How do I use a squat toilet? When it comes to travel taboos, this question always pops up. Not only is using a squat toilet alien to a lot of us in the west but it is outright embarrassing to ask about.
Luckily, I am here to help. After travelling extensively through Southeast Asia and living in China for a year, I think it’s fair to say I know my $h*t about using squat toilets. The good news? It is not as hard as you think! The bad news? We’re about to get really personal.
A Guide to Using Squat Toilets
Ground toilets, eastern toilets, Asian toilets, squatty potties… no matter what you call them, they are all essentially the same thing; a hole in the floor that you poop into. For westerners who are used to sit-down toilets, these types of floor toilets can be downright daunting. After all, squatting ain’t easy, that’s why you do it in a gym!
Where Can You Find Squat Toilets?
Squat toilets are commonplace all over Asia, the Middle East, Africa and even in some parts of South America and Eastern Europe. You are more likely to find them in rural areas and sometimes, you will even have to pay for the privilege of using them!
Prepare Your Squat Toilet Survival Kit
Squat toilets are usually the most basic form of toilet that you can use. There are no fancy hand dryers and sometimes you are even missing essentials such as soap to wash your hands. To ensure that you have everything that you need, put together a squat toilet survival kit. This should include the following items:
- Pocket tissues/toilet roll/wet wipes
- Ziplock bag
- Hand sanitiser
How to Use a Squat Toilet – 6 Easy Steps
1. Prepare your clothes
The first obstacle to overcome when using a squat toilet is to work out what you’re going to do with all of those inconvenient layers. Some people prefer to completely strip off to use squat toilets but this is highly impractical if you are out and about.
If you are wearing shorts or trousers, pull them down to your ankles and yank them forward so they are out of the way of any direct stream. A dress is a great choice if you know you’re going to be using squat toilets but you’ll still need to tuck it out of the way before you get down to do your business.
2. Stand over the squat toilet
There is usually a ridged section on either side of the l where your feet go. Firmly position your feet on these areas and drop into a low squat so that your weight is on the back of your heels. You should face the right way, looking towards the hood of the toilet (you’ll know when you see it).
Keep your clothes out of the way once you have dropped into the squat. You will need your hands to deal with toilet paper so you don’t want to be stuck holding everything you’re wearing!
Ladies, make sure you keep your knees together as this will help with your aim. Wet leg is sadly an inevitable expectation from your first few attempts but with practice eventually comes perfection.
3. Let nature take over
Research suggests that people have been squatting to poo for millennia. And the best thing? This squatting defecation posture is actually thought to be really good for your bowel movements. It can even help with constipation!
Now you just need to hold your squatting position while you evacuate your bowels and bladder. Be prepared for the shakes as your muscles strain to keep you in position. The faster that you can do this part of the process, the better!
4. Clean yourself up
Not all toilets will provide toilet paper so you are always advised to bring your own. Bear in mind that squat toilets are usually very sensitive and you should not flush your toilet paper. Instead, wipe where you need to and put any paper in the provided bin. If there is no bin, use one of the ziplock bags in your squat toilet survival kit. You may need to pack out your tissue and dispose of it when you come across a bin.
If toilet paper isn’t provided, you may find that a bidet (also known as a bum gun and the pinnacle of toilet technology) is inside the cubicle. This sprayer will do the same job as toilet paper, though to varying degrees of success depending on your technique.
5. Flush the toilet
Some squatting toilets will feature a foot flusher but other more basic versions will just provide you with a water basin and pot. Fill the pot and tip the water down the toilet, making sure to focus on any unpleasant clingers.
6. Wash your hands
Not all toilets will provide sinks and soap so cleaning yourself up after using an Asian squat toilet can be harder than expected. Trust us when we say, you’ll be grateful that you packed your hand sanitiser!
Beware the squat trough! This was, without doubt, the nastiest shock I’ve ever had when using a squat toilet. I walked or rather ran into the toilet (I was desperate) to see troughs, in tiny cement cubicles. The first blow was that the top of the cubicles was level with my hips, and the second was the lack of doors. I’ve heard that these are pretty uncommon these days and are thankfully being phased out. I hope for your sake, you never have to use one. To this day, I still get flashbacks.
7 Tips for Using a Squat Toilet
Fret no more my friends, to save you all the embarrassment of having to have this discussion in person, I will take one for the team and reveal all of my squat toilet tips and mishaps.
1. Practice those squats
If you are going to a country where squat toilets are in use, the first piece of advice that I can give you is to start doing daily squatting exercises at home. If you are familiar with any sort of intense exercise class, you are probably no stranger to the strain that squatting puts on your legs. Trust me when I say, you don’t want your legs to give out halfway through using a squat toilet for a number two.
2. Always carry toilet roll
Toilet roll is not as widespread as you may think and you should always make sure you’re carrying some. Just don’t forget to bin it so you don’t clog up the system!
3. Try to avoid squat toilets if you’re drunk
If you are under the influence of alcohol, squat toilets can pose problems. I’d recommend using the walls to help you stay upright. Bear in mind that if you are using a squat toilet in a bar, the steps might be slippery. Sadly, drunk people don’t have great aim.
I have fallen victim to the squat slip and ended up landing rather heavily (with bare buttocks) in a squat toilet. It is not an experience I want to repeat.
4. Remove things from your pockets
When you pull your pants to the side, stuff may fall out of your pockets. Either remove everything to ensure that it doesn’t fall down the hole or zip up your pockets. You don’t want to be putting your hands in the toilet for any reason!
5. Squat with your feet firmly on the ground
When I first used a squat toilet, I was unable to squat with my feet flat on the floor. Over the years that followed and after a lot of intensive yoga, it is a skill that I have learnt. Having used squat toilets bouncing on the balls of my feet and with them firmly planted, I can say with confidence that the latter is the better option.
Having your feet firmly planted will provide a more stable position and help you maintain your balance throughout your toilet experience.
6. Don’t squat directly over the hole
When it comes to positioning yourself over the squat toilet, make sure that you are not directly over the hole. Let’s just say that splashback is nasty.
7. Hug your knees while you squat
If you’re someone with bad knees, the squatting position can be challenging to hold. In this instance, you should hug your knees. It will take the pressure off while helping you to stay balanced.
And there it is, your warts and all guide to using the squatty potty! For those of us who are used to western style toilets, squatting to do our business is likely to take some getting used to. Still, mastering the traditional squat toilet brings with it plenty of benefits, including easier bowel movements and fewer accidental pee-on-leg situations. It’s a win-win.
Have you got any tips that you would add about using squatting toilets?