water, and you can still buy various versions of these today, which are heaven-on-earth as a wilderness backpacker.

I picked up a travel bidet[1] for backpacking, and it has proven to be one of the best uses of six bucks that I can remember. Weighs in at 50g (~2oz), and not only cuts down on the amount of TP I need to pack in (and out), but it's also been a general lifesaver when traveling.

[1] https://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/B007ZLB3NA

Hooooly shit I never thought of this for backpacking.

You're a life saver. Accidentally pulling out my shit wipe Ziploc is my least favorite part of backpacking.

Yeah, it's pretty hard to differentiate that from an MRE.

There are non-electronic bidets that I found worked just as well (you rotated a nob to spray water using just water pressure).

I installed one of these at home. Absolutely superb.

That sounds like a rather... brisk experience in the colder months. I hope you live where the winters are mild!

Washing one's "back-parts" after they've completed their job feels much more clean to me compared to using toilet paper. Whenever I'm forced to use TP (i.e. when not at home, mostly) I always feel a little dirty after the deed, no matter how much TP I use. I don't have that feeling when using water to clean said back-parts.

Cost of bidets are coming down a lot with more domestic manufacturers. At $200-300 for a Toto-like attachment I upgraded all of my toilets. It's hard to go back once you are used to it.

I agree 100%. I purchased bidets as Christmas presents for many family members this past year after a visit to South Korea (where they were the norm in the hotels I visited). I've even found myself telling my neighbors about the advantages of bidets over cocktails (which is kind of weird). I wouldn't want to live without one, and I spread the word.

And what are the advantages of a bidet over a cocktail? Not as sticky, I imagine.

Yes. I recently went to Azerbaijan and was amazing at how barbaric we are in the USA with our hard, dry toilet paper :-)

You don't need to pay so much, you can get some that attach under the seat for $30.

Far easier is just to have the person move into the proper position.

wow, collecting isn't so bad, (you just place a camera) Labeling it however!!

That would mean literally looking at poopy buttholes all day long and highlighting the poop on the butt, maybe also highlighting where you think the hose should start. I wouldn't want to be that Mechanical Turker

There's someone out there for whom this is their dream job. Probably a substantial fraction of the population, actually, judging from the tag clouds on porn sites.

The tersorium/stick the Romans used is the source of the expression: to get "the wrong end of the stick"

My grandfather grew up on a farm. He said they always had a bucket of corn husks in the outhouse and that was what you used. He was totally serious. If cheap toilet paper makes my bum feel raw, I can't even imagine what a corn husk would do to it.

Here in Finland, some public toilets used to have a piece of wood attached to a chain in the early 1900s. Everyone carried their own puukko (a traditional Finnish knife) and could carve shavings for cleaning up.

I always knew Finnish people were rough and tough back in the day, but this gave me a whole new perspective.

My father grew up on a farm in WI. My mother grew up on a farm/gravel put not 10 miles from him. There's a reason the Sears Catalog was so popular in rural areas (in outhouses, no less). Read a page, use a page.

I think you may have misheard him: farmers used to use corn cobs to wipe.


This article has the answer;

"In Rome, people cleaned themselves after using a public latrine with a sea sponge lashed to a stick, stored in a bucket of salt water or vinegar. It was considered polite to give the sponge a cursory rinse and a squeeze before putting it back in the bucket to get it ready for the next person."

Oh, you're right. He did say corn cobs. Apparently I don't use corn terminology often enough to keep everything straight.

François Rabelais did a thorough explanation on the best ways to wipe back in hist late 15th century books (don't remember which one exactly, sorry). After discussing the virtues of various sorts of leaves, hay, moss, he concludes that the best wiping material is a small, soft bird. :)

I thoroughly enjoyed your comment so I did some Googling around, and found this gem straight from the man himself:

|'I have, answered Gargantua, by a long and curious experience, found out a means to wipe my bum, the most lordly, the most excellent, and the most convenient that ever was seen… I say and maintain, that of all torcheculs, arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches, there is none in the world comparable to the neck of a goose, that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs.' http://qi.com/infocloud/geese

Not just a small bird, but a whole goose neck! XD

I've found the original text which uses "oison", actually the gosling, so we're both right :) . Many of the words in this text were, as usual with Rabelais, written in French for the very first time. The whole text is incredibly satiating, reading it aloud naturally fills both the mouth and the belly with this incredibly coarse tongue, and provokes roaring laughter.


> Like Gayetty’s sheets, Scott tissue was originally marketed as a medicinal product

Interesting. The TOTO washlet style toilet was marketed originally in the US as a medical device (meant for people who had difficulty wiping). It never caught on in the US but caught on in Japan instead. I'm wondering if the washlet is the next technological advancement like the toilet paper was compared to the Roman butt-brush. In theory a butt brush can still work today, although considered unsanitary, but a wipe with paper is just as unsanitary when compared to flushing with water. Even a non-electronic bidet is vastly superior to toilet paper.

When I moved to Argentina, it took me a while to get used to bidets. But now that I'm used to them, I never use toilet paper voluntarily. It leaves your butt still dirty!

As someone said, if you got poop on your arm, maybe while changing a diaper, would you wipe it off with a piece of paper and consider it clean? No, not if you're from the mainstream of any developed country. You would use water, soap, and maybe more extreme measures.

Well, why do you leave your anus caked with residual poop, then? Advance into the 18th century: get a bidet, and learn to use it. Overcome your ignorance and embarrassment. Even I did.

(I still use toilet paper in public restrooms, though. They usually don't have bidets.)

Honest question: Can a bidet user explain why bidets are superior to just having a nearby faucet to dampen the toilet paper, like this?:


Having a separate system and jet of water seems like a lot more complexity with increased risk of splash. And the cleaning properties of dampened paper seem strictly better than a stream of water. Just like I wouldn't wipe off poo from my arm with dry paper, I also wouldn't just run my arm under water without also mechanically scrubbing it.

Obviously, most toilets without bidets don't have faucets close enough to reach from the toilet, so a bidet might be an improvement over the status quo. But it seems way easier to install a small faucet than a stand-alone bidet, and way less maintenance to have a small faucet than one of those built-in water jets for toilets.

>Can a bidet user explain why bidets are superior to just having a nearby faucet to dampen the toilet paper, like this?

Water pressure. I live on the 5th floor of a 16 floor building with the water tank at the top. The pressure of the bidet is enough to clean everything off in seconds. The risk of splash is only when you use it incorrectly. Just sit for a minute or two extra to let gravity do it's work on the excess water present on your butt.

>Having a separate system and jet of water seems like a lot more complexity

I don't think so. In India, we just attach it to a normal water valve. The same one to which we attach taps, flush tanks, showers etc. It's a pretty standardized attachment.

Sit for a minute or two on the toilet waiting for all the water to drip off?

Before I put a bidet attachment on my toilet, my flushable-wipe usage was about a median of 3 and a mean of probably 4. Sometimes I just had to keep wiping to make sure _everything_ was gone from underneath, and I make sure my wipes are extra-wet with witch hazel.

Now, my flushable-wipe usage has a median and mode of 1, with a mean of maybe 1.2. The long right-hand tail is considerably shorter and not as tall.

All this is probably better for the environment since it probably uses less stuff to get the extra water to my house than it does to get the extra processed butt wipes to my house. Also, I get a cleaner clean with fewer wipes going down the pipes, which reduces the likelihood that the pipes will clog. The Cottonelles I use don't clog my pipes generally, but I've used (and stopped using!) other brands that have.

As for the splash? Well, I've got TP right there if my cheeks and perineum get too wet. It's not a problem.

Sure, spraying with a bunch of water will minimize paper usage, just like lightly dampening the paper with water will minimize water usage. But both amounts are so trivial compared to the water and paper product usage by a typical person that most of us aren't optimizing for this.

Where I live, toilet paper is mandated to dissolve in water at a certain rate (to avoid clogging the sewage), and that rate precludes dampening the paper sufficiently.

I guess? I don't know if your paper dissolves vastly faster than the standard stuff in US and Canadian stores. I haven't had a problem, but to each his own.

The bidet does not need to be stand alone. You can get them for under $30 that attach under the seat.

Even in the USA, it is fairly trivial to attach a bidet. Being from India, I could not live without it and went on to install it in all our bathrooms. Takes less than 30 minutes to install one, and you can order one from Amazon

But they break and make cleaning more difficult.

I've been using a $30 bidet for a couple years now with not a hint of trouble. Figured I'd test the concept out before dropping real money on a Toto, then realized that I actually like the water cold. I clean the toilet the same way I always have -- with a toilet brush. The bidet does not really change that process meaningfully.

I guess my experience living in a house with one of these in-bowl bidets was very different. It introduced more nooks and crannies than a simple bowl, and necessitated more frequent cleanings.

Well said. Whenever I bring this up to friends, they seem weirded out by bidets, sometimes even grossed out. How can it be grosser than trying to smear poop off with a paper towel!?

I was (surprisingly, to me) mocked by friends/family when I purchased a bidet seat a few years ago. Over the period of a few months, most went from teasing to shy curiosity to buying one for their own home. A victory for cleanliness!

People who mock you for having a cleaner butthole than them are strange people indeed.

Surgeons used to mock other surgeons for washing their hands. A centuries-old insult about the French is that they insist upon bathing every day. People seem to generally associate cleanliness with a sort of hysterical fussiness.

This is not about cleanliness; any type of virtue is resisted by others before it becomes the norm, because of course people tend towards less effort than more.

> [..] insult about the French is that they insist upon bathing every day.

That's funny, I think the Brazilians have exactly the opposite insult - i.e., the French rarely take a bath.

::shrug:: Can't say I disagree. People have surprisingly strong feelings about getting their butts splashed with water.

They're afraid they'll enjoy it, and it will undermine their fragile macho manhood.

Perhaps unexpectedly, it was the women who were most put off it, not the men. FWIW. I realize this was hardly a scientific sample.

> How can it be grosser than trying to smear poop off with a paper towel!?

I understand that with a bidet one must use one's naked fingers to clean the area. That seems substantially grosser than using toilet paper. Then there's the risk of spray going the wrong direction, and of getting one's trousers wet.

A bidet sounds awesome, but terribly impractical. I wonder how people are able to use one so often.

You have a couple of options:

· Just spray your anus with high-pressure water, let it drain, then put your pants back on, dampening them with the few drops remaining. This leaves you cleaner than toilet paper, while keeping your fingers away from your anus and any poop that might be hanging around.

· Spray your anus with high-pressure water, then use your naked fingers and soap to wash. This does indeed potentially contaminate your hands with the film of fecal bacteria left behind, but then you wash your naked fingers with soap and hot water, which is usually considered adequate.


$35 and installs in 10 mins with included tools on most toilets. I have installed them on every toilet I regularly use and somewhat internally question anyone who uses Amazon and toilets and doesn’t have one.

It also now bothers me when I stay in a 5 star hotel in the US and there is no bidet; I have seriously considered installing one of these (and leaving it) in each hotel I stay at for more than 48h.

It's really not the same as a line pressurized bidet, but I bring this [1] with me when I go out.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008CSDKSQ/ref=oh_aui_sear...

For those interested I bought this exact model and it didn't fit my toilet seat. It essentially adds an extra 2 inches or so of material between the porcelain and the bolt tabs on the seat. This means it doesn't close completely. Apparently you can buy bumpers but I'd need huge bumpers and didn't like the aesthetic. I have what I'd consider a standard seat so I'm not sure what kind of seat wouldn't require the bumpers.

Thanks for this. I had no clue this was a option. Just ordered one. And in my apartment the sink is right next to the toilet and the hot water line is exposed for the sink. So it should be easy enough to make it warm.

This is great if you don't have small children -- I discovered this the hard way... Otherwise, you probably need something with an auto shut off watchdog timer.

Thanks. Seriously considering buying one.

Others: be sure to read the review by Mercury. It's very funny.

you question my internals? That's an interesting phrase to internally question :-)

I grew up with bidets, but lately have been giving myself “quick enemas”, which means colon cleansing. My method is a simplified version of a more traditional enema, and it has the following perceived benefits: more thorough cleaning with water, evacuation of feces that would have stayed in otherwise, less smell in the area throughout the day.

Method: after pooping at home, I use a vaginal cleanser (a pump) with some soap to lubricate the tube and inject cold fresh water into the anus. I immediately release the water into the toilet. It gives me additional relief after the regular evacuation and there is always something to be released.

Here’s a traditional enema method:


I'm not a doctor, but to me it doesn't seem to be healthy to be giving yourself a daily enema.

I think your point is also valid in countries that are still developing - and more so, if you consider those cultures have never used tp and likely never will.

Do bidets shoot soap up there? Should they? :D

They do not. Since sometimes the pressure is high enough for water to go into your anus, it would be dangerous for them to shoot soap.

How do you dry?

Toilet paper!

Well, I have one of the simple unheated hose sprayer-type bidet things which I installed during a period of let's just say discomfort at some point in the past, and that's what I do, but I assumed the hardcore bidet users had some superior solution, like mentioned below.

The higher end models have heated blowers. But TP is kind of superior to that imo.

Small towel. Bath towel > Face towel > Foot towel.

(Spot the euphemism. But it is also used for drying feet, after wrapping the body with the bath towel, when coming out of the shower.)

Maybe the skin around the anus is more resilient to bacteria?

how much better is water ? is it 100% clean ? is it the most efficient (outside nasa technology) ?

Do we need to bring Dyson to the table ? bladeless ass wipe, only 900$

> how much better is water ? is it 100% clean ?

They did provide a reference point...

> if you got poop on your arm, maybe while changing a diaper, would you wipe it off with a piece of paper and consider it clean?

...were you expecting something more rigorous?

yes, I don't really understand the whole thing.

A bidet you use water to clean your outputs, instead of paper only. But

1) you probably have your arm under there to dry it too, it's cleaner but not perfectly clean I suppose. So you might have bacteria/microbes too

2) I forgot my 2 but you get the idea. Unless you have something that doesn't involve approaching your ass you're still not 100% clear.

It is infinitely better than dry toilet paper. Trust me because like OP I've used both methods and I am never more grossed out than after going through a North American toilet.

I just use sink at home. Being tall has its benefits. When I come around to buying my own apartment I will definitely get a bidet.

I did that for a little while after I'd discovered a bidet but didn't have my own. But this one [1] is only about $25 and is really worth it. And I bring this [2] with me when I go out.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003TPGPUW/ref=oh_aui_sear... [2] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008CSDKSQ/ref=oh_aui_sear...

You might want to use a "bidet shower" if you don’t have a standalone bidet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bidet_shower.

It connects to your water faucet or your toilet tank so you don’t spread germs in the sink. On Amazon they start at $ 10.

Hope no one uses that sink beside you. A "Biffy" toilet attachment is very convenient to install, inexpensive, and potentially a lot more considerate to others.

Sink is easy to clean. Nothing is left behind. I don't see this problem. It is like bidet, but taller. I first clean my ass, then the sink and finally my hands.

Toilet paper is gross. The notion that toilet paper is the best much less the only means of toilet hygiene is pretty ignorant.

For an educational laugh: https://youtu.be/dKkryfdtMNQ

By the way, the simplest solution, for people who are regular, is simply to do your business before your shower.

Exactly. Nothing beats the home advantage. Hot water and soap and a proper cleaning of all those hidden areas is the only way to get clean.

We can buy "adult baby wipes" in u.s. stores now. It's a good compromise.

Aren't those things an environmental catastrophe though?

Which will cause blockages in sewers.

It's also really wasteful.

Bidets are pretty weird, but I totally recognize their superiority to plain ol' toilet paper.

+1 for wet wipes.

> +1 for wet wipes.

As long as you bin them.


wet wipes are terrible for plumbing though.

You can slightly dampen toilet paper for a similar, and more safely flushable, effect. You can buy little bottles of spray for the purpose, loaded with the same anus-friendly substances as wet wipes.

we seriously need a better solution for toilets. toilets use huge amounts of water. if you want to have a toilet in a moving vehicle, or anywhere that is not directly connected to a sewage line and a giant water treatment plant, then you are just out of luck because all the mobile toilet solutions out there suck. it amazes me that a good solution has evaded us for so long.

when considering how to travel where-ever i want and for cheap i considered a van or rv. in both cases im stuck chasing after land installations that allow me to essentially use a toilet. with the rv, you have to offload somewhere and with a van you have to be near someone else's toilet.

the best solution i can think of is to have a special toilet that uses plastic bagging. a continuous sleeve of plastic is fed through the toilet and lines the inside of the "bowl" and is sealed at the bottom of the bowl forming a plastic bag. waste is collected and then the plastic material is rolled out -- so the bag descends and is replaced with new plastic material above. plenty of extra plastic is reeled out and a heating element comes in and seals the bag above the waste, simultaneously creating a new "bag" to catch waste and sealing completely the waste in the old bag. the end result is a completely clean bowl and fully contained waste. the waste bags could then be disposed of in an incinerator or a processing plant at some later time. the bag could be made biodegradable and a sterilizing agent added to the bag before its sealed to allow the bags to be disposed of without processing.

I would be curious if all this plastic in your plan actually saves resoures over water.

Yeah uh, water is at least fairly easy to reuse and isn't "wasted". My old apartment recycled water on site (one of the first in north america to do it) for the toilets/landscaping. If cities would just put in non potable water lines and make it code for new buildings to use it for toilets and landscaping we'd really reduce how much drinking water is used.

im not sure how you and every single other person who responded to my comment came to think that this was about saving resources. the only reason i dont want to use water is because water is a terrible way of taking care of waste on a mobile platform. water is super heavy and you have to use a lot of it each time you flush. and on top of that, the result is a toilet that slowly gets super dirty. plastic is better because you could store hundreds of "flushes" in a small box that doesnt weigh anything and because the toilet is totally and completely clean after every flush assuming all the waste stays inside the bowl and doesnt splatter up and out all over the place (which is a pretty good assumption). and lastly the waste can be stored with almost the minimum possible weight overhead and doesnt make its storage tank dirty or smelly. overall you have a lightweight, highly clean and maintenance free system.

in the end, water and plastic are largely the same thing. oxygen, hydrogen and carbon are all you need to make either. recycling plastic will, in the future, be trivial. same with water and all other substances.

Don't you need resources (in the case of plastic, oil) PLUS WATER to create anything?

Sawdust is the only alternative in my opinion

At least until the three seashells come along.

I follow the van dwelling scene a bit (got a site in the space: https://vanspiration.com) - it seems that many beforehand overstate the need for a toilet. Those moving a fair bit amongst urban areas often make-do with public or business toilets and go months without needing to use their in-van solution. Those out in the bush are digging holes.

Many will typically have a pee bottle, and then a bucket double-lined with plastic bags and filled with dirt or cat litter. There are contoured lids that fit over common bucket sizes and make something of a seat.

There are loads of cassette-type portable toilets too.

Water is only a problem in some places. And I think it is less a problem globally than plastic.

1 this sounds utterly wasteful

2 and it already exists and is common in eg. campers

Reminds me of the diaper genie :)

I am from the UK, typically visit the US once or twice per year, have visited every country in the EU and am currently spending 12 months traveling the world (3 months in at the moment, having visited India, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand). I have a website/blog about this for those that are interested: http://ourbigplanet.com

In various parts of the world, previous to this trip, I encountered trash cans (or bins as we call them) in bathrooms for toilet tissue (Turkey is an example). I also encountered "bum guns" (the hoses with a sort of shower head that you can fire at yourself after bowl movements). What I typically did was ignore both and continue my business the way I knew how.

Since starting this year long trip, I have been forcing myself to try more things. And all the countries I have visited so far have requested toilet paper isn't flushed and they have the bum gun. So I tried it, and shockingly found it works really well. No matter how bad the movement is (eating street food, often heavily spiced, etc) the bum gun does a splendid job of completely cleaning you, and you don't have to get your hands particularly close to the zone you are cleaning. It is far less abrasive, environmentally better, and leaves you cleaner (it is like if you have a muddy arm, and attempt to clean it by wiping it with tissues vs having a shower).

After using the bum gun, typically I will use a couple of sheets of toilet paper, initially to make sure I was clean, but I so found this wasn't necessary, but I still use a couple just to get dry. Sometimes there isn't any available, and I don't have any, so I leave the bathroom with a slight amount of wetness which quickly dries in the hot countries.

The toilet paper goes into the bin, but unlike in Turkey where it was used toilet paper (used without bum gunning) which stunk the whole room out, now the toilet paper is inoffensive and without smell).

So overall, I feel the way things are done over here have a lot of positives. I am certainly glad I embraced it.

On a tangent, I believe people who wipe typically do it one of two ways:

1. Whilst sitting on the toilet, do some sort of lean and wipe manoeuvre

2. Stand up, squat a tiny bit and wipe.

I have been taught to do 2 as a child, but find some toilets aren't designed for this, as they have a sensor which flushes when you stand (even if you are standing to wipe). I find these sensors are much more common in the US than other places I have visited. It is almost like the designer doesn't know about all the people who use method 2.

Thanks. I will be referring to bidets as "bum guns" from now on (because it's funny).

Both are diffrent

> I’m thinking of opening a chain called Urine-Urout All-Natural Laundromat. It’s a sparkling business opportunity!

Best line in the article. Though, TIL contrary to the popular myth, urine isn't sterile.

Once you ferment it until it stinks of ammonia, it's pretty sterile. Eventually even the extremophilic bacteria that produce the ammonia will die off from it.


I have heard that the piss-collection industry still exists, but collecting the urine from portable toilets and extracting human urokinase from it, rather than using it for cleaners, glazes, and flavorings.

And, after searching for confirmation, here it is: http://www.toilets.com/Pharm/pharm_production.htm

I'd like to recommend Jim Al-Khalili's excellent "Chemistry a volatile history" BBC documentary. At point point he describes how alchemists were attempting to convert urine to gold (hey, they're both yellow...) and by boiling it down accidentally discovered phosphorous.

Ah, detailed on Wikipedia:


There's also a lot about this in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, including the building and destruction of an 18th century incendiary munitions factory.

While lant or leint seems to have been a real thing, either it was very rare in medieval times and later, or there was a more common word for it. It doesn't appear in Google Ngrams at all. (Neither does "old wash", the more common synonym from Addy's book.)

On most days toilet paper helps you smear more than it helps you wipe.

For those wanting to try out the bidet without buying one there's always the backcountry bidet [1].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2x-G7sXVs4

I have one of these: https://hellotushy.com/ - it works really well.

Wow this is incredibly similar to what we usually use in Turkey. But here the little faucet is already installed into the rim, and the valve is on the wall to your right. I just can't imagine how people live without using these things or a bidet.

Is it possible there were some kind of dividers between the toilets that are now long gone? Ie not as public as the picture might indicate.

Probably not. There likely would have been some sort of mounting points on the floor or walls to hold it. Also it's not like we don't have writings and paintings from the time. I imagine there's some evidence from there too.

The article says that certain remote and rural areas of Asia still don't use toilet paper. However, this is also true of most of the Philippines, including middle- and upper-class areas in major cities. It's not an issue only of economic stability or access to it, but also just a cultural one. I've been in upscale restaurants in Manila where there was no toilet paper in the bathrooms. They use a little bucket of water next to the toilet to wash instead.

This is true of almost all of India too. I'd wager than more than 60% of the world's population uses some technique superior to toilet paper.

Yes, I wonder if some one should do R&D on whether water is better.

How do you dry afterwards? At home you could use some towel, I guess... But in a public place?

They don't.

Isn't that awkward? Your underwear will get wet, and also your skin is moist... and warm. Which is a good place for bacteria to grow?

It dries up way quicker than you might imagine. Especially, I guess it should be quicker in drier climates.

> should be quicker in drier climates

Which the Philippines, where this is widespread practice, definitely isn't.

The author mentions the tersorium, but I'm surprised that he doesn't bring up family wipes (also know as "family cloth") https://inhabitat.com/family-cloths-gross-or-great/.

It seems like the idea never truly died out.

I did that for a while with my family. I think it's a good step towards being cleaner, but ultimately a bidet is the easiest and cleanest. At that point the family cloths can just be "dry off" cloths, i.e. after washing with the bidet, dry the water off. The water should be clean unless you missed some ;)

Just do the Indian technique. Its so much cleaner and more environmentally friendly. You basically have a small pot and you wash your butt after every poop, and then wash your hands.

Do you use soap along with the water? The variation I'm aware of is using a watering can, your hand, and lots of soap to wash the area and dry it off with toilet paper.

A lot of public toilets in the Middle East will have something similar to a kitchen sink spray attachment mounted on the wall next to the toilet along with a liquid soap dispenser. You can use them in a similar way to the pot you mention.

> To ancient Romans, the practice of sitting on a shared toilet in an open room full of people was entirely ordinary.

That's a funny thing to say for an American, because, to Europeans, American toilets are much too public: doors don't go to the floor or ceiling, and even "walls" are thin sheets of wood/plastic loosely joined together with huge spaces between them.

It seems, Americans don't trust one another to sit alone in a toilet; I still don't know if it's for security purposes (to check if someone has a heart failure?) or puritanical reasons (make sure people aren't having sex?) but it sure feels strange, and very difficult to get used to when one comes from a different culture.

>It seems, Americans don't trust one another to sit alone in a toilet; I still don't know if it's for security purposes (to check if someone has a heart failure?) or puritanical reasons (make sure people aren't having sex?) but it sure feels strange, and very difficult to get used to when one comes from a different culture.

I've always thought it was far less interesting than that:

they're cheaper and faster to install. Minimal thought was probably given to the people using them.

There's regulations on minimum gap size (had a client in the industry)


So the clearance is needed for the footrests found on wheelchairs, and if you make the stall big enough, you don't have to provide the floor gaps. It's interesting that the ADA regulations have become an important factor in design starting in the 1990s, yet I remember that public restrooms have had those floor gaps since much earlier than that. I wonder if the logic went like this: floor gaps have existed since at least the 1960s --> people with wheelchairs found the gaps useful to maneuver in the restroom --> the ADA codified this into a regulation in the 1990s.

To save everyone from having to wade through stack exchange, here is the ultimate link[1]:

"604.8.1.4 Toe Clearance

The front partition and at least one side partition shall provide a toe clearance of 9 inches (230 mm) minimum above the finish floor and 6 inches (150 mm) deep minimum beyond the compartment-side face of the partition, exclusive of partition support members.

EXCEPTION: Toe clearance at the front partition is not required in a compartment greater than 62 inches (1575 mm) deep with a wall-hung water closet or 65 inches (1650 mm) deep with a floor-mounted water closet."

[1] https://up.codes/viewer/ada/chapter/6/plumbing-elements-and-...

The gaps underneath also make it way easier to mop the floor, and minimize corners and crevices for gunk to collect in.

Source: was a janitor for a while in my youth.

Minimum gap size for the gap at the top and bottom, right? A minimum gap size for between the different wall pieces and the door would be crazy.

Ok, so cost and cleanability might be incentive so have doors like that, but not incentives to make regulations.

Those regulations likely there for "decency and safety". E.g. to discourage people having sex, or to make it more obvious if someone passes out. That is: the regulations really are there to make reduce privacy.

There might be good arguments for reducing privacy, but that is still the proximate goal of the rules.

I think the end goal is making it harder to do heroin in a bathroom.

Haha, probably cocaine as well. Some public restrooms seem designed to minimize flat surfaces, private access to clean water, and secluded locations, while others (like in some night clubs) have randomly placed shelves with hard, easily wipeable surfaces, etc.

Not entirely random: you need a place to set your drink while using the restroom.

In a public restroom, if there's a place to set a drink, trash cups will accumulate there. Then someone will have to be paid to clean them up.

Indeed, this one of the many reasons some night clubs have bathroom attendants.

I can understand this in a public restroom, but why do the bathrooms in my 30-story office building have to be this way?

I've heard that they were more to discourage illicit drug use than "indecency".

Who in their right mind would have sex in a public restroom? That's just disgusting. I very much doubt it has anything with reducing privacy.

We learn something every day

Whether we want to or not.

It's also easier to mop the floors since you can go under the partitions.

That makes sense, but it would still be a huge improvement to eliminate gaps everywhere but the floor. The cost argument makes sense, but it doesn’t explain why it’s ubiquitous in the US but not in Europe, since the cost-saving incentive should be roughly the same in both regions.

Perhaps it started in the US because of safety or puritanism, but has now simply become a de facto standard in the US building industry. I doubt most building developers still think about safety or puritanism and specifically request this type of bathroom walls.

The gaps are an improvement. I take it you never had to piss in a trough? :P

My favorite: when the only way to tell the handwashing trough from the urinating trough is the height on the wall.

> but it would still be a huge improvement to eliminate gaps everywhere but the floor

It would, but then in larger bathrooms you'd have to be able to hang some of the weight off the ceiling, and you'd still have issues with things swinging or bending.

If you visit an upscale hotel, the "public" restrooms in the lobby typically have larger stalls with fully enclosed doors/rooms. I think you're right. It's mainly a cost cutting issue.

I always thought it was for ease of mopping?

This is the 6th post I have seen this week along the formula

(1) I am from Europe and I went to America.

(2) Americans do things in a way I find unusual and/or distressing.

(3) The cause must be a character flaw shared by all Americans (security and puritanical reasons...?).

Replace with:

(1) I am from $region_X and I went to $region_Y

(2) $region_Y'ers do things in a way I find unusual and/or distressing

(3) The cause must be a character flaw shared by all $region_Y'ers (<insert stereotypes of choice here>).

and your statement is still valid about this formula.

I think we tend to preferentially notice them when we're in one of the two regions involved, but in general the world (and so the internet) is full of this sort of semantically null comparisons about culture and stereotypes. I've started seeing these as idle chatter akin to "Hey, look at that weirdly painted bus". At most I'd respond with "oh heh cool" but I'm not going to spend any more of my energy trying to explain choices of bus colors to anyone.

PHP dev? ;)

Another stereotype? It could be Perl or Bash.

Or Ruby, or TCL...

I didn't know that there are still people out there that program in Perl or Tcl??

Booking.com is mostly Perl and doing gangbusters. Tcl is, for example, the lingua franca for F5 load balancers. I have more examples, but both are far from dead.

Tcl is a household name in the field of EDA tool scripting.

Virtually all software tools designed by Cadence, Synopsys, and Mentor include a Tcl REPL/console.

Any task performed in the GUI is actually executed in the REPL, making it easy to replicate a specific flow by just copy/pasting the commands displayed in the REPL into a Tcl script.

To load a script, you simply pass it as an argument when running the software.

There are. There's even a Perl 6 that is production ready: https://perl6.org

or PowerShell

I thought Perl was the only language that has ' as a valid character in variable names along with the $. Ada allows the quote, too.

First thing that came to my mind too! But it could also be bash...

bambax's comment is particularly silly too: "It seems, Americans don't trust one another to sit alone in a toilet". One could just as easily remark that "It seems Europeans must be so childishly shy about normal bodily functions that they must build walls from floor to ceiling in order to pretend that they don't happen". But obviously, both versions are stupid.

Both may be stupid, but perhaps also true of a large enough portion of the population as to provide the reason for those differences?

There are a million possible reasons, some cultural but very many economic or historical accident. In principle it would be possible to try and infer something about culture from this, but it's overwhelmingly obvious that this excercise is indulged in so people can gleefully confirm their existing beliefs.

Eh, when someone says "it sure feels strange, and very difficult to get used," it doesn't have to be negative. You can take it as a "character flaw" jibe, but it's really just an observation.

source: American that is still in shock by septic tank users that have to throw their feces-paper in the trashcan.

That's only if your septic tank is improperly sized or otherwise malfunctioning.

Around 20% of homes in America have their own septic tank. And essentially all of them flush their toilet paper like everyone else.

My home is on a septic tank. We flush TP. No problem so far (18 years).

I grew up near Tacoma, WA with a septic tank. Every house on the street has one. We had to have a septic truck come out and pump it every few years. Otherwise it was just like sewer.

They did put sewers in about 15 years after the houses were built, and mandated hooking into it on the next septic tank pumping. But the tanks are left underground, as removing them would leave a 20 foot hole in the backyard of each house.

In short, what's this about tossing your stool in the trash?

When I lived in a house with a septic tank, I was shocked at how much of a non-issue it was. Even with a family, the tank really didn't need to be pumped more than every 5+ years at the most, and was very inexpensive. Never backed up or had any issues.

> source: American that is still in shock by septic tank users that have to throw their feces-paper in the trashcan.

What? Where/when/why is that necessary?

When you have an undersized septic tank, this can become necessary. But not necessary for most.

I lived in the Dominican Republic for a few years, and it was a little weird to me at first, but after a while you get used to putting dirty paper in the trash. I never once had to deal with a clogged toilet.

After moving back to the USA it was just as weird to put paper in the toilets (though drinking the same water you bathe in was the weirdest part).

I think people exaggerate the weirdness and difficulty of adjustment, because in both instances it took me a week at most to get used to either way.

> though drinking the same water you bathe in was the weirdest part

Surely you mean the water that enters the house via plumbing, is used for both bathing and drinking from via a faucet. As opposed to drinking bath water.

Is the weirdness of that because they don't drink tap water in the Dominican?

> Is the weirdness of that because they don't drink tap water in the Dominican?

Yes, almost nowhere in Central America would you (or locals) drink water from the tap. Things like brushing your teeth are a grey area.

Unless you are on well, you don't drink tap water in most places in the DR

The fact that the vast majority of people don't travel more than a week or two (if ever) probably contributes to the lack of perspective.

Puritanical reasons would be a character flaw, maybe, but not security. From the other comments it seems the main reason is easiness to clean.

But my point was about the fact that the author of the article was shocked that latrines in Pompei were public and shared, while in the US toilets are almost as public as in Pompei (not exactly as much, but still too much for someone from a different culture).

I'm from America, lived in Europe, and definitely prefer European toilets at the office. It's an actual room that gives you real privacy.

This notion of privacy probably results in people taking way longer to do their business. Americans don’t have time for that shit.

lol - that reminds me of the quote from the boss baby justifying wearing a diaper.

I'm interested in knowing what percentage of users are not in America. It seems that it's increasing.

We've always enjoyed here to mean America. I guess it won't be for long.

Apparently the very private Puritan outhouses were really time machines which they used to time travel to the 20th century and help pass the ADA.

Perhaps NSFW, but being frank so it's clear what I'm saying.

There's cultural differences the other direction. German toilets catch feces on what we called a "shit shelf" instead letting it fall and submerge in water. Which, of course, made for a pretty bad odor situation.

And in Turkey, the "toilet" was a hole in the ground. Even in the Hilton, it was a fancy carved marble and gold leaf "4 inch diameter hole in the floor". My quads and other muscles aren't accustomed to that, and neither was my aim :)

I just shrugged both off and figured there was some history I didn't understand.

> There's cultural differences the other direction. German toilets catch feces on what we called a "shit shelf" instead letting it fall and submerge in water. Which, of course, made for a pretty bad odor situation.

You get the odor anyway, that difference is quite negligible, but the "shit shelf" also serves a purpose: It "breaks up" the log by curling it and thus prevents clogging the toilet/the log getting stuck. Which, depending on the size and consistency of it, can happen quite often.

These toilets also ain't universal in Germany, the one in my flat sadly doesn't have a "shit shelf", which leads to the situation that I sometimes (after eating too much for a while) have to flush several times until it's gone. That's not just a waste of water, it's a rather nasty process having to go through.

Squatting toilets also ain't reserved to Turkey, many Asian countries have them. Using them depends a lot on technique, here's a rather humorous tutorial [0].

I can see the advantage of them as minimizing skin contact with the toilet's surface, which depending on the hygienic state of the toilet might be quite preferable.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCTKDn3Q8xQ

Appreciate the details, but disagree strongly with "You get the odor anyway, that difference is quite negligible".

Submerging it in water made a huge difference. Maybe some chemical engineer can confirm my layman observation.

Native German who has lived in the U.S. for many decades here. I agree with you, tyingq.

Also, when I try to squat with my feet flat on the floor as shown in that video, I invariably fall over backwards.

People who need to squat multiple times per day to poop throughout their lives have much better ankle flexibility than western office workers who spend their lives sitting on chairs, car seats, and chair-style toilets and never squat ever.

I also fall over when I try to squat flat on my heels. Friends who do yoga and friends from countries with squat toilets have no trouble with it though. All children under about 10 years old can squat just fine. Lesson: get your kids a squat toilet if you want them to have standard human levels of ankle flexibility when they grow up (also very helpful for improving jumping skill, if they plan to ever play sports). ;)

Probably more confidence from a native German confirmation than a chemical engineer :). You guys aren't much into pandering.

I'm sure submerging it in water makes some difference, but I'm not sure it's really that big of a difference. The odor is there whether submerged or not because the odor doesn't just come from the "product" itself.

Considering the kind of odor we are talking about here, I just don't think the difference is really that huge because when it stinks it stinks, and it pretty much always stinks.

Tho, how to quantify odor sounds like an interesting question.

> but I'm not sure it's really that big of a difference

Isn't filtering volatiles through water part of the logic of a water pipe/bong/hookah?

It’s mainly about cooling the smoke.

Not all diets produce such odoriferous feces. When I'm eating mostly plain raw produce like a vegetarian, a typical western flush toilet is pretty successful in minimizing poop odor. Meat in my diet makes odor suppression a whole lot more challenging.

For the last few months I've been using a urine-diverting style waterless toilet, where the solids land in a bucket with dirt. This means the solids are uncovered until completion, when more dirt gets poured over. The dietary feedback in this arrangement can be brutal, odor being a significant component until covered.

The "shit shelf" allows a large shit to adhere vertically, temporarily becoming a pillar. The shit may then tip over, with the lower part acting as a joint. If it tips forward and the shitter is male, then it smacks the scrotum.

It's a weird surprise, suddenly getting touched there when not expecting it. Then there is an additional body part that needs cleaning.

Lol. I skipped that part, fearing downvotes. That was also part of why I was mystified about these toilets.

When I was in Guangzhou squat toilets were the norm.

You also had to bring your own toilet paper too which I found out much too late in the process

0/10 Experience for sure

Been there...done that. It doesn't help that the cuisine is so delicious.

I've always found the shit shelf so bizarre, but they seem to be on their way out. On recent trips to Germany it was quite uncommon to see one-- in fact, I don't think I saw one last time at all; I think the last time I saw one was in Vienna.

Was it maybe a water conservation thing? That was always my best guess. Did seem bizarre. Happy to hear perhaps they've been phased out.

I think I remember reading somewhere that it was for self-inspection. E.g. after your paperwork you can ensure you have a healthy colon, no blood, half digested food, etc.

I read somewhere that the shelf was there so people could examine their crap for health reasons (is there blood in my stool? has the consistency changed? etc.) I have no idea if that is true, but it makes more sense that it exists to break up the poop before it's flushed.

When I lived in France in ‘98 a good 30% of the toilets were the porcelaine hole. My guess is they are less expensive and easier to clean.

That's surprising. All the times I've been to Turkey, I've only seen a couple of squat toilets. I saw far more in Japan.

Hmm. Lived in Izmir for a couple of years, and the gilded hole in the floor was specifically the (otherwise posh) Izmir Hilton and the toilet in my apartment, at Kushadasi beach, friends house's etc. It was early 90's, so maybe something changed?

I did end up buying a normal toilet and mounting it over the hole in my apartment.

Only premium toilets have this shit shelf here in Germany. The advantage is to prevent a big splash making your butt wet ;)

Perhaps, maybe you can also explain "Dusch Das, das dusch, ass...ahh" to me :)


Ass (pronounced with a short A, rather than the long A as in english) means Ace in German. (Before 1996 it was spelled As I believe)

Dusch Das is the brand name of the shower gel, Dusch means shower, Das is one of the three articles, so by turning the words around and into a rhyme, and says: "Dusch Das, the shower ace."

Perfect. Though, for a native English speaker, this commercial (and others of the same genre) left me with hard to resolve giggles. I still remember them fondly 20 years later. Also the German TV show Tutti Frutti (https://youtu.be/RZeQ-b1z_6c)

In many public places, it's a homeless / drug deterrent. There's a perception that a private stall creates an opportunity for drug use among the indigent population. It's an interesting commentary on the "world's richest nation" when public stalls are made uncomfortable to deter homeless from having a place to defecate. By contrast, look at the number of coffee shop bathrooms (for example) that use a code system to further keep out the riff-raff, and in exchange generally offer a more private setting - maybe not European standards, but more private nonetheless.

> By contrast, look at the number of coffee shop bathrooms (for example) that use a code system to further keep out the riff-raff, and in exchange generally offer a more private setting - maybe not European standards, but more private nonetheless.

Makes sense if you’ve been responsible for a bathroom that has been defiled. I worked in a retail shop where a homeless person bathed himself from the sink and made things such a mess that the bathroom had to be closed off from both customers and employees. It was, bluntly, gross.

Being homeless should not rob people of access to basics such as a bathroom. At the same time, businesses should not have to fill in for this need. The solution, as I see it, is improving access to city resources with a budget designed to serve the homeless. I don’t know how to accomplish this; it just seems most appropriate to me given my limited knowledge.

I agree with everything you've said. My point was not to discredit those retail shops, more to add to the discussion about the oddities of our public / semi-public bathroom situation here in the US, especially as it is contrasted with the very private and clean facilities found throughout Europe.

Like so many things Americana, it's about quantity over quality. Our bathrooms aren't as well engineered as European bathrooms, but they are plentiful and spacious. It's MUCH harder to find a public bathroom in Europe, and I am sure cost is an issue.

And I actually prefer the American bathrooms. I often refer to European toilet stalls as "fart coffins" given how claustrophobic and un-ventilated they are. If you can get over the idea that other people in the bathroom are pooping (gasp!), they are perfectly fine.

Wait, we're the Puritans for not requiring a private, hermetically sealed room for doing our business?

You probably wouldn't like the cross-stall conversations that also take place.

> That's a funny thing to say for an American, because, to Europeans, American toilets are much too public: doors don't go to the floor or ceiling, and even "walls" are thin sheets of wood/plastic loosely joined together with huge spaces between them.

... or exactly as public bogs in high use areas such as motorway service stations are generally built across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus. I've only listed some of the countries I have directly been to. Can't say I've noticed much difference in general between bogs in the US and anywhere else these days. Some do have gaps to aid cleaning and some don't.

~35 years ago I did have a bit of a shock on discovering my first "stand and deliver" style toilet in (somewhere) with a floor to ceiling pole to assist with accurate and steady arse positioning. These are rather rarer these days but still to be found.

As an American, I'm curious what the typical practice is elsewhere for determining if a stall is occupied. I know the little colored marker on the outside of the door is common, but sadly I don't imagine all of our own population being careful enough to notice it. The doors not going all the way down in the US may serve as a more visible indicator of which stalls are occupied without having to bang on the door and get the awkward "occupied!" shout. Not that it completely prevents that rudeness mind you.

In Europe we mostly rely on the indicator. If you are unsure, you just try to open the door, and you will see if it is locked or not. When it is locked, it is obviously occupied or out of order. No awkward shouting or other kinds of human interaction needed, so you can shit in peace.

One of my pet peeves is people who rattle the toilet door before checking the engaged indicator.

That's intentional. By doing so you are interrupting the occupant's peaceful moment, make him anxious, and as a result he will get out faster.

I thought it was so that the occupant had warning in case the lock wasn't properly engaged.

Or slow the person down.

Usually it's not possible to close the door flush without locking it, so an open stall will have the door ajar. People only push on the door when they are all occupied.

Well, for one thing, it's not a "stall", it's a (very small) room. With a door. You can either look at the marker, or try to open the door. If the door is locked, it won't open. That's it. No need to bang or yell?

I don't understand the tradeoff of constant decreased privacy just to avoid a few moments of "awkwardness" (if it's completely private, what's awkward? Is there a big issue with non-functioning locks?)??

As well as the “engaged” sign, toilet doors swing open when they are not latched.

I think one main reason is it facilitates cleaning--also can see if it's occupied or the latch is just stuck if you call out an get no answer.

I've seen them just turn on a pressurized hose and get all the stalls in one strafing action.

You all don't have 'trough' urinals either. The US and Australia both use them frequently in high traffic areas, but the Aussie floor-to-wall version is a lot 'easier' to use and clean.

I feel like these have gone out of style in the US and most stadium renovations are removing them.

It's been a long time since I've seen one - but they used to be everywhere! Years ago I went on a tour at the University of Nebraska and one of the "highlights" was telling us about a building with the world's longest trough urinal. Unfortunately the building was closed that day and I didn't get to see it.

Those things make me feel like an animal. Especially when the floor is a metal grate overtop of part of the trough.

I'm 'meh' about it. We're all just mammals, albeit without the good olfactory sense so many others seem to have. It's not like any of us spend a lot of time in there.

I don't exactly agree with you ( Europeans have public toilets too)


And some other examples you didn't know about :) --> https://rickzullo.com/bathrooms-in-italy/

PS. The hole in the floor toilet is also in france.

> doors don't go to the floor

We had a guy try and propose this for Yankee Stadium, but it didn't take.

On the other hand, I could never get over how many German washrooms I have see that had urinals in a corner such that they couldn’t both be used comfortably. I have never seen anything like it in the states.

Far from the most extreme example:


Oh god, or the having to 'tip' (pay) to use the toilet. Like, dude, I don't need you to wipe everything inbetween every use, you're holding up the line, it's cool.

Yes! Even in malls and airports (Tegel specifically). And the cleaner often seems to be spending 90% of their shift guarding the collection plate. There’s a lot of “customer use only” activity in the US, but people will make exceptions, while in Germany an exception will usually come with a $0.50 charge.

Though, there’s actually a pretty interesting history on how pay toilets were banned in the states, partly due to women’s lib.



>or puritanical reasons (make sure people aren't having sex?)

Nope, many of our airports have stall walls that go to the floor to discourage cruising.

Americans don't like toilet stalls either, they are utilitarian.

I've heard (but not confirmed) that it is expense related. If you wholly enclose the toilet in a room, now that little room needs its own fire extinguisher nozzle (and maybe other regs?) but if it's mostly open, you only have to make the overall room safe.

Not ask European toilets are enclosed to the same degree either. Many walls don't go all the way to the ceiling for example. This should enable sharing a fire extinguisher nozzle. Almost all of them have properly closing doors though.

I seriously doubt that - sprinkler heads are under $5/each.


> doors don't go to the floor or ceiling

Bad design. With today's pervasiveness of smartphone cameras, it's difficult to not be afraid that someday, somebody will pull a prank and make a shot from above or below; and of course post it on Facebook.

> Someday

My SO is a teacher, it's been going on for a long while now.

I suppose the same could be said about the occasional "hole in the floor" I've encountered in europe, with footprints on either side so you know where to squat. WTF.

You're over-thinking the situation... it's simply cheaper. This is America we're talking about after all, if we can do it cheaper, we will.

Very interesting observation. I wonder if there is a corelation between how one feels about privacy in general and how one feels about privacy in the bathroom. If americans dont care about privacy in the bathroom, they must not care abouy privacy at all.

Interesting - you describe most of the public bogs in Britain when describing those in the US.

I guess you've never been to the US?

I'm from the UK, and OK, sometimes there is a small gap between the door and the floor and ceiling.

In the US, sometimes the stall door is literally just over waist height while sitting on the shitter curling one out... I've never come across anything remotely like that anywhere in the UK.

> puritanical reasons (make sure people aren't having sex?)

Puritanical, yes, but more likely to make sure people aren't using drugs.

Americans don't like their own public bathrooms, either.

> or puritanical reasons (make sure people aren't having sex?)

I hardly think deterring people from having sex in a public restroom (if that's even actually the case) so that everyone - young and old - can go to the bathroom without having to be privy to people screwing around, and not wanting to risk exposure to yet another bodily fluid in addition to all the others that public restrooms have way too many of, is "puritanical".

You would truly struggle in China, then.

In my high school, the stall doors were removed because kids were smoking in them.

That reminds me of an interesting tidbit from my youth. In elementary school, the stall doors were removed, I suppose for the same reason. Because of that, nobody ever used them. You just had to hold it. One day, I just had to go. One of my wonderful classmates walked in on me in there, and I was mercilessly mocked for quite a while afterwords. Good times.

The "open" design makes sense in schools in my opinion, but not really in, e.g., a professional environment.

At least in a professional environment nobody would mock you. School is already full of social awkwardness. Do we need to make that even worse to the point where you can't even go to the bathroom in piece? If a kid wants to smoke they'll find a way anyways and they won't die from it either. I find removal of bathroom doors inhumane.

The Puritans had outhouses.

> make sure people aren't having sex?

Or doing drugs.

American would spare a lot of money in toilet paper if they had this simple device in all their bathrooms: https://www.google.com.br/search?q=ducha+higi%C3%AAnica&clie...

To be fair, you still need to dry your butt though. Which is why my Japanese toilet has a dryer built-in.

I'd guess that most people who've travelled have seen something similar (in SO many countries). It's just the western post-Victorian world that seems to have such an aversion to poo.

Washing is definitely far superior. Yay Romans! (although not so much for shared poo-sponge)

It's always fun to point out the sharia rule (islam was created in a province of the Eastern Roman Empire) that you should use your left hand to clean your downside after using a squatting toilet, optionally using pebbles, and without looking - and thus by normal standards of interpretation - not anything else or in any other way. Oh and don't worry: it explicitly mentions you can wash your hands in water afterwards.

Needless to say, even the most hardline clerics are unwilling to follow this rule in present day.

It's one of those rules that is always conveniently left out when muslims defend religious rules. But in reality some people actually do this. There was a recent court case in Egypt when a chef insisted on doing things this way and that this -and not washing hands afterwards- should be enough. I don't even know how the court case went but I doubt the guy still has any customers.

(incidentally this may be why there is a sharia rule that you should -only- use your right hand for eating, greeting, opening doors and it's attempting to further insult slaves by calling slaves "those owned by the left hand")

(it would probably be worth pointing out that when one does not have the availability of modern toilets and toilet paper this is probably a good way to significantly slow the spread of several very serious diseases. It won't stop them, of course)



I'm American (with no kids, so my hands don't touch feces often). The idea of using a bidet seems strange because the toilet paper protects my fingers. Do bidet users just accept that their fingers will get all mucky and then they will follow up with a thorough hand washing? (Is this a strange question, even to other Americans? Googling doesn't find the answer.)

If your fingers get "mucky" while using a bidet you're doing something terribly, terribly wrong. The point of a bidet is so your hands don't need to get anywhere near your, uh, "vent". If you're just going to muck out your bung with your fingers, what do you even need a bidet for? You could just do that, and then wash your hands. With a bidet, water under pressure takes care of everything for you.

I doubt whether water alone can thoroughly dislodge all traces for those of us with sticky, fairly solid poo.

Besides, there seem to be lots of cultures where people have water but not pressure, and it seems that they use fingers. (Often the left hand.)

I found kragen's answer above to be much more helpful, in that he explains both water-only and water-plus-fingers options.

I would feel a little uncomfortable about handling poo that closely and maybe getting it under my fingernails, but that's my own hangup. I don't believe my habits are objectively superior.


I have shit in public in a city jail holding tank in the US, , shat in a comunal toilet in rural China without dividers and wiped my ass with pine needles in the wilderness but by far the worst experience was when i wiped my ass with corn leaves in the corn fields when i was young. Boy did that sting.

So I couldn't resist adding this link to the SNL sketch of "The Bidet":


So many opinions! I will add mine.

Best solution is do your business at home before shower. Hot water and soap and wash cloth or something in shower is only way to get properly clean.

When out and about, wet paper is the best, it is superior to water alone, and dry paper in terms of cleaning yourself after you've done business. This is why wet-wipes are so popular. It's all about getting you the distance to the next shower in your life.

I don't subscribe to water alone, or using hand to clean yourself. Even when washing your hands after, you might have bits under your fingernails, and that is disgusting. Toilet paper is a protective barrier to the horrible matter. I will never use my hand. Obviously the Romans didn't want to use their hands either, and preferred a communal bum cleaner!


> an ancient Roman would grab a tersorium (or, in my technical terms, a “toilet brush for your butt”). A tersorium is an ingenious little device made by attaching a natural sponge (from the Mediterranean Sea, of course) to the end of a stick. Our ancient Roman would simply wipe him- or herself, rinse the tersorium in the running water or a small bucket of vinegar, and return it to the stand for the next person to use.

The question is finally answered in the 11th paragraph of the article.

Unrelated to article content:

When I try to browse to the site from Lynx, I get 403 forbidden'ed. Can anyone else confirm? Works fine from Firefox Nightly for me. Any thought on why this would be? Are they intentionally blocking non-js enabled web browsers?

Probably best if you ask your assistant to download it and email it across to you so you can open it in lynx locally

Love this. Never quit using Lynx!

In South America, specifically Argentina almost all households have a Bidet. It baffles me that a country like the US doesn’t have them as a standard device (at least in homes), considering the amount of food in the average American diet.

Because that's how you cross over to the otherside.

I was 30 years old before I realized the only truly effective way to clean myself after anything other than an elusive "hard, no-wiper" is with soap and water. When I think of all the afternoons at work spent coping with the after-effects of bad toilet-paper wipe-outs I cringe.

Anytime I have the privacy to do so, I use a few paper towels and some soapy water and I treat the affected area as if I'm removing a dog's mess from a soft carpet. At home sometimes I'll just jump in the shower. There's no going back to wiping with tissue paper and wishing for the best.

I loved using bidet's in Europe and about a year ago learned that they are not actually expensive, I got one for like $20 that I was able to install myself and I can not recommend it more highly.

I would love to try one but my bathroom has no where to plug in an electronic one, and really no good spot to install a new outlet. How is the cold water shock from using a more basic model?

I've never used a heated bidet or put another way I have had no problem with cold water shock.

An article /u/hudibras posted has the answer

In Rome, people cleaned themselves after using a public latrine with a sea sponge lashed to a stick, stored in a bucket of salt water or vinegar. It was considered polite to give the sponge a cursory rinse and a squeeze before putting it back in the bucket to get it ready for the next person.


Check out the Toto Washlet 350e. https://washlet.totousa.com/product/s350e

I once heard a claim that toilet paper is more addictive than heroin.

There might be something to that. I've heard that people occasionally quit using heroin. I only know one family that even has a retrofitted toilet seat with bidet function. That scalds your bung if you try to use it, because they have their water heater set to 99 degrees C. (It might not actually be that high, but they're certainly safe from Legionnaire's Disease.)

So toilet paper reigns there still.

While we're eon the subject: since I switched to a high-fiber diet, my toilet paper needs (and throne time) have decreased dramatically. Particularly blended kale, including the stalks, leads to quick, efficient bowel movements. It goes by so fast I don't have time to do anything on my phone. I am way faster than those around me, and my wipes have almost no material, because the poop itself is more cohesive.

>Our ancient Roman would simply wipe him- or herself, rinse the tersorium in the running water or a small bucket of vinegar, and return it to the stand for the next person to use.

I'm pretty sure that you would also wet it before use and if the job was demanding, during use. It would be more or less the same as using wet wipes, which is a contemporary practice for some.

I wonder what the hole on the front of those Roman toilets is for in the article? Maybe just so it can act as urinal too?

It's where they kept the brush.

This entire discussion feels alien and even kinda primitive to me, someone grown up in India. We have a simple nozzle that sprays water and cleans your anus way better and without having to wipe it off yourself with toilet paper. Toilet paper just frankly seems like a hallmark of western consumerism to me.

Well you don't have to go far back in history to read how people solved it.

Sweden during 1920, in Swedish https://www.faltbiologerna.se/faltbiologen/innan-toapapperet...

Got TL;DR for the Swedish-impaired? The sole illustration is not terribly enlightening.

Note that none of this reflects my opinion, and is purely as objective a summary as I am capable of.


There are many varieties of things in nature you can use to wipe with, in contrast to the modern choice which has been reduced to white paper with or without printed flowers.

One can carve sticks out of firewood, and use them to scrape residue off. It was important that the sticks had a smooth and sharp edge. They take about a minute to make. They are disposeable, and you could make them ahead of time. When you cut wood with an axe, you get a lot of tiny pieces of wood left which are great for this. You could not use human poop as manure in situations where the used sticks would cause trouble. You did not wash your hands, because you only held onto the end of the stick that hasn't been in your butt.

In case you were out and didn't want to make sticks, you could use moss. Or fruticose lichen (tree moss, old man's beard). The lichen is better than moss because moss is wet. In an emergency, snow works, but it is very cold. Hay and other forms of dead grass work too.

This worked because poop was less sticky in the old days. The types of food they ate made their poop come out in solid pellet form. They did get stomach bugs with the associated loose stool, but simply had to take it for the nuisance it was. Maybe try to get hold on some water to clean off.


Edit: s/burning wood/firewood/ lest someone gets a really stupid idea...

I am ever intrigued with how long lived the Ancient Greek and Romans were in spite of near to no medical knowledge whatsoever. They still believed in miasma theory and, in spite of phenomenal advances in most sciences and culture, medicine remained quite backwards for the entirety of their civilizations. Yet go look at the age of death of most any Roman or Greek. There's some selection bias in that names that we know obviously did not die when they were 15, yet the bias is probably not that large. Aristotle died at 61. And you might think that would be average or old, but he actually died quite young. Wiki has pages on lists of ancient Greeks [1] and Romans [2] to facilitate easier searching. Just picking some names out:

Plato - 80

Socrates - 71 (sentenced to death)

Antisthenes - 80

Hippocrates - 90

Pythagorus - 75

The reason for the lower life expectancy was largely because of people dying during childhood and infancy. And so it makes one immediately wonder about things like this. Sharing poop rods seems like a great way to spread disease, yet on the other hand the immune system, like much of our body, becomes stronger with use -- the whole concept behind vaccines.

Put another way, it seems to me that we're not living as long as we 'ought' be. What would the life expectancy of these peoples be if you gave them their culture and style of living, yet also threw in only imminent life saving interventions from modern medicine? Based on limited data it seems it would begin to challenge the life expectancy of man today, certainly if we exclude the mortality of childhood and infancy. Though perhaps that is also part of the picture. Vastly improved care for infants and children has removed natural selection from that part of humanity.

No idea, but each time I read one of these alien sounding tales, it certainly sparks the imagination!

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ancient_Greeks

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ancient_Romans

For travelers, this site tells you if your destination country uses paper, and if so, if it's OK to flush it (not all sewer systems can handle toilet paper)


Paper was way too expensive for most to waste on hygiene under wood pulp paper was invented in the late 1800s. As other posts mentions there were plenty of alternative methods, from your left hand, rags, corn cobs, etc.

I go backpacking a lot in sierras and only bring 1 roll of Coghlan's Toilet Paper for 3-4 days. I hardly ever use it. A diet of lots of fiber, a few sticks and granite rocks makes it a nonissue.

The simplest and most effective option I have found is to use a facecloth dedicated for cleaning your bum after pooping. Extremely cost effective and a very clean feeling afterwards.

Misleading title. Implication is that Romans don't clean their anus as thoroughly by not using toilet paper. But it turns out they use a brush to clean. Amazing.

Without reading the article is the answer sponge on a stick?

I read that many asian people don't even use it and simply wash themselves with a showerhead instead. Maybe we should just do it like that?

Somebody posted about bidets on HN last time this discussion popped up. I bought two and installed them in my house. WOW! Much to my surprise, they are vastly superior to toilet paper.

It really surprised me while visiting USA the first time that they weren't available. They are pretty standard in my home country (Argentina) and every house has one.

Even if you don't avail yourself of the U.S.S. Enterprise style command console allowing you to finely tune how and where your bum is washed, Japan just does toilet business better. Want a clean seat to park your ass on? The American way is to use a toilet seat shaped piece of what feels like thin wax paper, which is guaranteed to slide off the seat and stick to your skin. In Japan, you hold a piece of TP under a nozzle and it sprays a bit of sanitizer, which you then use to wipe the seat. Marvellous.

I never bother with the seat cover paper. Instead, I always carry a tiny 1oz (30g) spray can of Lysol disinfectant to wipe like you describe.

I am thinking of a bidet, possibly this one: https://www.amazon.com/Luxe-Bidet-Neo-120-Non-Electric/dp/B0...

We poop almost every day, so it makes sense to try to make the experience pleasant. Some day when I own a place, I'll probably get one of those amazing Japanese toilets. Or at least an $800 seat: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009IJ2NBI?ref=emc_b_5_t

I can vouch for the luxe. Life changing. And it's a good conversation piece :)

Yes, that's true. It's alternatively called a bidet shower/spray[1] among other things and as an Asian, I feel using it is way more hygienic than using TP.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bidet_shower

I guess most Muslims use them as well because washing with water is commanded in Islam. In case there was no water, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would command his followers to use pebbles.


Coming to India, I have been to a lot of toilets in different places and it's hard to find the ones _with_ a toilet roll. The only place I remember I couldn't find a hand shower was the Delhi airport. I was disgusted. In fact most households use the 'Indian seats' with a lota (vessel pot) instead of the commode toilet. Many have both including my house. Funnily, I'm actually currently relieving myself.

*While on the toilet, one must remain silent. Talking, answering greetings or greeting others is strongly discouraged.[4]

Haha I was gonna mention that. I'm still not sure if this counts -- probably does. I'll consult a scholar. Because there are similar things which are allowed under Islam. For instance, a Muslim is advised (not commanded) to make ablutions before picking up the Qur'an. But I have a Qur'an app on my phone which made me wonder if I was supposed to make ablutions before opening the app. A scholar of Islam told me that I'm not. He quoted a ruling which reasoned that the purpose of a mobile phone is not just reading the Qur'an; which is also comparable to a book containing Quranic verse - you don't have to be in a state of purity before picking up that book.

> I'm still not sure if this counts -- probably does.

Why do you think it does not count?

Maybe because while reading you're not required to open your mouth and physically speak. That's just my reasoning. Islamic rulings are based on the Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet (pbuh). There are about a million traditions on a variety of topics. The scholars keep them in mind while giving a ruling. So, I'm in no position to give a ruling on this. A Google search on the topic tells you that it's not, but none of the answers are satisfying for me so I think I'll have to visit a scholar and ask him/her.

I was about to comment this, nice link! I did not know it was advised to face away from qiblah.

In Argentina and some other South American countries bidets are standard and found in almost every bathroom. They're usually not integrated into the toilet as the Japanese type, they're a separate fixture, but serve the same purpose. You still need toilet paper though, at the very least to dry yourself up after using the bidet, but common usage is to wipe first, then use the bidet to finish the job.

Bidet Toilet Seats, all the way.

I stopped used toilet paper 2 years ago. I just use a bidet, water and the right soap are much more gentle and you are cleaner.

It's a win win.

I remember a scene from HBO's 'Rome' where Markus and Sextus use a communal toilet and a sponge-on-a-stick later.

In Sri Lanka we also use water. I can't imagine how to survive without water. It feels so dirty not to use water

They wiped with their left hand, which is why it was called the sinister hand (manu sinistra).

"sinistra" also literally means "left".


A little though experiment. Imagine you got poop on your fingers. You take toilet paper and wipe your fingers clean. Are you now ready to continue with your business or does it feel a bit unsanitary? Then why do this to your butt?

Social inertia. Toilet habits are very hard to change due to the taboo-ish nature of the topic, and the social expectation that toilets are more or less the same everywhere you go (at work or school, in restaurants, visiting friends or family, etc.).

Anyone who spent a year is in a country like Japan or South Korea will have experienced that toilet paper is down-right barbaric compared to a jet of warm water appearing at the touch of a button gently rinsing the nether regions. You still use toilet paper, but only two sheets or so to dry up.

But when you go back to a country that uses only toilet paper you either have to go out of your way (and pay a lot of money to renovate your bathroom) to find the kind of modern automated toilet seat that does add the features you've just left behind, or you just do as everyone else does.

> But when you go back to a country that uses only toilet paper you either have to go out of your way (and pay a lot of money to renovate your bathroom) to find the kind of modern automated toilet seat that does add the features you've just left behind, or you just do as everyone else does.

Having gotten use to the bidet, I now bring a bottle of water with me, and wet the toilet paper before wiping. It leaves me about as clean as with a bidet.

Because very little waste collects on the outside of my body - almost all of it passes directly to the toilet bowl. And because I wear underwear and because the only function of that part of my body is shitting so it doesn't have to be as clean as my fingers.

Generally speaking, because we don’t interact with food and everyday activities with our butts! :)

Life hack: If you poop more often, like every time you take a piss, the consistency will be harder, smaller and non-sticky, so you wont have to use the paper.

tersorium.com is available!

"shared butt cleaner"

that made me laugh out loud :-)

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