If you stick to tourist areas in Thailand there’s a chance you may have never run across the Thai Squat Toilet before but for those who have ventured beyond the safe confines of resorts hotels, McDonalds, and Lower Sukhumvit, the Thai Squat Toilet is a well known fixture of Thai culture.
Fear not though. We will explain everything you need to know about Thai Squat Toilets and how to use them like a pro.
First off, it’s easy to think that the Thai Squat Toilet is a rather primitive form of plumbing. And, in many ways it is. However, research seems to indicate that taking care of your business in the squat position has health benefits over the more westernized seated option.
Recently Giulia Enders, author of Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ, has made the case that sitting on a toilet in more of a squat position rather than sitting is actually better for one’s health.
In an interview in The Guardian, she states:
“1.2 billion people around the world who squat have almost no incidence of diverticulosis and fewer problems with piles. We in the west, on the other hand, squeeze our gut tissue until it comes out of our bottoms.”
She’s not alone. Researchers at Stanford University’s Pelvic Floor Clinic also claim that the human body is better designed for squatting than sitting in regards to eliminating body waste.
Somewhat ironically there even seems to be a movement (pardon the pun) in the West to modify our bathroom habits to bring us more back in line with the Thai Squat Toilet.
Products like the Squatty Potty (shown above) aim to turn western toilets into squatting toilets.
Thai Squat Toilets Are Everywhere in Thailand
All of the research and toilet conversion products aside, the fact of the matter is that if you are in Thailand long enough, you’ll be faced with the need to utilize a Thai Squat Toilet.
They’re everywhere. Gas stations, private homes, restaurants, shopping malls, and so on and so on.
In fact, for many Thais (mostly rural Thais), the thought of using a sitting toilet is somewhat foreign to them.
It’s not uncommon to see signs indicating to Thais that they should not use western toilets in the same manner of using a toilet that they are accustomed to.
How to Use a Thai Squat Toilet
Step 1: Do You Have Toilet Paper?
Back home it would be unthinkable to go into a public or private restroom and not find at least a few rolls of toilet paper, but in Thailand, toilet paper is not always a given.
Some public restrooms will sell toilet paper at the door for 5 baht or so. Others leave it up to the user to BYOTP.
Pro Tip: You should not throw toilet paper into the Thai Squat Toilet when done using it. You are supposed to deposit it into a trash receptacle as these types of toilets don’t deal well with non-biodegradable waste like toilet paper. While you’re checking if the restroom has toilet paper it’s always a good idea to check if they also have a trash bin. Otherwise, bring a bag that you can put your used toilet paper in and dispose of elsewhere.
Step 2: Give It a Little Splash
There are two major types of Thai Squat Toilets:
- Those that come plumbed for water
- Those that don’t
Those that come plumbed for water will have a water tank sitting in an elevated position where water can run down into the toilet for flushing. Those that don’t, usually have a bucket or some other form of water basic and cup or bowl for transferring water from the source to the squat toilet.
Either way, giver ‘er a little splash of water before you get down to business. Things are less likely to stick to the bowl if the bowl is wet.
Pro Tip: This applies especially for men but it tends to be a good idea to urinate before attempting to defecate else you may find yourself with wet pants. Ladies, also a good idea to urinate beforehand as well using whatever method you choose for those roughing it moments when you’ve had to do your business in the woods or on the side of the road.
Either way, this is a good time to get that out of the way.
Step 3: Squat
There’s an art form to squatting that is very important. You want to squat down in such a way that both your heels are flat on the floor. Additionally, you’ll want to be very, very careful about allowing any of your clothing to touch the floor on dip into the bowl.
Assuming you’re wearing pants, a good technique to use is to drop your pants to just above knee level. As you squat over the bowl, make sure the bend in your knees catches the waist of your pants and holds onto them leaving your hands free.
For skirts, you have two options, lowering the skirt from the top or raising the skirt from the bottom.
If you lower your skirt from the top, follow similar advice for pants above and use your knees to hold onto the top of your skirt. It would also help if you pulled your skirt up off the floor a bit and also used your knees to hold both the top and bottom out of the bowl.
If you are raising your skirt from the bottom, length of skirt will play a big role in how to proceed. Short skirts are the easiest and stay out of the way fairly intuitively. Longer skirts need to be hiked up considerably and you may even need to roll the skirt up and use your abdomen area to hold the skirt above your crotch area.
Pro Tip: With your clothing bunched up like this, stuff can fall out of your pockets. If you have a cell phone, wallet, or other items in your pockets that you don’t want to have to fish around in a toilet to retrieve, now is a good time to move them someplace safe like a jacket pocket.
Step 4: Do Your Business
I won’t elaborate here.
Step 5: Clean Up
Now’s the time to use that toilet paper that you brought with your or purchased outside the restroom. Remember, don’t throw it in the Thai Squat Toilet. You will clog the toilet if you do. Use the waste bin or the bag that you brought to deal with the used toilet paper.
You may find that the restroom neither supplies toilet paper nor sells it and you didn’t think ahead to bring your own. What now?
Well, you’re going to have to get a little dirty.
Use the cup or bowl that you used to splash a little water around the toilet to get some water where you need it and then use your left hand to do the cleaning.
This should also answer any questions you may have about why some cultures never shake or handle food with the left hand.
Step 6: Flush
Going back to Step 2, use the provided water source to flush any waste in the bowl down the drain.
Step 7: Wash Up!
I consider this the most important step, especially if you’ve had to resort to alternative cleaning methods. Wash your hands! Use soap and water. A lot of bacteria is included in our waste and in addition to being just plain nasty, you could catch a serious illness if you touch your food or even wipe your eyes without properly washing your hands after using the toilet.
Don’t be nasty! Wash up!