Squat toilets are terrifying when you encounter one for the first time. Where do you sit? How do you watch YouTube videos comfortably? Are there any benefits using squat toilets vs sitting toilets? How do I use a squat toilet with bad knees? But if you’ve traveled extensively, or about to go on a backpacking trip around Asia, you will definitely see these kinds of toilets. You may even have to use them when the time comes; during that jungle trek in Laos, or when you’re motorbiking through Vietnam, or after a Massaman curry in Thailand.
Below I have compiled a list of tips on how to use a squat toilet efficiently and safely, so you don’t fall into the toilet bowl or end up with wet pants. I’ll also look at squat toilet benefits, and visit the whole squat toilet vs sitting toilet debate!
What is a Squat Toilet?
A squat toilet is a toilet you would squat over. Not a Western style toilet that you hop onto and squat into the bowl. One time in Melbourne at work, I saw some footprints on the toilet seat, I have no idea how she managed to stay balanced on there. Anyway, super gross, and not actually a toilet for squatting.
A proper squat toilet is just a hole in the ground, that you squat over to pee or poop into. Sometimes the squat toilet will be ‘el fanco, made of shiny porcelain, with foot groves to assist with positioning, and a proper button flush. And sometimes, they will literally be a trough in the ground, where you see the next stall’s contents float past you into the communal drain. Yep, it’s as gross as it sounds…
Now if you’ve ever been camping in the woods, or on a long hike, you’ve probably done a squat or two. I actually prefer doing this in nature as I find it’s cleaner since you can find a place which no one else has used (unless you’re like the girl we met while traveling, who ended up standing in someone else’s shite….yikes!). However, sometimes you’ll be in a public spot, and still find a squat toilet. These are generally, though not always, a bit grosser, as many people use them and people are usually disgusting in public toilets (especially in Western countries). So here are a few things to consider when using a public squat toilet!
Tips on Using a Squat Toilet!
Bring Some Toilet Paper
If you haven’t mastered using a Bum Gun just yet, then make sure you take some toilet paper in with you. I usually had a few tissues stuffed in my pocket for these occasions, as very rarely will rural places provide paper. That’s because they don’t really use them. Instead, they will have a bucket of water and a small pail in the stall which you use to rinse yourself off. If you do forget the toilet paper, and it’s just pee then you can shake it off.
However, if you’ve gone for the dreaded No. 2, then you may need to look to the side and use some of that bucket water to wash yourself off. This is difficult and will require some expert manoeuvring where you squat, splash some water up to the bum-hole, and use your fingers for extra rinsing. Blergh. Much easier to just bring some paper.
And remember to throw the paper into the bin provided. Not in the toilet! I swear, peeing over a clogged up squat toilet is one of Dante’s levels of Hell.
Empty Your Pockets
You know when you sit on a chair, and sometimes your phone slides out onto the floor, and you get super annoyed? Imagine your brand new phone that your mum bought you so that she can contact you every day while you’re traveling, falls into the SHITTY toilet. You do not need that shit in your life, so eliminate the possibility, even the idea of it, by giving a friend your phone or keys before you enter the toilet.
Beware of the Wet Floors
Most Asian bathrooms are ‘wet rooms’ where there isn’t a curtain or glass separating the shower from the toilet which means everything gets wet or moist after a shower. Public toilets will also be quite damp or completely flooded (this can and will happen) as some toilets are flushed with a bucket of water and there’s splash back, or a bum gun is used a bit too enthusiastically, or someone’s just pee-peed on the floor. Either way, be careful of the wet floors. Don’t slip, and make sure you’re ready to grab onto something if you do. I still don’t understand how old women can do it, and yet, I’m slipping and sliding all over the place.
Don’t Pee Your Pants (or let someone else’s pee touch your pants)
Roll up those hippy travel pants before you enter the stall. Sometimes the floors will be super wet, and even though your pants look silly, they would be worse if the bottom of the pants were dipped in someone else’s pee. Roll them up to your knees at least, and when you do squat, make sure you use one hand to pull them away from your stream direction!
Face The Right Way.
I assume the right way is facing the door, just like when using a Western style toilet. Plus, if someone walked in on you, you wouldn’t want them seeing your bare ass first. You’d want them to see your panicked face as you yelled at them to GET OUT OF HERE!
Now that you know what to expect, here is how you actually use the toilet.
Steps on How to Use a Squat Toilet.
1. Stand over the hole.
2. Pull your pants down to your ankles.
3. Squat down over the hole.
4. If peeing, pull your pants forward out of the way of your pee stream.
5. Do your business.
6. Clean yourself up with toilet paper, or the bum-gun (see here on How To Use A Bum-Gun)
7. Throw the toilet paper into the bin that’s usually next to the toilet.
8. Pull your pants up.
9. Pat yourself on the back, and congratulate yourself for using a toilet that was invented thousands of years ago.
Squat Toilet Benefits!
So why do we still have squat toilets in the world when sitting toilets have now been invented? This is a question I asked myself quite a few times when I walked into the beautiful, shiny, No. 1 airport in the world in Changi, Singapore (where it’s super clean, everything is electric and futuristic, with a cinema, butterfly garden, transit hotels etc.) and found 2 squat toilets, and some ‘normal’ toilets. When I lined up to use the toilet and saw women willingly choosing to use the squat toilet when there were perfecting good ‘sitting’ toilets in the next cubicle, I was super confused. Until I was forced to use a squat toilet when backpacking. That’s when I realised it actually is good to use a squat toilet.
A Brief History On Squat Toilets
Squat toilets have been around for thousands of years. I guess since humans were alive, and needed to defecate. You may have visited an old English castle before while traveling, and maybe seen those communal drop down toilets? Where there’s a plank and holes cut into it, and the holes lead outside the castle walls where they could drop their human waste onto the enemies heads when they’re attacking the castle walls? (I swear I read this somewhere once.)
Anyway, most people assumed that the soldiers would sit on the plank of wood when using the toilet. Wrong. In fact they actually squatted over the hole. Probably because of hygiene reasons, but also because squatting is the more natural way of removing your waste product, so much so that even babies naturally get into this position…
One time we were taking a lovely panoramic photo in rural Laos, when I noticed a toddler squat and do a shit right in the middle of the field and then run off. Babies born in a Western culture shit and then sit and fester in their diapers/nappies. What’s grosser…?
Reasons To Get Excited About Squatting
Anyway, there have been loads of studies, and it’s been proven that squatting is better for you and while I won’t go too in depth, here’s a couple of quick reasons.
- The squat position is more natural than sitting. It causes less strain because the colon is compressed by the thighs, which help pushes everything out properly.
- Straining can lead to Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which includes Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
- That straining can increase the pressure in your abdomen, causing the veins in your butt-hole to swell. This can cause haemorrhoids.
- Poo-ing is much easier when squatting due to the positioning which means elimination of waste product is quicker and more efficient (less time spent in a gross toilet!).
- For pregnant women, squatting avoids the pressure on the uterus.
- Squatting strengthens your thighs, knees, and gives you a great butt!
Squat Toilet vs Sitting Toilet?
So which toilet do I personally prefer? Honestly, when I was traveling, I didn’t mind using a squat toilet. Initially, yes, it was scary. I didn’t want to topple over and fall in, and I didn’t like being too close to the pee or shit. But after a while, you realise how easy it is, and how comfortable it is to do your bizness.
The biggest squat toilet benefit I found, is that sometimes it was cleaner to use a squat toilet than a sitting toilet in public places like shopping malls or airports. This is because some women hover over a sitting toilet (I’ll put my hand up to that), and sometimes, they miss their aim and pee gets on the toilet seat, which makes these toilets grosser. C’mon ladies, please wipe the seat if this happens!
I do however, enjoy having a sitting toilet when I am at home or in a hotel. If it’s a nice bathroom, it’s a nice time to chill and think. Or, more likely, to scroll through facebook. Loads of people take their phones into the toilet with them, or a good book, and it is a nice, quiet, peaceful way to start your day. Sitting on the toilet until your legs fall asleep is one of life’s small luxuries, and I will take it. Though on occasions, I will do a few squats before entering the bathroom if I know I want to go efficiently, and quickly!
Squat Toilets Are Pretty Cool.
Either way, now when I am faced with a squat toilet I realise it’s not that bad to use. I kinda learnt ‘on the job’ but wished I did read up on how to use a squat toilet beforehand. Hopefully the above tips will help you use a squat toilet without fear, and you realise how squat toilets can be beneficial to your colon, your thighs, and your spirit! Also, if you want to have the best of both worlds; using your phone on the toilet AND squatting for the health benefits, then check this Squatty Potty thing out. I used it at my cousin’s place in London, and it was pretty awesome.
Have any other tips for using a squat toilet? Ever fallen into one? Tell us in the comments.
Great article, very informative. I remember my first time using one of these toilets in Thailand back in 2001….I wish I’d read your article then! Thanks 🙂
You’re welcome. Wow, 2001 is a while back. Has the design of the bumgun changed much?