July 1, 2007

Squat Toilet Tutorial
Bangkok, Thailand

Inspired by a young traveler who asked me what he was looking at, this is a crash course in eastern toilets—the squatty potty.

Depending on the current state of your bladder/bowels, your first experience with a squat toilet can be a bit of a wild one. Questions undoubtedly race through the mind of the unfamiliar upon first sight: What the hell is that? What direction do I straddle? Should I take my trousers off? How do I flush this thing?

In it's simplest form, a squat toilet might be nothing more than a hole. Outside of western countries, something along the lines of the scene in the image below (snapped at the On-On Hotel in Phuket Town, Thailand) will be norm.

The major components of many squatty potty stalls include: A porcelain bowl with foot grips on either side; water tap; large bucket (or cement reservoir) filled with water; plastic bowl; hose with nozzle (like the vegetable sprayer found as a part of many North American kitchen sinks); and a waste basket.

Doing Your Business: Body Orientation

Facing away from the rear wall, place your right foot on the porcelain grip (seen at the nine o'clock position in the image above). You left foot does the same, opposite. Squat.

I've been told this is a more natural position for the body to release its bowels from, but folks who aren't particularly strong in the thighs or lack coordination can have problems. Personally, I'm still scared of getting excrement in my pants, so I've been in the habit of taking off any garments below the belt before engaging in such things.

Doing Your Business: Cleaning Up

Toilet paper is not something you're going to be finding here. If you're packin' your own—one of the telltale signs of a tourist versus a traveler—throw your used wipes into the wastebasket, not the bowl, the pipes aren't designed for such things.

If there's no TP available, give your rear the water treatment with the veggie sprayer (still straddling, mind you) or by pouring water around your anus using the plastic bowl. Water is an excellent choice if your rear is raw from too many rounds of diarrhea. The left hand is traditionally used to wash away excess excrement, which is why people don't do things like eat or greet people with this hand in many non-western countries (I'm told the pages of the Koran are only to be touched with the right hand).

Doing Your Business: Flushing

Unless the squat toilet is some sort of eastern/western hybrid, changes are strong you won't find a lever or button to push. Instead, you'll be doing things the manual way.

Take the plastic bowl and fill it with water (by dunking it in the bucket). If there's no water in the bucket, open the tap. Repeatedly pour the contents of the cup into the porcelain bowl. You're now doing manually what the reservoir in a western toilet is designed to do—same concept, slightly different application.

Dress, wash your hands, and you're set.


Craig Strong

July 19th, 2007

We're remodelling our bathroom soon. You reminded me of my affection for veggie sprayers just in time to incorporate this into the plans.

Thanks so much.



July 19th, 2007

Anyone remodeling a home bathroom should have a regular industrial urinal installed. Think about it. Less water, far easier to clean, and you don't get yelled at for leaving the seat up.


Dustin Brett

November 24th, 2011

I wish this spray thing was popular in India, next stop is South East Asia and it will be a welcome addition. I also take my pants off, I don't really have aiming ability back there.

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