How to use a squat toilet

I’m fairly differing-customs savvy, for an American, but squat toilets mystify me. Is toilet paper generally available? If not, how are you supposed to clean yourself? Is the whole “use your left hand to wipe” thing true? If so, how does someone who is used to paper overcome years of trained squimishness?

Relatedly, how effective at cleaning are the water-jet style toilets? Is there some way to dry off afterwards, or are you supposed to air dry? How do you to this without going through Wet Crotch Clothing phase?

In China, most sophisticated folks would carry a small packet of tissues – like the purse-size packages of Kleenex. I cannot tell you what others did.

I avoid them, but since you ask …

Toilet paper is not used by (most) Arabs. They use a hose positioned next to the toilet to cleanse themselves. It works just fine as far as cleanliness is concerned. You do go through a wet-underwear situation, but it is no big deal.

It may be of interest that at least some schools prepare Saudi students for study in the West (North, whatever). I have heard accounts of classes on Toilet Etiquette. Saudis are as puzzled by our toilet habits as we are by theirs.

So if I walk out of a bathroom in Saudi Arabia with a wet patch spreading down my pant leg, I will not be committing as much as a social faux pas if I did the same in Denmark?

And for China, is the water wash not even an option in most places? Cause sometimes you just need to be clean before you leave. Anything less will soon lead to a rash.

Back in March I ran into squat toilets in a small village in India. It had a hose for cleansing. I wasn’t thrilled about spraying my privates with water that I was strongly cautioned to never, ever drink. I began carrying small packs of tissue for the rest of my stay, but didn’t run into them again.

I’ve also been in places where there wasn’t a hose of water, but only a little jug that you had to fill beforehand.

Cleaning yourself is very simple. While squatting, you gently pour the water with your right hand over your nether eye while rubbing it with your left hand. It doesn’t take much water, and doesn’t leave your hand covered with shit, either, surprisingly enough. Shit dissolves very well when confronted with water. Afterwards, you can either dry yourself with a tissue or paper towel, if you have one with you, or just pull up your pants and deal with residual wetness. You’re not going to be that covered with water (if you’ve done it properly, only your asscrack will be wet), and it’ll dry quickly enough. Just be sure to wash your hands really well afterwards.

In the more traditional locations, you won’t get a hose. Running water may not be available. You get a sort of tall teapot/watering can, with a flattened end on the spout. Hold this with your right hand. Keep squatting.

Rinse, scrub (with left hand), rinse. Repeat as necessary.

Make sure you wash your hand well.

Note that the squatting will tend to draw your flesh up and away, and unless you are obese or have a very bad case of the runs, there won’t be much mess to clean up.

You’re seeing more of the water-jet style toilets in Japan now. I’ve tried them a few times, but didn’t really like the sensation. They did a good job for drying off with hot air, so there wasn’t a problem. Since they have toilet paper as well, I just go with that.

Japan finally is mostly sitters, although buildings 15 years or older are either still squatters or have more squatter than sitters, as do train stations and other public facilities.

Back in the old days, I lived for more than a year in places with squatters. Public toilets would have diagrams on how to use them (when you should lift the seat, etc.). There were stories of how people would find shoe prints on the toilet seats, which I thought were urban legends, until I found one myself. Since I had to use the toilet, and didn’t want to clean I seat, I followed suit.

Squatting does get tiring on the legs and I avoid it now, whenever possible.

Finally, many public toilets don’t have paper towels or hot air things for drying hands. You’re expected to have use your own handkerchief.

Outside of cities, towns, and decent sized villages, outhouses generally don’t have running water. There were sometimes a bucket of water with a ladle, but this was, to my knowledge, used for flushing, not wiping. What rural folks did in bathrooms never came up in conversation, so I can’t say for sure.

I should point out - having done this many a time - that while squatting is tiring on your legs, the position is better than sitting. There’s pressure in the right places so everything comes out just right, and quickly.

Other than that, everything yBeaf says is correct.

Also, in houses, you usually don’t have a “bathroom”, like in the States. It’s truly a bathroom, in that one room is exclusively for the toilet, and the other room is exclusively for taking a bath. It’s often got a tank of water, or a big tub, or if you’re lucky a water heater. You sit in the center on a little stool, and pour water over yourself with a cup or a little pot. Lemme tell you, it’s really hard to wash 2-foot long hair like this, especially when it’s 6:30 AM and the water is cold and you just want to get in and out ASAP. You get the whole room wet.

The sink is usually outside, separate again.

I’ve lived in some fairly poor houses, but not dirt poor, so there could be small differences.

Thanks, Anaamika for the details on Japanes-style baths. I’d seen them referenced in Japanese film, but never understood the exact logistics, or how to overcome problems like long hair or decreased flexibility.

In areas where water or paper are annoying to procure in large quantities, all these methods are perfectly reasonable solutions. Certainly better than a communal sponge soaked in brine. And, habits this rheudimentary are naturally resistant to change when options are available. Just like I would have a rough minute, but would eventually be able, to perform these proceedures and override the training I’ve had since I was little.

Thank you, everyone for your replies. They have been very enlightening. And I’m glad my sincere curiosity wasn’t mistaken for an attempt at ridicule.

China squatters are varied. The classy ones are in a tile stall, and seems like a pretty normal stall except it’s a porcelin squatter instead of a seat. TP is there in a roll on the wall, etc.

In the countryside or poor areas, it’s a hole in the floor. As for TP - bring your own. In grotty bus stops in the 1980’s, I witnessed many a time my neighbor the next squat hole over slowly smoking a last cigarette and folding out the paper package wrapping, and then using that to wipe with. No running water.

Basically, people would wipe with newspaper or anything handy.

The weirdest toilets in India are the combination squat/sit toilet. Like a normal Western toilet, but the bowl has foot plates, so you can climb on and squat if you prefer!

I ALWAYS had tissues with me, so never had to do the water thing…it just didn’t appeal to me, as there wasn’t usually any soap.

On the Indian trains we were on, the second class carriages had a choice of an “Indian” or “Western” toilet. Given the choice, and considering we were on a moving train, I went for the Western. My friend braved the Indian one, and said there was a strap to hold on to, but it was still a little acrobatic.

Where we were staying (rural Maharashtra), our “bathroom” was a tap and 3 buckets. If we wanted hot water we had to heat it with an element. Given the dodgy wiring, and the fact that water and electricity are not the best combination we went for cold strip washes 9 times out of 10.

When I got to the YWCA in Mumbai I spent about an hour having a long hot shower, washing my hair properly and shaving all the bits that needed shaving!

I think it’s important to distinguish between how squatting works and how paperless cleaning work… in your OP you’ve sort of run the two questions together.

As for squatting, if you’re wearing trousers, as long as you keep the garment bunched around your knees rather than your ankles, you’ll avoid any embarrassing contamination issues. It’s a good idea to transfer pocket valuables to a breast pocket or other safe location to keep them from falling into the abyss.

As for alternate cleaning methods, that’s been covered adequately I think. I presently live in Japan, and every squatter I’ve seen has had toilet paper. Many public restrooms have a “handicapped toilet” that is a seated model. Most hotels have seated toilets with sophisticated bidet, spraying, and drying mechanisms. I can tell you that after using a bidet for a couple of weeks, using paper makes me feel like some kind of barbarian.

Also I have some friends who are muslims (from Kosovo), and by their toilets they have both paper as well as a plastic half-gallon jug of water. I suspect the paper was for the convenience of western visitors, and the jug was for whatever they do with the jug. No idea on that one. I never asked, but I wonder if it’s some funky religious law (not to single out muslims… but if god has get involved in this very earthly matter, that’s just another example of why I find religion silly. But that’s a thread for a different forum).

After reading this, I have newfound appreciation for my bathroom, as well as Wet Ones® pre-moistened wipes.

I’ve read that toilet paper was invented in China, over a thousand years ago. Of course, that was for the Emperor and family.

From what I remember of the rules according to the Shafi’i school of thought, urine must always be cleansed with water. Feces can be cleansed with paper or rocks alone, but it’s preferable to use water, and if the feces have smeared outside of the asscrack, or if something besides feces, such as blood, worms, or pebbles, have come out, then water is obligatory, if enough water is available. YMMV (Your maddhab may vary).

Here is an interesting website that is on point. I disagree with what the site says about where to leave the trousers–there’s no way I could maintain the kind of balance that would be required to avoid fouling my trousers!

Yet another site. While living in Japan, I could never “face the hood” as this site recommends because that requires one to have the back to the door.

I’d kind of like to have one of those “washlet” toilets (the one that has a little nozzle to shoot, in order, soapy water, clean water, and air jet at you after you’ve evacuated your bowels); however, they’re very pricy.


When I studied in France, my class of 20 was half chinese students. There was one guy who I noticed one day had a really long nail on his left pinky finger. I regret to say that the only reason I could think he would have it was to blow coke easily.

One day a friend of mine from Sweden asked me if I had noticed it, and of course I had, but she, like me, had no idea what it was for. One day we decided to ask my girlfriend who is from Taiwan what this long fingernail was for. She said she wasn’t sure, but that she had heard of people in China and India growing these nails for hard-to-reach cleaning when they poo.

I don’t know if this is any help, but I’d be interested to know if anyone has ever heard the same.