considering & rethinking bathrooms
July 22, 2014 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Why the modern bathroom is a wasteful, unhealthy design (The Guardian):
"Piped water may be the greatest convenience ever known but our sewage systems and bathrooms are a disaster"
Nobody seriously paused to think about the different functions and their needs; they just took the position that if water comes in and water goes out, it is all pretty much the same and should be in the same room. Nobody thought about how the water from a shower or bathtub (greywater) is different from the water from a toilet (blackwater); it all just went down the same drain which connected to the same sewer pipe that gathered the rainwater from the streets, and carried it away to be dumped in the river or lake.

It is hard to find something that we actually got right in the modern bathroom. The toilet is too high (our bodies were designed to squat), the sink is too low and almost useless; the shower is a deathtrap (an American dies every day from bath or shower accidents). We fill this tiny, inadequately ventilated room with toxic chemicals ranging from nail polish to tile cleaners. We flush the toilet and send bacteria into the air, with our toothbrush in a cup a few feet away. We take millions of gallons of fresh water and contaminate it with toxic chemicals, human waste, antibiotics and birth control hormones in quantities large enough to change the gender of fish.

We mix up all our bodily functions in a machine designed by engineers on the basis of the plumbing system, not human needs. The result is a toxic output of contaminated water, questionable air quality and incredible waste. We just can’t afford to do it this way any more.
more by the same author, Lloyd Alter, at Treehugger:
The History of the Bathroom, revisited (an eight-part series)

The Atlantic - The Private Lives of Public Bathrooms
"How psychology, gender roles, and design explain the distinctive way we behave in the world's stalls"
(this piece featured previously on MeFi: behind the stall door)

FastCompany - The Bathroom of the Future is Gender-Neutral
This is, inherently, a design issue. With the occasional exception of how many urinals it features, a bathroom is a bathroom, whether the little figure on the door wears a dress or pants. Yet the need to pick and conform to a particular gender identity is embedded in the way we design buildings around segregated restroom facilities. It's a form of discrimination in the built environment... [...]

San Francisco code encourages businesses to offer at least one gender-neutral bathroom option, and Philadelphia requires it in city-owned buildings. For the most part, this means single stall, locking restrooms--which also benefit people with disabilities, parents assisting children, and more.

But couldn't we also rethink the design of multi-stall bathrooms? This could benefit everyone, not just those who feel pressured by the gender politics of picking the men's room or the women's room. Despite modern attitudes about the sharing of parental duties, men's rooms still frequently lack changing tables, so what about a bathroom equipped for everyone's needs, regardless of gender, age, or physical ability?
Salon - Let’s talk crap: Our frank interview about human waste may horrify you about how the world cleans itself down there
"Bathroom hygiene is just one of the foul and frankly fascinating aspects of what’s euphemistically known as “sanitation,” which British journalist Rose George explores in her new book, “The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters.”"

Grist - Crap happens: A special report on how we dispose of our poop (a four-part series)

Straightforward explanations of sustainable sanitation systems (with visual charts) and sustainable sewage design.

*Scientific American - Philadephia Uses Tough Love to Overhaul Water and Sewer System: "A new "Green City, Clean Waters" plan aims to address water and climate issues, but it is not inspiring much brotherly love among some"
*Johnson Foundation - Urban water and sewage systems will need an overhaul to cope with climate change (link to PDF of study at bottom of piece)

RadioLab (audio, ~23 min.) - Learning all about NYC's "Poop Train"
The inquisitive minds at RadioLab... got to the bottom of New York City sewage treatment. We’re talking 1.3 billion gallons (or seven billion pounds) of daily material that must be managed. Up until 1986, West Side sewage was simply dumped, untreated into the Hudson River. There were also boats that would cart out loads 103 miles into the ocean and throw it all overboard. Today, the treated sewage is destined for landfill, but per the report by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, there was also another interim solution spearheaded by NYC “sludge salesman” Mike Sharp:

“And this is how the New York City poop train began. A couple of days before Earth Day 1992, several thousand tons of New York City sludge left the Big Apple, headed for Lamar, Colorado. Sixteen hundred miles away…”

Colorado farmers were initially wary of using the stuff, a POV compounded by a local TV ad for salsa that took similar knocks at anything of NYC provenance. But listen to the RadioLab report and you will hear a horse story, a cow story and many more great details about this fascinating bit of bathroom history, which ended just last year.*
*Time - Humanure: Goodbye, Toilets. Hello, Extreme Composting (humanure previously on MeFi)
*MAKE magazine - Humanure for the City Dweller: How to build a non-code human waste collection system
*Permaculture News - "So, after careful consideration, I chose to work with nature and install an approved worm farm to process all the humanure and grey water from my household." (Victoria, Australia)

*Vice - Vermont Farmers Are Spraying Their Crops with Piss
*National Geographic - Is "Peecycling" the Next Wave in Sustainable Living?: "Human waste can be converted into valuable fertilizer, if people can get past the "ick" factor."

Toilet Guru - Toilets of the World
The International Center for Bathroom Etiquette (ICBE previously on MeFi)
WorldNomads - 10 Travel Adventures in Restroom Etiquette: Not All Toilets are Created Equal
All Down Under - Australian Toilets and Bathrooms
Priceonomics - Why aren't we all using Japanese toilets?
Slate - You Probably Need This Incredible Japanese Wonder Toilet
Innovation on Earth - “Smart” Japanese Bathrooms

previously on MeFi:
all posts tagged with "bathroom" and here's some that weren't (since 2010) - AirPnP - what makes a good toilet? - battle for the bottom - how to properly use a squat toilet - Roman bathroom habits - the Gates Foundation's "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge" - international toilet paper rules - plumbing in the movies
posted by flex (181 comments total) 189 users marked this as a favorite

 
I know it's listed under the bathroom tagged list but I feel i must direct attention towards the iconic mefi Sitters vs STanders thread nevertheless.
posted by elizardbits at 11:59 AM on July 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


This is a fantastic FPP. Thank you!
posted by suelac at 12:01 PM on July 22, 2014


Don't care won't care. That Guardian article is yet another attempt to put the blame for environmental problems on me the customer/individual when the system needs to change. I like my hot shower and want enough water and energy to run it, cleanly, not dither around pissing in straw buckets.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:06 PM on July 22, 2014 [20 favorites]


So, this gray water vs. black water thing - what are the implications for peeing in the shower?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:06 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


In water terms, recycled and treated wastewater is "reuse" water and we're pretty much all headed there. My employer is working on multiple proposals for adding more reuse capability to plants here in drought-stricken Texas. The ick factor is difficult, but thirst is a powerful motivator.

My beef with toilet design is that the average ceramic toilet is impossible to really clean without getting waay too close to piss. All those germy surfaces and weird little dents combined with a tight space, and there is just no way to really clean the outside of them. Also ceramic attracts hair and dirt like nobody's business, making it even grosser.

And if you have hard water, the inside is going to look bad in short order no matter what you do.
posted by emjaybee at 12:07 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the Japanese get it mostly right with the wet room/tub/shower separate from the toilet, which is in its own separate room (and worthy of the "Shrine" moniker -- so clean!).

The worst I've ever experienced was the upcycled five gallon pickle bucket with a length of roped tied to the handle we used on the fishing boat. The rope was so you could toss the bucket over the rail and scoop up some seawater before your squat. Just toss your leavings overboard when you were done, drop the bucket in again for some rinse water, and then stow it away against the house for the next guy.

There was a trick to it when the boat was underway: when you toss the bucket over for its ration of seawater, do so such that the open end is pointing aft, and let it settle a bit and then pull it back aboard quickly before it spins around into the current. If you throw it the other way 'round, with that wide gaping mouth scooping all the ocean it can with the boat chugging along at seven or eight or nine knots, you'll be yanked across the deck and over the rail, and you shitting your pants on the other end of that length of rope will be the last anybody will ever see of you.
posted by notyou at 12:17 PM on July 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


I do like the toilets with sinks on top. Fill the bowl, flush and the bowl empties. The faucet on the sink pours, and you wash your hands. The tank refills with soapy greywater.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:17 PM on July 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


There's one thing I just cannot get my mind around - in cultures that use water and not paper to clean themselves, how do you not end up with wet underwear/pants? If I rinsed my hands and then put mittens on, the mittens would now be wet. How does this work?
posted by desjardins at 12:19 PM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Due to work, I am now learning about the wonderful world of wastewater. It is a fascinating and complex thing, and like the wastewater engineers like to say, "makes civilization possible."

Some communities are already using treated sewage sludge, or biosolids to fertilize their farms and homes. Others trap the biogas from the digesters to heat and power the plant, or sell on the gas market, not to mention using reclaimed water for irrigation or industrial processes.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:22 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Toto's fancier washlet models, desjardins, feature mini-airblowers, too.
posted by notyou at 12:22 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


"our bodies were designed to squat"

I swear to you that my body was not designed to squat. Ever.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 12:24 PM on July 22, 2014 [23 favorites]


The toilet is too high (our bodies were designed to squat),

In my 20s maybe. Besides, most toilets are 14 inches high. If you are 6' or higher, that is a squatting position. I bought a new toilet, 17 1/2 inches high, and it is glorious.

We flush the toilet and send bacteria into the air, with our toothbrush in a cup a few feet away

This was busted by MeFi's own Mythbusters - it's not any worse than keeping your toothbrush in the living room.

Nobody thought about how the water from a shower or bathtub (greywater) is different from the water from a toilet (blackwater);

I'm sure they did think about it, and the solution to that problem is to double the number of sewer lines, with double the potential for failure, double the cost of installation and maintenance. All to ship the water to the same processing facility where it will have to be processed in the same way because things that go down the toilet and things that go down the sink are, with some frequency, the same things anyway. says the parent who rinsed cloth diapers in the sink before throwing them in the washer.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:24 PM on July 22, 2014 [23 favorites]


In Japan, you sit on a stool and have a bucket, sponge, ladle and hand shower that you only turn on when you need it. You can sit comfortably for as long as you like, in no danger of slipping, use the ladle or the hand shower to rinse. It’s really a lovely experience.

Yeah, no, that sounds horrible.

A shower after a sweaty hot yoga class is the Most. Beautiful. Experience. Ever.
posted by dnash at 12:27 PM on July 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


We flush the toilet and send bacteria into the air

For the life of me I will never understand why so many people refuse to use toilet lids. Whether or not aerosolized bacteria is real, an open toilet is just sitting there asking you to drop your phone in.
posted by echo target at 12:29 PM on July 22, 2014 [55 favorites]


I can't see this without asking for stats on private vs. industrial uses of water.

Every counting of how much water we use is astronomical! You could look at the amount of water used by a single person in a desert and still say "we need to conserve that!" That's why I'm calling for a look at the big picture, before we start pointing fingers.

It's not that I don't want to change how long my showers are. I'm all for that! But if me taking shorter showers means some HFCF farmer can grow an extra hundred pop-tarts worth of junk, then am I really helping?
posted by rebent at 12:30 PM on July 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


an open toilet is just sitting there asking you to drop your phone in.

This is ingrained ever since that crappy New York apartment with the medicine cabinet door that would stick, so you would pull HARD, and inevitably something would fall out of the medicine cabinet and land on the sink shaped like a ski jump, just perfectly positioned to bounce up and land in the toilet. Ugh. Just close the lid, because I'm tired of having to buy new dental floss all the time.
posted by ambrosia at 12:32 PM on July 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


I get the spirit here, but the whole "OMG the toilet sends aerosolized bacteria to our toothbrushes" is completely, totally unfounded.

There is no evidence any such thing happens and plenty of evidence that toilets do not, in fact release aerosolized bacteria.

Even myth busters busted this one.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:34 PM on July 22, 2014


There's one thing I just cannot get my mind around - in cultures that use water and not paper to clean themselves, how do you not end up with wet underwear/pants? If I rinsed my hands and then put mittens on, the mittens would now be wet. How does this work?

In one country I've been to with that system, the general process was to spray to clean (with what is essentially a kitchen sink sprayer), and then use a very small amount of very papery toilet paper to dry. The paper is then discarded in a trash can.
posted by atbash at 12:34 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


People who leave the lid up baffle and terrify me. What other wildly reckless things might they do in my presence? Kick a wasp's nest?
posted by elizardbits at 12:34 PM on July 22, 2014 [19 favorites]


I have traveled to a lot of different countries, though never Japan. But based on my travels, I feel pretty confident that the USA gets bathrooms right. Nothing makes me feel more patriotic than the fact that I live in a country that prioritizes clean, fresh-smelling bathrooms, at least not counting the ones at gas stations.
posted by deanc at 12:34 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


...the USA gets bathrooms right. Nothing makes me feel more patriotic than the fact that I live in a country that prioritizes clean, fresh-smelling bathrooms

This.. this is not my experience.
posted by curious nu at 12:36 PM on July 22, 2014 [33 favorites]


And yes, raising how industry uses water is a valid question here. Certainly there are improvements to be made in standards and practices for residential buildings but the real heavy users of potable water are industry, agriculture and evil bottle water corps.

Coke and Nestlé are way more damaging than us.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:37 PM on July 22, 2014 [7 favorites]



People who leave the lid up baffle and terrify me. What other wildly reckless things might they do in my presence? Kick a wasp's nest?


If you could pee while standing, you'd see the appeal. Bending over to pick something up and then bending over again to put it back is just obnoxious. Plus - gross toilet seat touching is gross. I might just install a urinal in our next house remodel.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:38 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The first time I went to europe (on what my grandmother insisted upon referring to as my Grand Tour) I was greatly alarmed to realize that even in the middle of Paris one might find toilets consisting of a shed in the backyard with a hole in between two textured foot-shaped wedges and a pull chain connected to something mysterious on the poorly lit ceiling.

I did not pee that on day.
posted by elizardbits at 12:39 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


"our bodies were designed to squat"

We tested this at a party recently. Someone claimed that only people of certain genetic descent could squat, feet flat on the floor, without falling over. Most of us white Americans were unable to do it.

If you want to try, apparently you have to keep your feet firmly on the ground at all times and bring your knees down as far as they'll go without splaying your legs out or waving your arms around. Maybe don't wear a nice shirt, because you'll probably end up falling onto your back.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:41 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Plus - gross toilet seat touching is gross

Not the seat, the lid which covers the entire business and prevents you from dropping in your $200 bottle of moisturizer.
posted by elizardbits at 12:41 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


clvrmnky: "I get the spirit here, but the whole "OMG the toilet sends aerosolized bacteria to our toothbrushes" is completely, totally unfounded.

There is no evidence any such thing happens and plenty of evidence that toilets do not, in fact release aerosolized bacteria.

Even myth busters busted this one.
"
Lifting the lid on toilet plume aerosol: a literature review with suggestions for future research., Am J Infect Control. 2013 Mar

BACKGROUND:
The potential risks associated with "toilet plume" aerosols produced by flush toilets is a subject of continuing study. This review examines the evidence regarding toilet plume bioaerosol generation and infectious disease transmission.

METHODS:
The peer-reviewed scientific literature was searched to identify articles related to aerosol production during toilet flushing, as well as epidemiologic studies examining the potential role of toilets in infectious disease outbreaks.

RESULTS:
The studies demonstrate that potentially infectious aerosols may be produced in substantial quantities during flushing. Aerosolization can continue through multiple flushes to expose subsequent toilet users. Some of the aerosols desiccate to become droplet nuclei and remain adrift in the air currents. However, no studies have yet clearly demonstrated or refuted toilet plume-related disease transmission, and the significance of the risk remains largely uncharacterized.

CONCLUSION:
Research suggests that toilet plume could play a contributory role in the transmission of infectious diseases. Additional research in multiple areas is warranted to assess the risks posed by toilet plume, especially within health care facilities.
Sounds like the science is still up in the air.
posted by zamboni at 12:42 PM on July 22, 2014 [29 favorites]


the sink is too low and almost useless

The wha? Too low for what? I get plenty of use out of mine, every day, and while as a tall person I wouldn't mind if it was a couple inches higher, I do not understand why the author finds sinks "useless."
posted by dnash at 12:42 PM on July 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


We tested this at a party recently. Someone claimed that only people of certain genetic descent could squat, feet flat on the floor, without falling over. Most of us white Americans were unable to do it.

I don't think genetics has a thing to do with it. It's just years and years of NOT getting into that position.
posted by dnash at 12:44 PM on July 22, 2014 [54 favorites]


Maybe they mean hygienically useless, since you are using them to wash off possible human waste from your hands after using the toilet, but also use it to clean your teeth and face with water that might splash up on you from the bowl in which you previously rinsed off possible human waste oh god why the fuck did i think about this im mad
posted by elizardbits at 12:44 PM on July 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


Using the public facilities in Salzburg was one of the highlights during my visit there. Also, the McCleans in Germany were like little slices of poo heaven, and well worth the price of admission.
posted by malocchio at 12:44 PM on July 22, 2014


Metafilter: Lifting the lid on toilet plume aerosol
posted by lalochezia at 12:45 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also I am physiologically incapable of successfully using squat toilets because when in the appropriate squatting position, which is easy for me to achieve, the weird directional positioning of my urethra within my body causes the pee stream to direct itself forwards instead of downwards. Oh although I guess this could have been caused by my stupid uterus being stupid but I don't really want to test it out now for science pee reasons.
posted by elizardbits at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


that's a lie i totally do
posted by elizardbits at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2014 [15 favorites]


We tested this at a party recently. Someone claimed that only people of certain genetic descent could squat, feet flat on the floor, without falling over. Most of us white Americans were unable to do it

Um what? Bringing genetics into this is as dumb as the "black people have an extra bone in their foot/knee!" Thing. It's just practice.

So tired of biotruths.
posted by emptythought at 12:48 PM on July 22, 2014 [26 favorites]


I don't get the thing in the Guardian piece where "showers need to spray up". What? No.
A. Water on the ceiling B. How do you wash your hair in this scenario?

I actually think showers are pretty well-designed, though if more of them had a ledge/stool I could prop my leg on to shave it, that would be nice. The tall person I am married to would also like them to be more adjustable. But sitting down in the shower would not be my thing. If I wanna sit down, I'll take a bath.

And squatting is great, until the shitty-knee-genes from your dad kick in and trying to squat results in pain and a terrifying crackling sound from under your kneecaps.
posted by emjaybee at 12:48 PM on July 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


Regarding gender-neutral multi-stall bathrooms:

My workplace has two bathrooms that were once separately designated for Men or Women. Nothing was changed in the bathrooms except putting up signs stating that they are now gender-neutral and a listing of their plumbing fixtures (number of urinals and/or toilets). Since the previous Women's bathroom only has toilets while the Men's has the usual mix of both, it seems that people self-segregate to using either one based on their gender out of habit and probably comfort. I know I do. However, there are times during the week when the former Men's bathroom is designated for another purpose (urine testing) and it is, despite my gender politics and all that, still slightly uncomfortable when bumping into female coworkers at the sink. Still, I support the gender-neutral multi-stall bathrooms everywhere. Also single stall bathrooms! Just out of pure privacy and an inability to poo with someone in the stall next to me.
posted by the lake is above, the water below at 12:50 PM on July 22, 2014


If you're ever in the neighborhood of Sheboygan, WI, check out the restrooms at the Kohler Arts Center. (Each one is totally different; I recommend bringing an opposite-gender friend to scout and keep guard for you so you can visit all six.)
posted by theodolite at 12:52 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Squat toilets are hell for the diarrhea-prone.
posted by fatehunter at 12:52 PM on July 22, 2014


It's just practice.

I have no opinion on the veracity of what I was told. It is hilarious to watch drunk people tuck down and fall over, though.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:55 PM on July 22, 2014


The third world squat - previously
posted by klarck at 12:55 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have never in my life managed to drop a phone in a toilet. I've been blind drunk, sleep deprived, distracted; I even surf the web from the toilet1. Is this a male privilege thing, or am I missing something else?

1the case is waterproof; yes, it gets washed.
posted by indubitable at 12:55 PM on July 22, 2014


Also I am physiologically incapable of successfully using squat toilets

Split the difference?
posted by curious nu at 12:56 PM on July 22, 2014


You know what's a really bad bathroom design? Putting the medicine cabinet above the toilet.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 12:59 PM on July 22, 2014 [23 favorites]


the sink is too low and almost useless

The wha? Too low for what? I get plenty of use out of mine, every day, and while as a tall person I wouldn't mind if it was a couple inches higher, I do not understand why the author finds sinks "useless."


Don't forget, height is important so that guys can pee in it.
posted by Melismata at 1:07 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Having a cat (now 20 years old) that likes to play in the toilet and subsequently shake gross toilet water everywhere and then sleep on the beds or couches -- ugh -- closing the toilet lid is just habit now. Moving into a house with a medicine cabinet right over the toilet 8 years ago cemented that habit, so I now reflexively shut toilets once done. The best thing ever was installing one of those slow-close lids on the thing.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:08 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


You know what's a really bad bathroom design? Putting the medicine cabinet above the toilet.

Definitely, though this is a good reason to make a habit of closing the toilet seat cover. Easier than relocating the cabinet, anyway.
posted by asperity at 1:09 PM on July 22, 2014


fatehunter: "Squat toilets are hell for the diarrhea-prone."

It's especially fun learning to use them in places where squat toilets are prevalent and, incidentally, so are unfamiliar beasties in the water.
posted by Gordafarin at 1:10 PM on July 22, 2014


how do you not end up with wet underwear/pants

You end up with wet underwear/pants. But when it's 100 degrees outside, that's okay.
posted by goethean at 1:11 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, at least you know which sign is which.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:11 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Asperity: not for some people, it isn't.
posted by Melismata at 1:11 PM on July 22, 2014


yes actually squatting is one of those natural positions that sedentary lifestyles disallow because essentially chairs were designed to kill you slowly. Watch small children going to pick up or examine something; it's biologically ingrained and we only unlearn it when we're forced to go to school.

learning how to do proper squats (ass to grass heels on floor) has done wonders for my formerly dicky hips, lumbar region and knees. Turns out those are muscles we were designed to use, not turn to mush in cubicles.

and yeah I don't care if you stand up to pee or not, close the fucking lid you heathens.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:11 PM on July 22, 2014 [14 favorites]


I prefer my bathrooms with mirrors for floor, walls, and ceilings, and all my fixtures and pipes glass polished to transparency. If there's a better way to design a bathroom while keeping these requirements intact, sure, I'm all for it.

Changing equipment is a lot easier than changing habits, and excepting price, I think most people would be fine with the former.

(also i'm too fat and have too much scoliosis to squat, fuck a lot of that)
posted by kafziel at 1:12 PM on July 22, 2014


Nobody thought about how the water from a shower or bathtub (greywater) is different from the water from a toilet (blackwater);

Of course they thought about it, but a) you need enough water going down the lines to keep the solids moving along; b) sewers were designed in places where water was cheap and plentiful, which is still the case in many places; and c) separating out grey water means adding the cost and maintenance of separate piping systems, which is not a cheap proposition.

We tested this at a party recently. Someone claimed that only people of certain genetic descent could squat, feet flat on the floor, without falling over. Most of us white Americans were unable to do it

I'm the whitest of white Americans and I can squat easily.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:13 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


They probably shouldn't install "medicine" cabinets in bathrooms anyway: a lot of medication needs to be kept in a "cool, dry place", which bathrooms aren't.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:14 PM on July 22, 2014


A few ideas:

My father called it a military shower, and he got me in the habit:
Install a knob on your shower-head that lets you turn down/off the water.
Turn on the shower. Get wet. Turn off the water. Soap up. Turn on the water. Rinse.

You spend most of your time in the shower soaping up, so this process uses very little water. If you want to do it Japanese style, you can put a stool in your shower.

The idea of a bath being in a separate room than the toilet is really a luxury. It just doesn't make sense in a small apartment, and you won't even see this in small apartments in Japan.

Using water to clean yourself at a toilet actually makes sense to me. Think about trying to clean your hands with no water--just a paper towel. You are not really cleaning them, you are just wiping the dirt around. To desjardins: you can still dry yourself with the toilet paper. (Note: I don't do this, but it just seems to make sense to me.)
posted by eye of newt at 1:14 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


In Japan, you sit on a stool and have a bucket, sponge, ladle and hand shower that you only turn on when you need it. You can sit comfortably for as long as you like, in no danger of slipping, use the ladle or the hand shower to rinse. It’s really a lovely experience. It uses 10% of the water compared to a normal shower. If you do follow up with a hot bath, at least the water is shared among the whole family.

In my experience, bathrooms in Japan vary a great deal, and likewise so do household habits with respect to bathing. You will find toilets in the same room as the sink and shower in many places. All my Japanese friends' apartments had no such stools and buckets and ladles, they had regular old showers.

Also in terms of the danger of slipping, I'm not sure how it would be different in the scenario they described. Presumably the moment you stand up from the stool you are again on a wet surface with wet feet.
posted by Hoopo at 1:21 PM on July 22, 2014


I can't see this without asking for stats on private vs. industrial uses of water.

Yeah, this.

I'll start feeling guilty about the length of my showers and lack of an expensive greywater recycling system when I see a good comparison of where all this precious water is actually being used. Because I have a very strong suspicion that in most cities, a lot of it is being used by the local corn farmers / chemical plant / chip fabs / bottled-water factory at pennies on the dollar compared to the (still, all things considered, absurdly cheap) price residential users pay for water.

If we want water to be conserved, we should probably make the biggest users of it pay more, rather than trying to guilt people into insignificant behavior changes on the individual level. It looks suspiciously like 1970s bricks-in-toilet-tanks feel-gooderism.

Make industrial and agricultural water more expensive, and consumption will go down. That's the low-hanging fruit. It's a lot easier for one factory to install water conservation equipment than for a thousand homes to do it.

But don't tell residential users that water is a precious commodity when industrial users get it in quantities so large that an individual's use is a rounding error.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:25 PM on July 22, 2014 [36 favorites]


still slightly uncomfortable when bumping into female coworkers at the sink.

I've always wondered - is it not incredibly awkward to stand next to your co-workers and pee? How does "seeing a female co-worker at the sink" even register next to that?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:27 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


It just doesn't make sense in a small apartment, and you won't even see this in small apartments in Japan.

I've seen this in small efficiency apartments in Germany and Austria, where the sink and toilet are in one small room and another small room contains the stall shower. Really an excellent layout for couples and roommates alike.
posted by elizardbits at 1:30 PM on July 22, 2014


the agents of KAOS: "I've always wondered - is it not incredibly awkward to stand next to your co-workers and pee? How does "seeing a female co-worker at the sink" even register next to that?"

There's a complicated etiquette about it. The proper way is to keep eyes front - for God's sake, don't look! - and be silent. Some people are talkers at the urinal...they will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:38 PM on July 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


the agents of KAOS:

YES!! I'd much rather wash up next to anybody than have to piss next to anybody, ever.
posted by rebent at 1:39 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


If we are redesigning public bathrooms can we fix the thing where the taps only turn on when you hover your hands above the basin to hit the motion sensor and then your hands are too high and when water hits them it splashes all over the counter instead of being contained in the basin?
posted by fshgrl at 1:40 PM on July 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


Yes, fshgrl, if we can also get rid of the goddamn unreliable paper towl IR triggers and replace them with like a foot pedal or something. Having to wave your hands at an electric towel rack like you've got some Oliver Sacksian brain injury and think it's an old friend is an affront to basic human dignity.
posted by The Gaffer at 1:47 PM on July 22, 2014 [20 favorites]


is it not incredibly awkward to stand next to your co-workers and pee?

Very to mildly, depending. Some use the stalls exclusively, while others, who have known each other for decades will hold a continuous conversation from unzipping to washing without breaking breath.
posted by bonehead at 1:48 PM on July 22, 2014


Also the autoflushers that spray your genital region with PUBLIC WASHROOM OH MY FUCKING GOD IT'S THE FUCKING ASSPOCALYPSE FOREVER I WANT TO DIE toilet water when you lean forward to get a tampon out of your purse hanging off the door handle, they must be destroyed and the ground upon which they were created salted and burned.
posted by elizardbits at 1:51 PM on July 22, 2014 [42 favorites]


ou sont les foot flushers d'antan
posted by elizardbits at 1:52 PM on July 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


For those that are bipedally challenged perhaps a voice activated flusher. Even having to bellow at the top of one's lungs in public TOILET PLEASE FLUSH MY POOPS would be a lesser indignity than the assplashing.
posted by elizardbits at 1:53 PM on July 22, 2014 [13 favorites]



There's a complicated etiquette about it. The proper way is to keep eyes front - for God's sake, don't look! - and be silent. Some people are talkers at the urinal...they will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.


I recently moved from the upper midwest to the western slope of Colorado.

In the midwest, a good way to get dirty looks or even a beat down is to talk to other men in the bathroom. Out here, people who full on ignored you everywhere else will strike up conversations while you both stand there with your junk in the breeze.

I've moved many times as a military brat, and except that time when we moved from Biloxi, MS to Minneapolis, MN I've never experienced such a culture shock.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:57 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


the shower is a deathtrap (an American dies every day from bath or shower accidents).

You'll have to take my shower from my warm, rosy, slightly wrinkly, dead hands.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:04 PM on July 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


I live in a semi-rural area, so I have a septic system. All wastewater gets recycled, it ends up in the nearby lake. The water quality of the lake is excellent, and we try to get residents to think about how the water quality affects property values and usability, to remind them that keeping it clean is personally important. Most people get it, some people are so affected by advertizing that they have to extra detergent, use lots of fertilizer, have a perfect lawn, or ignore erosion. Of people whose politics I'm aware of, the teapartiers are the worst, enhancing my dislike. My drinking water comes from another lake, and it is clean, tastes great, and plentiful. Yay, Maine.

You need a reasonably clean bathroom, but you don't need nuclear-powered cleaners. Just wash your hands, and wipe things down pretty often. Pee doesn't carry cooties, it just doesn't smell nice. Poop carries lots of cooties, so, yeah, use care.

Every drop of water you drink has been through lots of bodies, has been evaporated, rained down, been dirty and clean a million times. Once in a while, turn on the tap, and be grateful for abundant clean water and a reliable wastewater system. And don't use a garbage disposer; they're terrible for the wastewater system.

The shower in my new bathroom will have room for a seat, so, what the heck.
posted by theora55 at 2:05 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


This was a bit in Asimov's The Caves of Steel, as I recall. Daneel, who is an android, talks to someone in the men's room. It is explained to him in the strongest possible terms that one never ever does that, ever.

Which I would be fine with.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:05 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh great.... I get to point everybody at what I consider to be the best bathroom book ever.

The Bathroom by Alexander Kira. Out of print, but it looks like Amazon has a few third-party sellers. The linked review is a great overview of the topics covered.
posted by jgaiser at 2:07 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


This interesting stuff comes a bit later in the day. Earlier I had read about folks simply pissing and shitting any old place in India, contaminating the hell out of areas and bringing about diseases.
Go back in time. In Shakespeare's time they did not do as we do now. Simply toss the stuff out the window, it landed in a trough,and that, after a heavy rain, carried it down to the Thames, and then to the Atlantic, and finally drifted over to New Jersey.

The notion that we were meant to squat is not in keeping so far as I know with a Western way of chairless relaxing, and in China they still squat to eliminate.

But the sewer treatment places are made to reuse the water and to cleanse what gets to the seas.
Why not examine and compare toilet conventions world wide?
the bidet? using the hand to wipe that you do not use to shake with...the outhouse? etc etc
in sum: all things change, including conventions for elimination, but the only constant is the daily (we hope) need to eliminate.
posted by Postroad at 2:08 PM on July 22, 2014


Some people are talkers at the urinal...they will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

Indeed. Simple rule: the only person I don't mind talking to while I'm holding my cock is my wife.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:14 PM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'll start feeling guilty about the length of my showers and lack of an expensive greywater recycling system when I see a good comparison of where all this precious water is actually being used.

Ten procent of the water used in California is used to grow almonds.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:15 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


the shower is a deathtrap (an American dies every day from bath or shower accidents).

Says more about Americans than showers.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:16 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I feel pretty confident that the USA gets bathrooms right.

deanc, I am on holiday in America (my home country, but not my current home) right now and I can't tell you how many times this month I have sighed happily to myself, proud that I come from a place where a person can wash their hands with hot soapy water, even in a super cheap thrift store. I think I embarrassed a woman in a California convenience store because my bathroom phrase was too effusive.

But I work in a small-town Chinese public school where the stalls only sometimes have doors and the stall walls only go up to my armpit anyway and people are totally comfortable shouting "Oh, the foreigner!" when they look over to see who's next door (which will ruin/halt one's morning poo).
posted by MsDaniB at 2:18 PM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


emjaybee: I don't get the thing in the Guardian piece where "showers need to spray up". What? No.
A. Water on the ceiling B. How do you wash your hair in this scenario?


C. You always clean TOP TO BOTTOM. No exceptions. Gravity matters. Who is this idiot that thinks spraying stray fecal matter* up towards your head is a good idea?

* The colon is self-cleaning; no matter how much you cleaned when last you went....
posted by IAmBroom at 2:19 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


drops his almond butter sandwich and stares in disbelief. I knew ag used 77% of our water. But almonds use almost as much as residents? Wow.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:21 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


how do you not end up with wet underwear/pants

You end up with wet underwear/pants. But when it's 100 degrees outside, that's okay.
posted by goethean at 3:11 PM on July 22 [+] [!]



No. It really really really is not ok. In fact, it will NEVER DRY and will fill me with RAGE.

Still interested in an answer to desjardins' question, though.
posted by blurker at 2:35 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm telling you, if you haven't done the whole "Japanese style" shower-stool shower at least once, you're really doing yourself a disservice.

Get a stool, a pouf/loofa/wire brush/etc. and wet yourself down, turn off the water, soap up, take a seat, and ex fucking foliate. Think Ethan Hawke on the beach with that rock in Gattaca. You can really hit the bottom of your feet without the risk of becoming a statistic.

I'm not saying do this every day, but hot damn you'll feel clean when you exit that shower.
posted by Sphinx at 2:51 PM on July 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


Someone claimed that only people of certain genetic descent could squat, feet flat on the floor, without falling over. Most of us white Americans were unable to do it

It has nothing to do with "race" and everything to do with being trained to do it from an early age.

Gawd, I hate the white/otherskincolour false dichotomy
posted by KokuRyu at 2:51 PM on July 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


I don't need to sit down to exfoliate, I'm not 80 years old yet.
posted by elizardbits at 2:55 PM on July 22, 2014


One of the many great things about the Japanese bathroom (in a house) is that by separating all the functions multiple people can use the components of one bathroom at the same time. One person can be using the toilet while someone else is brushing their teeth and someone else is bathing. You can also do this in a regular western bathroom, but only if you are really familiar with eachother, and even then using the toilet at the same time as a shower is just ew.

My in-laws' place has one washroom, but because it is split into three components there isn't very much waiting for other people to finish. And the toilet has the sink on top so after going to the toilet you don't need to go anywhere else.

It can also make use of grey water. The laundry machine is in a room adjacent to the bathtub and it uses the leftover bathtub water for washing clothes by means of a hose.

The coolest feature is that the bathtub will automatically fill up to a pre-set temperature and let you know when it is full. It will also re-heat the water in case it has cooled down too much after everyone else has taken their baths.


In apartments you will often get a "unit bath" which has everything crammed into one small room. The entire thing is plastic and there is a drain on the floor making cleaning the thing a breeze - you bleach the whole room and go at it with the showerhead, which can reach everywhere.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:57 PM on July 22, 2014


Also the autoflushers that spray your genital region with PUBLIC WASHROOM OH MY FUCKING GOD IT'S THE FUCKING ASSPOCALYPSE FOREVER I WANT TO DIE toilet water when you lean forward

I have never figured out what sets these fucking things off. They almost always flush while I'm still on the toilet and not just when I've reached for the TP or a tampon or something.

And then of course when I'm done the toilet is like HAHAHA ALREADY FLUSHED and I just hope no one needed the stall after me.

Worst invention.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:01 PM on July 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


My master bathroom has both a "comfort height" toilet *and* a Squatty Potty. Best of both worlds.

When I studied abroad in Cameroon, I usually had access to regular toilets, but my town had water problems for about a week and that meant using my host family's hole in the yard. It's hard to, um, eliminate with your five host siblings peeking at you to watch you fall over.
posted by candyland at 3:03 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think we need to be cautious in hailing the Japanese as the bellwethers of environmental sensitivity, since the reason they have all that high-tech shit in their houses is because they have an irrational hatred of "used" houses, and build new ones at a rate pretty much unparalleled in the developed world. It's totally bonkers.

The construction waste generated by that sort of preference alone is staggering.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:07 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


For certain systems and countries, we don't understand how much of our wealth is actually water based or how easily you can measure our standard of living in terms of water units used, which means not only may we not understand it, we take it for granted and view water as an entitlement, to the point of just throwing money to "overcome" the problem - like piping water over the continental divide from one ocean basin to another - (or don't care about what happens downstream) in the short term with zero foresight for the long term. It's explicit in every way from the food we eat to our perception of green as the primary outdoor aesthetic. And part of that is expressed in the average design of the modern bathroom. I look forward to the day when good design is applied as much to the bathroom as it is our phones or websites.

For those of you talking about industry/ag etc. water usage versus individuals, please look at the USGS water use tables. Not counting thermoelectric power, irrigation is the largest use of water, ~61%. And the second? Domestic water consumption, at ~22% (and it's still above 10% counting thermoelectric.) So individual uses DO count. Industrial + mining use is less than half of public consumption; livestock water use is less than the water use of people who rely solely on domestic sources of water (i.e. wells, ~14% of the US) and mining is about equivalent of that.

Ok, thermoelectric systems do use a tremendous amount - 41% - but that gets into closed loop versus once-through systems, and how much water is returned to rivers and lakes is considerable and variable, and also uses saltwater - at least 25% - while individuals do not. (And since we're all typing this on electrical devices, one could argue that energy conservation is the issue there, not water. You just cannot reduce this to terms like "install water conservation devices" because of factors like energy efficiency. But I digress on an extremely complicated, not black and white, subject.) And here's the biggest thing: water use is extremely variable by region; just because big ag may use way more water in California does not mean individuals shouldn't save water in New York. (A far bigger problem there is far more related to appropriate land use in areas where ag shouldn't be, but that's a tornado of complexities.)

There's a certain level of discomfort concerning our comfort and convenience when it comes to addressing the individual's role in water conservation/use. By nature we want to blame someone else - it doesn't affect daily life, it's more acceptable, it makes it easier to rationalize certain behaviors. I understand it's frustrating to think an individual doesn't count, but considering individuals use the power and individuals eat the vegetables, a holistic approach helps us comprehend what a dynamic, complicated, connected system it is. It may seem like farms and industry just run the taps because they can, and to some extent, they might- but, would you want to eat beef from a butcher that doesn't do as thorough job cleaning as they could, for example? - but we have to remember they produce something individuals use, even though it may make us feel relieved to not acknowledge that we use/eat the result and thus aren't part of the chain. Anyone watching the drought situation in California, particularly those of us who eat fruits and vegetables, are certainly going to realize the chain's impact on us this year. And one thing about individual realization is that it can lead to ripple effects and pressure on the entire whole.

I'm not saying there's not huge issues with ag/industry water use and supply in the US - there is, and it gets even more complex considering much of the water we use gets sent downstream while irrigation water might evaporate - but we need to acknowledge our own responsibilities within the system, and also acknowledge that you can't reduce it to black/white, evil/good, david/goalith like terms.
posted by barchan at 3:21 PM on July 22, 2014 [30 favorites]


Regarding toilet layout efficiency and Japan, I can say that when I lived in Tokyo I never once saw a toilet sharing a room with a bath. Usually it was right next to the bath in a tiny closet like room, both to save space and to allow for piping efficiency.

As far as the bathing situation goes, the ladle and stool thing is very old school. My apartment, and all the others I saw, had a shower head on a flexible hose that could be attached to the wall at convenient showering height, or held in the hand for use wherever. The entire bathing room is designed basically like a giant shower stall with a waterproof floor and a drain. Shower, then hop into the bathtub if you want a soak (which you can fill deep enough that when you get in some spills out onto the floor and that's ok because the whole room is a shower stall).

I still find the Western approach of putting both the toilet and the bath in the same room sort of gross.
posted by sotonohito at 3:21 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Bathroom by Alexander Kira. Out of print, but it looks like Amazon has a few third-party sellers. The linked review is a great overview of the topics covered.

I reviewed that here, here and here.

My findings:
- due to the current design of Western toilets, men who pee standing up will unavoidably splatter urine everywhere.
- if you are going to pee standing up, for the love of all that's holy DO NOT AIM FOR THE PORCELAIN ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE BOWL. You might as well just piss on the floor.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:40 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Install a knob on your shower-head that lets you turn down/off the water.

Don't showers already have a knob (or knobs) that does (or do) that?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:42 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


the agents of kaos: I've always wondered - is it not incredibly awkward to stand next to your co-workers and pee? How does "seeing a female co-worker at the sink" even register next to that?

I don't know how to respond to this, because i hate urinals. I hate everything about them. I'll only use them if it's utterly a last resort, or i'm pretty buzzed. I will happily wait in line to use a stall, and fuck the haters who think i'm "wasting" a stall or gripe about that.

This brings me back to the best bathroom design i ever saw though. Middle area that you enter the main bathroom door from has sinks. Right area is individual toilet areas that are fully enclosed with regular doors, not fake stall things that don't even hit the floor or ceiling. Think a tiny single stall bathroom, but minus the sink or anything but the toilet.

This is easily completely gender neutral, because the only "shared" part is the sink area. The rest are just individual little rooms. And i swear, this barely took up more space in the building than just a regular stupid bathroom with rows of stalls. You maybe lost one toilet depth wise, and gained immeasurable sanity.

fshgrl: If we are redesigning public bathrooms can we fix the thing where the taps only turn on when you hover your hands above the basin to hit the motion sensor and then your hands are too high and when water hits them it splashes all over the counter instead of being contained in the basin?

The Gaffer: Yes, fshgrl, if we can also get rid of the goddamn unreliable paper towl IR triggers and replace them with like a foot pedal or something. Having to wave your hands at an electric towel rack like you've got some Oliver Sacksian brain injury and think it's an old friend is an affront to basic human dignity.

elizardbits: Also the autoflushers that spray your genital region with PUBLIC WASHROOM OH MY FUCKING GOD IT'S THE FUCKING ASSPOCALYPSE FOREVER I WANT TO DIE toilet water when you lean forward to get a tampon out of your purse hanging off the door handle, they must be destroyed and the ground upon which they were created salted and burned.

If i ever own or operate a place that has public bathrooms, EVERYTHING will be controlled by foot pedals. Foot pedal sinks are inherently superior, as are foot pedal/hook doors, and foot pedal toilets. I've never seen a foot pedal towel dispenser, but god dammit i'll build one myself if i have to.

If there's ADA issues with this, keep the normal long accessible handles as well. But for fucks sake, NO IR TRIGGERS. NOTHING should work that way. I agree touching the handles is gross, but the foot pedal is such a better solution.

Sys Rq: Don't showers already have a knob (or knobs) that does (or do) that?

Then you have to redo your water mix. This is especially irritating as fuck on single-knob showers(which i would say were designed by a subcontractor of satan, but satan is actually probably cooler than that and wouldn't want to subject people to that bullshit).

I realize i'm probably killing the planet, but i always just flip the slider to "bath" just so i don't have to spend 30 seconds freezing and burning myself with my apartments 200f water to get back to a reasonable temp if i just shut the water off. the shower head knob is a smart idea.
posted by emptythought at 3:49 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Count me in, science or no, as being in favour of a w/c separate from the bath/sink functions. Happily, my apartment does this.

It's not a scientific opinion at all, it's purely an emotional/squicky one. Why poop where you clean? It makes no sense.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:56 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Count me in as someone else who LOATHES the autoflushers in public bathrooms! Why can't these things be better calibrated? Either they flush like 17 times on me between the moment I push through the stall door to the moment I twith to reach for a tampon/toilet paper/simply readjust... or they never seem to flush at all, leaving me all anxious that I'm going to be one of THOSE PEOPLE who ruin public toilets for everyone.

And then there's the choreography of handwaving to get the goddamn sink to work, and apparently my hand motions are never eloquent enough because I usually have to try two sinks before I get a sullen jet of water aimed at my shirt.

I will say that traveling in Japan ruined me forever for public bathrooms: So clean! So wonderful! And that as a fat person, squatting sucks unless you enjoy peeing on your own leg and this is why I've discovered whole new feats of bladder control when hiking or in countries where squat toilets are common.
posted by TwoStride at 4:03 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Every french place I've ever stayed at separated the loo in a small room from the bath/shower room. It's very handy in that you can use both rooms at once; the loo has its own sink (which I can see shifting across to greywater tank flushing) so it all works very well. Not a big fan of low-flow french toilets though, they're very easy to um, clog.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:07 PM on July 22, 2014


Also, nothing brings out my inner fist-shaking grandma these days than when people continue their cell phone conversations while on the toilet. Unless you're a world leader, I'm pretty sure your conversation can be suspended for the few minutes it'll take you to dump your load! Augh! /fist shake
posted by TwoStride at 4:07 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think we need to be cautious in hailing the Japanese as the bellwethers of environmental sensitivity, since the reason they have all that high-tech shit in their houses is because they have an irrational hatred of "used" houses,

Don't you watch the movies? You have to realize that, in Japan, a "used" house is one that is full to the brim with murderous ghosts, demons, and dangerous school children. You would loathe them, too.

I keep my own toilet lid closed because I have a young, energetic cat, and I prefer him better when he is not wet and mad about it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:30 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I suspect my own video blog item might have come up in this FPP, if the video wasn't busted when flex wrote it. So I fixed the video and I'll self-link here, since I'm sure you will all think it's relevant:

BlogTV Japan: The Social Life of Public Toilets

In 2005 the Ministry of Education decided to upgrade toilets in all schools to include Western style toilets, but they had to give lessons on how to use them to incoming kindergartners since they might never have seen one before. And it goes on from there. The video is entirely in Japanese but I've provided extensive translation in the article.

Anyway, if you want to bathe Japanese style, it's easy to get a little stool and a bucket, and attach one of those hoses to your shower. I did that when I got back from Japan. I got used to it in Japan, but I quickly got out of the habit once I was in the US again.

But seriously nobody wants a native Japanese toilet experience, it's horrible. My first homestay in Japan, I lived in an antiquated temple and their bathroom only had a "flapper" and oh god you don't want to know. When I came home, my Japanese Literature class was assigned "In Praise of Shadows" by Tanizaki. It contains an extended essay on the cultural significance of the Japanese bath and toilet. He says that a proper bath should have untreated wood floors and fixtures, be poorly lit, and smell faintly of smoke from the wood fueled heating for the bath. It should be completely unlike the brightly lit, shiny porcelain of Western toilets.

So according to my professor, Tanizaki was designing a new home shortly after the book was released. The architect came to Tanizaki and said he had read In Praise Of Shadows and knew just the kind of bathroom he wanted. But Tanizaki said that was just for the essay, he wanted a brand new Western style bathroom, with a flush toilet, porcelain sink and all the latest accoutrements..
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:34 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


the shower is a deathtrap (an American dies every day from bath or shower accidents).

Every shower should be built with handgrips, really.
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:34 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


> the shower is a deathtrap (an American dies every day from bath or shower accidents).

I remember when Whitney Houston died everybody was talking about her drugs when the toxicology only had small concentrations and the most likely scenario was she slipped (almost totally sober), conked her head, and landed unconscious under the bathtub water line. I know a half dozen people who have broken bones in bathroom falls. Tread carefully in there folks. Balancing can get trickier as we age.
posted by bukvich at 4:35 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


If i ever own or operate a place that has public bathrooms, EVERYTHING will be controlled by foot pedals.

There's no way that would be ADA compliant; you'd have to have redundant infrared sensors and then at that point why have the foot pedals? I've been in a couple of old public bathrooms with floor-mounted foot pedals for flushing, but those must have been available from one company and only in 1976 because it really has been only twice in my life that I've seen them. (But I use my foot to raise the seat and flush in public bathrooms, no need for floor pedals if you have good balance, so I see the appeal.)

Squat toilets have their imperfections, but the huge advantage is that you can use them without touching anything. The only way to do that on a western toilet is to hover, which is brutal on the thighs and is guaranteed to trigger the auto flush every few seconds.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:55 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


the only way to do that on a western toilet is to hover, which is brutal on the thighs and is guaranteed to trigger the auto flush every few seconds.

Oh, there is a special place in hell for those who hover over the toilet seat and inevitably pee and/or bleed all over the seat.
posted by TwoStride at 4:58 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


The other problem with foot pedals is they increase the amount of time spent cleaning.
posted by Mitheral at 5:03 PM on July 22, 2014


I spent a total of about 5 weeks in Japan and I did not enjoy any of my bathing experiences there. In the least.

I don't want to put my lady-bits on some grubby, soggy stool other people have been sitting on, thanks. I don't want to fold my giant American body into a tiny crate-shaped bath tub. Boo. Grump. And I really didn't enjoy the lake of piss surrounding the squat toilets in public parks or train stations either.

In terms of water conservation, though, I've been thinking a lot recentlyabout installing an on/off right at the shower head, so I could keep my hot/cold mix, but could turn off the spray while I shaved or whatever.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:06 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Every shower should be built with handgrips, really.

Or strapping young attendants who hold you in place gently yet firmly.
posted by elizardbits at 5:10 PM on July 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


Also the autoflushers that spray your genital region with PUBLIC WASHROOM OH MY FUCKING GOD IT'S THE FUCKING ASSPOCALYPSE FOREVER I WANT TO DIE toilet water when you lean forward to get a tampon out of your purse hanging off the door handle, they must be destroyed and the ground upon which they were created salted and burned.

If possible, take a few squares of TP and drape them over the sensor. You'll need to manually trigger the flushing, but a square of TP can be used as protection.
posted by MikeKD at 5:36 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


One way to improve water quality in coastal areas is to cultivate oysters. I've been following the Massachusetts Oyster Project blog for a while and they post some really interesting articles there.
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:39 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also the autoflushers that spray your genital region with PUBLIC WASHROOM OH MY FUCKING GOD IT'S THE FUCKING ASSPOCALYPSE FOREVER I WANT TO DIE toilet water when you lean forward to get a tampon out of your purse hanging off the door handle, they must be destroyed and the ground upon which they were created salted and burned.

If i ever own or operate a place that has public bathrooms, EVERYTHING will be controlled by foot pedals. Foot pedal sinks are inherently superior, as are foot pedal/hook doors, and foot pedal toilets. I've never seen a foot pedal towel dispenser, but god dammit i'll build one myself if i have to.

If there's ADA issues with this, keep the normal long accessible handles as well. But for fucks sake, NO IR TRIGGERS. NOTHING should work that way. I agree touching the handles is gross, but the foot pedal is such a better solution.


This is such a phenomenally bad idea.

Do you remember what it was like before we added automatic IR flushers to all the toilets? Because I do. Three out of every four public toilets was clogged with human shit, because people are horrible and won't even flush if there's no consequence for not flushing. Making the flusher a foot pedal or voice activated or whatever the hell won't change that. Only flushing whether the person attempts to flush or not gives us even the level of cleanliness we have today.
posted by kafziel at 6:33 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Most of the motion sensor paper towel things now are also voice activated. Try just saying in a loud confident voice, "Paper towel, please!"

Sometimes you have to say it twice.
posted by ctmf at 6:36 PM on July 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


The OrbSys, a new kind of shower that saves up to 90% of the water and 80% of the energy consumed by a normal shower.

I love a long shower, but it sure is inefficient.
posted by flippant at 6:40 PM on July 22, 2014


People don't need to live in a sterile environment to be healthy.

Where I live, we get around fifty inches of rain a year, plus a couple feet of snow. There is unused water literally everywhere. Our huge river is not used for either drinking or agriculture. People who live in deserts can take short showers.

I remember when Whitney Houston died everybody was talking about her drugs when the toxicology only had small concentrations and the most likely scenario was she slipped (almost totally sober), conked her head, and landed unconscious under the bathtub water line. I know a half dozen people who have broken bones in bathroom falls. Tread carefully in there folks. Balancing can get trickier as we age.
posted by bukvich at 4:35 PM on July 22 [3 favorites +]


Whitney used cocaine shortly before her death and had quantities of various drugs in her system. Her arteries were also severely clogged, even though she was a woman in her forties. She probably wouldn't have drowned in the tub if she wasn't both high and weakened from heart disease. I think it's quite unusual for healthy, sober adults who are not elderly to die in bath or shower accidents.
posted by knoyers at 6:49 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Even if you don’t care about the environment, the OrbSys can (apparently) save you more than $1000 per year in water and energy costs.

I doubt I spend that much on water and gas combined (which includes the heating bill for my entire house). Like many ideas about efficiency, this will only make sense if costs rise astronomically.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:58 PM on July 22, 2014


I don't want to put my lady-bits on some grubby, soggy stool other people have been sitting on, thanks.

The sento I used had that problem solved. They used a split bench with two platforms, one for each butt cheek, and a gap of 3 or 4 inches between them. So that way nothing touches your junk. I could not find a picture on the web, so I drew a crude representation, in case you don't follow me. I saw this at several sento and onsen, maybe it's just a local custom in Hokkaido.

As far as clean public toilets, I am saddened to see the legendary Tokyo Clean Toilet Map is no longer being maintained. It seems to have only a token few entries, unlike the early days. And I mean really early days, it started around 1996.

So this seems like a business opportunity for a mobile app. And indeed, there is one, トイレへGO. This seems to overlay toilet locations on a Google map. So I decided to look directly at Google Maps and it does not appear to have toilets mapped, not even in train stations.

It would be easy to make a crowd-sourced app that could mark the locations of clean public toilets, maybe even upload a picture to show that it was clean. But this would never work. People would go out of their way to use the clean bathrooms and they would become filthy like all the others.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:01 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


After reading that lead paragraph for the FPP, I have to say I wonder how I managed to stay alive this long considering the western-style bathrooms I've used all my life.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:14 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the FA seems to have some valid criticisms, but then ratchets them up to hysterical levels.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:26 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Don't forget, height is important so that guys can pee in it.

Wow, that thread's a pretty good indication of how far MeFi has come. Reading it just now I got annoyed about 3000 separate times reading all those answers' gender-essentialistic bullshit, but I really don't think that thread would have evolved the same way today without significant pushback.
posted by threeants at 7:58 PM on July 22, 2014


Re: Autoflush toilets: The clear solution to me is to have the toilets flush automatically only when the door lock is disengaged. Like, lock moves from locked to unlocked? TOILET FLUSHES. No one has to touch anything, no one gets goosed with toilet water, ADA compliant... Seriously, why is this not a thing?
posted by MeghanC at 8:04 PM on July 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


You shall be Minister of Sanitation under my totalitarian dictatorship, congratulations, the benefits are excellent.
posted by elizardbits at 8:07 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Never mind, I just reached the point where jessamyn linked to a lengthy and contentious MeTa discussing the thread. Plus ça change...)
posted by threeants at 8:13 PM on July 22, 2014


I'm thinking most of the "ooh, icky!" commenters here would pass out at a Middle East toilet.

Most have a hole in the ground, a couple of serrated places to put your feet, and a stick!

The upscale ones have that...and a little urn of water (which may or may not have water in it).

Nope, no paper of any sort in there....

(I surmise from those experiences why the left hand is "unclean" over there...)
posted by CrowGoat at 8:14 PM on July 22, 2014


is it not incredibly awkward to stand next to your co-workers and pee?

Not really, no. Everybody pees; men are pretty used to peeing at urinals in communal bathrooms; ain't no big deal.

The urinal-etiquette game -- gotta keep a buffer zone! -- is amusing, but I suspect that lurking underneath it is a huge great whack of old-fashioned homosexual panic. Same thing that makes bros uncomfortable sitting next to each other at the cinema.

I do agree though that talking at the urinal is RIGHT OUT.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:05 PM on July 22, 2014


People who leave the lid up

I never really thought about it as a kid. It wasn't until I left home, returned home, and was living with just my dad when I realized that I left the lid (and seat) up.

He told me, "Leave the lid of the toilet down. Shit can accidentally fall in."

After that, it makes no sense not to leave lid down. It also ensures that the seat is down as well.

I wonder which is worse; complaining about leaving the seat up and ladies get their bum wet sitting in an unseated toilet in the middle of the night, or ladies getting their bum wet sitting on top of a lid-closed toilet in the middle of the night?
posted by porpoise at 9:18 PM on July 22, 2014


It's easier to see in half-darkness if the lid is down or not vs if the seat is down or not. I have never once in my life sat down on a toilet lid.
posted by desjardins at 9:20 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


an American dies every day from bath or shower accidents

2,468,435 Americans died in 2010 (6,763 every day).
posted by kirkaracha at 9:23 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


"In Japan, you sit on a stool and have a bucket, sponge, ladle and hand shower that you only turn on when you need it. You can sit comfortably for as long as you like, in no danger of slipping, use the ladle or the hand shower to rinse. It’s really a lovely experience.

dnash: Yeah, no, that sounds horrible.

A shower after a sweaty hot yoga class is the Most. Beautiful. Experience. Ever.
"

Either you or I are misinterpreting what it's trying to describe.

Here's a picture of my bathroom (here in Japan). It's really, really, really standard for a house or condominium (though cheaper apartments and older homes may differ).

The entire room is the bathing area. You can stand anywhere you want. You can raise or lower the shower head to whatever height you want. If you want to stand, you can. If you want to sit on the stool, you can. There's also a mirror, so you can shave in the shower. You can run the water from the shower head, or from the faucet. So it accommodates pretty much every bathing and showering desire, even post-sweaty hot yoga showers.

In more old-fangled places, the shower head doesn't have an adjustable height, so the only difference is that it's at a fixed height, usually low, since people sit. So you'd have to sit, true, but you would still be able to enjoy a shower after your sweaty hot yoga class, just sitting down, not standing up.
posted by Bugbread at 9:27 PM on July 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Oh, to avoid confusion: that bar up above the bathtub is not a shower curtain rod, it's a bar for hanging laundry, since the shower room also has a drying function for drying clothes during the rainy season (and a heater for heating the shower room up before showering in the winter).
posted by Bugbread at 9:29 PM on July 22, 2014


charlie don't surf: "In 2005 the Ministry of Education decided to upgrade toilets in all schools to include Western style toilets, but they had to give lessons on how to use them to incoming kindergartners since they might never have seen one before."

This is amazing because by the time my son started elementary school (2011) the situation had apparently completely reversed. In the packet of preparatory materials we got from the school (the instructions about what school supplies to buy, where to go on the first day, etc.), one of the instructions was to "make sure your child knows how to use a traditional Japanese-style toilet", because some of the school toilets are squat toilets. Nothing about "make sure your child knows how to use a Western-style toilet", that's just assumed by default. But squat toilets are rare enough that the school had to give instructions to make sure kids knew how to use them.

(And, yeah, until he started elementary school, I think my son had used a squat toilet once or twice in his life, and only when he was very little, so never on his own)
posted by Bugbread at 9:45 PM on July 22, 2014


People who leave the lid up

Proper position for an idle toilet is seat down, lid up. Because the toilet should always be ready for emergency pooping.

I still find it quite odd that some women jst sit down and start excreting without looking at the toilet , when there could be any numer f spiders, millipedes, or other beasties one would nt want near one's tender bits there.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:37 PM on July 22, 2014


World Toilet Organization
posted by infini at 12:27 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


is it not incredibly awkward to stand next to your co-workers and pee?

Not really, no. Everybody pees; men are pretty used to peeing at urinals in communal bathrooms; ain't no big deal.


That's not true. Guys are often forced to pee standing next to one another, but not having a choice doesn't mean guys are happy about it. Just look at all the "urinal etiquette" stuff you see online. And many people just can't pee at all if someone else is watching (paruresis). Pretty much everyone (except guys who like watching other guys pee, I guess) would be happier if urinals were arranged to be more private.
posted by pracowity at 2:10 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


MeghanC: "The clear solution to me is to have the toilets flush automatically only when the door lock is disengaged. Like, lock moves from locked to unlocked? TOILET FLUSHES. No one has to touch anything, no one gets goosed with toilet water, ADA compliant... Seriously, why is this not a thing?"

It would be wildly more expensive. And because the flush mechanism isn't completely self contained it would be subject to vandalism.
posted by Mitheral at 4:03 AM on July 23, 2014


Wait. You people keep the shower running while you bathe? It is not normal to adjust it as you go? Like, get wet then turn it off to soap etc, then turn it on to rinse? I get dizzy, so often have a plastic bench in the shower and it is the bomb to sit down and thoughtfully scrub etc while bathing. But not with continuously running water, that sounds both wasteful and difficult to navigate - how does one apply soap if it is being continuously washed away?

This is like at boarding school when I realised people were not joking about getting into a bath to wash. You shower and get clean, then you go into a bath. Otherwise you are marinating in your own diluted filth.

When I first moved in with my husband, his instant water heater had exploded (literally - melted plastic etc) and we had to bathe carefully around the exposed wiring because his landlady would not replace it. I convinced him that we should move, but the new flat did not have a water heater or a shower. It had a big tiled concrete tank with a tap and a plastic scoop. I had often bathed this way staying at kampongs as a kid on holidays, but it was really cold water for some reason. I would fill several kettles of hot water into buckets to get tepid water for a scoop-shower during monsoon season or when I was sick.

Finally after six months, I broke down crying over how tired I was of bathing in cold water with a scoop. Mr viggorlijah had gotten a freelance job payment and we hoped we might finally afford to install a heater and a shower.

It cost $65 and was done in that afternoon. Mr viggorlijah lost all veto powers over home improvements from that day on.

(scoop-bathing is glorious though on hot days from a cold tank)
posted by viggorlijah at 4:05 AM on July 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh dear lord, mr viggorlijah has just confirmed that he too would not shower before bathing. I feel this should be grounds for divorce.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:08 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


My mom had a shower chair for the last couple years. I used it a few times and I have to admit it's really nice for shaving your legs.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:55 AM on July 23, 2014


...but I suspect that lurking underneath it is a huge great whack of old-fashioned homosexual panic.

I'm sure you're right for a lot of dudes but it took exactly one instance of having to clean another dude's splashback off my hands and pants to make me stop using urinals forever (save for emergencies/drunk.)
posted by griphus at 5:24 AM on July 23, 2014


(scoop-bathing is glorious though on hot days from a cold tank)

Oh yes, that first scoop especially feels wonderful.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:43 AM on July 23, 2014


pracowity: "Pretty much everyone (except guys who like watching other guys pee, I guess) would be happier if urinals were arranged to be more private."

Although modern urinals are a lot more private than they used to be in the days of one giant trough. They are separated, and many of them have privacy baffles between.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:30 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think we can all agree that this is the toilet to end all toilets.

Maybe people with paruresis should work out some way around their phobia. A 12 step program to a world of relaxed micturation. Just think how liberating it would be to let loose whenever you feel like it!

Newly constructed toilet facilities, whether unisex or not, often have cubicles with floor to ceiling doors for both urinals and toilets and no door to the room. This is in order to cut down on crime, bullying etc. Doesn't help the claustrophobics though. Or those soliciting for sex.
posted by asok at 6:30 AM on July 23, 2014


I have a large dog. You better put the toilet lid down when you are finished, or I will mention that she likes toilet water while she licks your face.

I only ever have to tell people this once.
posted by cmyk at 6:51 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Although modern urinals are a lot more private than they used to be in the days of one giant trough.

The worst urinal I have ever encountered was a giant trough -- with people lined up on both sides facing each other. It was like an anxiety fever dream, but in real life and with a line of impatient guys out the door staring needles at anyone who took too long.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:57 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Proper position for an idle toilet is seat down, lid up. Because the toilet should always be ready for emergency pooping.

By that logic, we should never wear underpants.
posted by asperity at 8:23 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wait. You people keep the shower running while you bathe? It is not normal to adjust it as you go? Like, get wet then turn it off to soap etc, then turn it on to rinse? I get dizzy, so often have a plastic bench in the shower and it is the bomb to sit down and thoughtfully scrub etc while bathing. But not with continuously running water, that sounds both wasteful and difficult to navigate - how does one apply soap if it is being continuously washed away?

First of all, many showers in the US (like mine) have a weird single turn/lever control that requires a delicate touch to get just the right strength/temperature. Turning it off/on means going through the whole "agh too cold now too hot" cycle again. Also, unless your shower is an all-encompassing flood that fills the entire space, it is very possible to soap up while it's on.

1. Turn on shower to desired temperature
2. Get in. Get wet all over.
3. Lean head out of shower stream. Put shampoo on it. Put it under water. Rinse. (repeat for conditioner).
4. Turn back to shower stream. Soap front.
5. Turn front to shower stream. Rinse. Soap back, meanwhile.
6. Turn back to shower stream. Rinse.

This is like at boarding school when I realised people were not joking about getting into a bath to wash. You shower and get clean, then you go into a bath. Otherwise you are marinating in your own diluted filth.

I agree about baths being gross, but then you have to wonder why anyone bothers with one after a shower when you're already clean. And we had to use baths for my kiddo till last year because he was terrified of showers. Some clean is better than none.
posted by emjaybee at 8:46 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nobody thought about how the water from a shower or bathtub (greywater) is different from the water from a toilet (blackwater Xe Constellis)

Fixed.
posted by Foosnark at 9:21 AM on July 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Mrs. Joecacti works in the biz (and is passionate about it!). Her thoughts:

The industry IS and HAS been looking at the grey water vs. black water issues for years. In fact, there are products on the market designed to use grey water….but the truth is that reusing grey water is a very, very complicated issue:

1) because we don’t know what is in grey water. It varies so much in chemical content and other (as our friend who pees in the shower pointed out) depending on the household or commercial property that it is difficult to design a product with moving parts that will continue to work over time while being exposed to such diverse chemical content. We in the industry basically have to guess what you will put down the drain, then come up with a way to partially treat it, and then hope it doesn’t degrade the fixtures we design in a year’s time. Plus, there is little demand for these residentially. Which brings me to…

2) because IT COSTS SO MUCH Money!!! To re-pipe a plumbing system with a separate grey water system and then buy specialty products that will work within that system would be too costly to justify the end water savings.

If you want to help the environment, save precious, potable water and money, purchase a 1.28 low flow toilet or a dual flush toilet which gives you a half flush option for liquid only application. Purchase low flow aerators for your sinks (.5). Purchase a low flow shower-head (2.0 or less). Fix leaks in your home plumbing system. Leaks account for 13ish% of all potable residential water use. We can’t redo our current infrastructure, but there are ways to be environmentally conscious without going to such extremes, and the low flow products on the market today function very well. It’s likely you would not even know it was saving water.

There are still tons of pre 1992 EPA law 3.5 and 5 gallon toilets installed in personal homes, hotels and offices. If we replace those with even the standard 1.6 toilet of today, that help maintain current infrastructure and save tons of money and water. The American Waterworks Association (AWWA) projects $200 billion - $1 trillion needs to be spent over the next 20 years just to maintain our current infrastructure. How can we even talk about a new one?

Going for Low flow fixtures is a key part of the solution because saving water is less expensive than finding new supplies and infrastructure expansions. Plus, less water pumped and treated reduces overall energy and chemical costs. All this said, the industry continues to look at all of the possibilities. In new construction, you can consider integrating a grey water system and reuse that water for landscaping etc. That is becoming a more common practice in both commercial buildings and personal GREEN homes.
posted by joecacti at 9:31 AM on July 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


1) because we don’t know what is in grey water

This is a big deal, as anyone who has ever been involved with cloth diapers or even just routine infant cleaning can attest -- that wash water is not grey by any definition.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:38 AM on July 23, 2014


granted this does not help those living in cheap / older rental units or those going for some kind of vintage appeal, BUT

when we remodeled our bathroom, we installed one of those newfangled shower "monitor" valve controls. It's a single dial mixer tap that has a secondary dial lever on the outer ring that is a hard set for the temperature control. You set this secondary lever on the outer dial to exactly the temp you want, and it retains the temp regardless of the on/off position of the main (pressure) valve. Turn the main valve to turn the water on/off and control the flow / pressure.

I frequently take long showers because I have long thick hair that takes forever to shampoo, and this makes it a cinch to turn the water off and back on because not having water run down your legs when you're trying to shave or into your eyes when you're shampooing the wild animal that lives on your head is a feature, not a bug.

the outer ring dial (temp control) always stays at the same temperature on the hot/cold continuum unless you should wish to turn it hotter/colder. What this means is every time you switch on the shower it's at the same exact temp. Every time.

life is good and technology is a thing.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:41 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


you have to wonder why anyone bothers with one after a shower when you're already clean

- arthritis
- general muscular aches and pains
- you're doing a leave-in conditioner hair mask and are gonna have to get wet again anyway to rinse it out
- sometimes it's the only way you can have a moment's peace in your house
- floating around like a happy baby manatee is awesome
- baths are just great in general
posted by elizardbits at 10:05 AM on July 23, 2014 [14 favorites]


I've turned down some otherwise fantastic apartments both for owning and renting because there was only a stall shower and no tub, and no room to add a tub. I don't understand how people live without a bathtub.
posted by elizardbits at 10:06 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have a bathtub, but I also have smelly well water. I can filter it with the showerhead, but it leaves me without a way to have a bath unless I want to smell like eggs. It's almost worse than just not having a tub.

Actually, it is worse, because it would be easier to clean a shower stall.
posted by jaguar at 10:09 AM on July 23, 2014


Better temperature control is definitely something to consider in new construction and remodeling. It's not just comfort: too hot water can lead to scalding, which can be fatal for a child or an older person who is unable to get away.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:09 AM on July 23, 2014


because we don’t know what is in grey water.

Quoted for truth. The forensic science of gray and black wastewater streams is gross, surprising and, to me, fascinating. It's really surprising what things will and won't degrade (don't put dental floss, baby/toilet wet wipes or q-tips down the toilet folks). You can differentiate communities by health and wealth by their drug consumption patterns (legal and illegal). There is opportunistic dumping---sometimes garage and restaurant owners will dump their waste oils (automotive and food) down a drain when they hear a large spill is happening, hoping regulators won't notice.
posted by bonehead at 10:12 AM on July 23, 2014


We had not smelly well water but occasionally somewhat musty cistern water and iirc the water delivery dudes just threw some lime in and the mustiness was gone. The limescale afterwards was unfortunate but better than the musty smell.
posted by elizardbits at 10:13 AM on July 23, 2014


It's a single dial mixer tap that has a secondary dial lever on the outer ring that is a hard set for the temperature control.

My ex boyfriend had this in his shower downstairs (his lair; bedroom down there too). Combined with an instant water heater, it was fucking magic in the winter when we came in a couple of times frozen to the bone. Two minutes in the house and we were in a perfect shower without having to waste water by running until it was hot etc. Just amazing.

Unfortunately my landlord won't put one in.

elizardbits, I have to survive without a tub (though I borrow my neighbour's sometimes when I JUST NEED BUBBLES DAMMIT). You get used to it. Not happy, but used to it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:50 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have a large dog. You better put the toilet lid down when you are finished, or I will mention that she likes toilet water while she licks your face.

When we had a large dog who liked to drink out of the toilet, said large dog was also able to lift the lid up with his nose, stick his head in, and drink with the lid resting on his head. He would then leave a big dribble of toilet water on the seat for the next hapless person to use the toilet. There was just no winning that battle.
posted by ambrosia at 12:11 PM on July 23, 2014


Jeesh. I thought I was a little finicky and particular about bathrooms, but man, there are a lot of people on here seemingly within sight of a future of clonking around with tissue boxes on their feet because shoes are dirty.

What's gross about cleaning a toilet? You just muck in with a rag and some spritz, spray everything down, let it sit a min while you hit the bowl with Breath-O-Pine and a stiff brush, wipe everything off, rinse out the rag and chuck it in the laundry bin, then wash your hands and clean your fingernails with a nail brush. You don't chew your nails mid-task or pick at a piece of ham gristle in your teeth or wipe your eyes, but those are good guidelines at most times.

It's just weird the things we get squicky over. We'll eat a dead bird that has an eighty percent chance of some level of salmonella contamination, eat vegetables full of mites and grains with parts of weevils ground in, and do things in bed that would have killed our grandmothers just from the modernity of it all, but eww toilet. Funny, though, how we get sick as dogs from a glancing touch from an adorable baby, never ever get sick from a toilet, but we think babies are kissable and we only kiss our toilets when times are extra tough.

Most of us have immune systems, and they work better when they're used.

That said, my future fantasy dream home, when I win my Nobel Prize for achievements in stand-up autobiography, will be compact, elegant, and will contain no bathroom, because the well-constructed outhouse (in this case, it would be plumbed and architecturally distinguished) is a thing of joy.

I'm not overwhelmed with the ickypoos over cleaning it (I'm domestic by nature and almost love nothing more than tying on my floral apron, putting on a string of paste housekeeping pearls, and having a good hard clean), but boy, is it nice to have a place where you can make as much or as little noise as you like, which vents neatly into the yard instead of into the house, and where you can read at your own pace or work on a slim volume of memoir. A plumbed, elegant outhouse with bathing facilities on the other side of the outbuilding (no connection betwixt so you can avoid inflicting the shit & shower steam horror on the household) and the appropriate number of fixtures (tank-sink toilet, urinal, and bidet, or washlet tank-sink toilet and urinal) sounds like heaven to me. Even better if there's an extra glamorously long clawfoot tub just outside the bathhouse with a tub desk sturdy enough for a manual typewriter and a nice wooded view for those midsummer writing binges...but I may be on the fringes in this desire.

I'm pretty sure my wild-eyed and dreamy description of this ideal shituation scuppered a recent attempt at dating with a reasonably handsome and well-considered fellow, because normal folks just go with the old familiar.

"Wait, so you want an outhouse? Like, instead of a bathroom?"

"Yeah."

"So you'd have to go outside every time you need to go?"

"Sure."

"What if it's raining?"

"I'd make it a brisk transition."

"Snow? Middle of the night?"

I just shrugged. A subtle lift of his eyebrow made the leap to a swiftly rising pair of eyebrows, but I am sadly oblivious to such signals.

"What's wrong with a regular bathroom?"

"What—shitting inside like a damn cat? Yuck."

"Oh...um...oh."

Sigh.

Takes all kinds to make a world, as they say.
posted by sonascope at 12:12 PM on July 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


sonascope, you are welcome to come clean the pee-sprayed lower regions of my house's toilets anytime. Anytime at all.
posted by emjaybee at 12:17 PM on July 23, 2014


it would be plumbed and architecturally distinguished
I'm growing partial to Lebbeus Woods, who tragically passed, but I could see this an an interesting challenge to any up-and-comer.

a nice wooded view for those midsummer writing binges...but I may be on the fringes in this desire.

Like this?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:22 PM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I WANT TO GO TO THERE
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:24 PM on July 23, 2014


We had not smelly well water but occasionally somewhat musty cistern water and iirc the water delivery dudes just threw some lime in and the mustiness was gone. The limescale afterwards was unfortunate but better than the musty smell.

Unfortunately, I think my smelly water is due to smelly groundwater, and I'm not sure it's fixable. The landlords are pretty good about fixing that kind of stuff (and they use the same well, so they have incentive to fix it), and they've said there's nothing they can do. It's sad.

I chose my gym based almost solely on it having a hot tub. So I go over there when I need a hot-water bath fix.
posted by jaguar at 3:05 PM on July 23, 2014


instant water heater

fffm, you mean a "tankless" hot water heater, no? Yes, I forgot to mention that when we remodeled we installed a Rheem tankless, top of the line, best you can get. It's plumbed in right behind our shower stall in a utility cubby that exists for this purpose between our kitchen / utility room / bath. Instant, on-demand hot water, as much as you like, that never runs out. You can run the shower, the dishwasher AND the washing machine in our house with no observable delta-T. If you were extravagant you could shower for as long as you wanted to and never run out of hot water. We, living in a semiarid region where water is a concern are trying to be as responsible as a couple of suburbanite yuppies can be, so we don't do this, instead we use the monitor and on-demand hot water as a convenient on/off switch to save water when we shower because you definitely don't need to run water 100% or even really 50% of the time you're standing in there.

"fucking magic in the winter" quoted for truth, dude. There's nothing better than coming in frozen, muddy, soaked, etc... in the middle of cyclocross season and having instant hot water at your beck and call. Did I already say this? Let me just gloat a bit here. AS MUCH HOT WATER AS YOU WANT, AS HOT AS YOU WANT IT, AND IT NEVER RUNS OUT.

want to know what's even more magical? our electric bill dropped by OVER SIXTY BUCKS A MONTH as soon as we installed it. No more constantly holding temp on a giant hot water reservoir for 23 hours a day just for that 60 minutes tops you'll need it for something.

sixty bucks a month. That fancy expensive on-demand hot water heater that our friends shook their heads at for the extravagance of spending our money on has already paid for itself in the 3 years since we remodeled the house.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:18 PM on July 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


oh and we installed a heated slate floor in our bathroom too. So basically we win at pretty much everything related to bathrooms. (✿◠‿◠)
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:30 PM on July 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


When we had a large dog who liked to drink out of the toilet, said large dog was also able to lift the lid up with his nose, stick his head in, and drink with the lid resting on his head. He would then leave a big dribble of toilet water on the seat for the next hapless person to use the toilet. There was just no winning that battle.

FYI: Toilet Lid Lock
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:51 PM on July 23, 2014


Twenty years or so back, I was with a bunch of other backpackers on this fishing boat that had been repurposed as a slowboat-for-tourists to go from Flores to Lombok in Indonesia, with stops at Komodo and some other spots on the way, over the course of about 5 days and nights. Sleeping on deck under a canopy (there was nothing belowdecks but rocks for ballast and spiders and scary smells), live chickens diminishing in number by one after each meal tied to the roof of the wheelhouse, no lifejackets or anything: it was glorious, but radically unsafe in retrospect. I didn't care: I was young and immortal.

There wasn't anything like a toilet, either, of course, so you had to just head to the stern under a tarp, put your feet onto a couple of loosely-nailed planks, hang your butt over the rail, and let fly while underway, same as the crew did.

I actually remember it fondly, although I do recall feeling guilty after a particularly... volcanic elimination, looking down into the wake, and seeing some dolphins cruising alongside. I imagined they looked back up at me with an expression of mournful disdain.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:25 PM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Dip Flash: "The worst urinal I have ever encountered was a giant trough -- with people lined up on both sides facing each other."

I once used a trough, alone, that was a half circle about 60 inches across. Like one of those industrial site circular wash stations but only 12" high. Can't for even a second see using that if it was busy.

Monday, stony Monday: "Better temperature control is definitely something to consider in new construction and remodeling. It's not just comfort: too hot water can lead to scalding, which can be fatal for a child or an older person who is unable to get away."

It's pretty easy to add whole house scald prevention to any residence with it's own water heater. Less than a $100 if you DIY.
posted by Mitheral at 9:05 PM on July 23, 2014


FYI: Toilet Lid Lock

We also were in the midst of potty-training, so limiting access to the toilet was a no-go, just to be clear. There was no solution that would keep a 110 pound dog out of a toilet and keep it accessible to a toddler. It's all academic at this point, the kid is starting first grade and the dog went to a farm upstate last year.

Still miss that dog.
posted by ambrosia at 9:09 PM on July 23, 2014


"When you have little ones, securing the toilet seat in the down position is a no-brainer."

I've always interpreted "no brainer" to mean "even if you had no brain whatsoever, just a big empty cranium, you'd know this". Since it never ever once occurred to me to secure the toilet lid when either of my kids were toddlers, I take it that means I am even dumber than one entirely lacking a brain? How does that work? Do I make other people dumber just by standing by them, a kind of intellectual black hole?
posted by Bugbread at 9:38 PM on July 23, 2014


I just got back from a trip to the USA and I was horrified, horrified by US toilets. I had no idea before this trip that they were different from ours (Australia/NZ), but they are. The bowl is longer and ovaler, and filled so deep with water that you are scared when wiping that your hand might accidentally dip into the water. And things that go plop make a splash that hits your nethers. And then when you flush, not only is there usually only one flush button, but it sucks everything down in a sort of vortex, like an aeroplane toilet.

Ours are more circular, deeper, with less water in them, and they flush in a beautiful waterfall action. The only disadvantage to ours that I can see is that the sides need cleaning more frequently because they get smears on them in certain circumstances.
posted by lollusc at 12:00 AM on July 24, 2014


Using the public facilities in Salzburg was one of the highlights during my visit there.

The public restroom I used in Salzburg was decorated with fresh flowers. It was amazing.
posted by inertia at 7:31 AM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Was it a shelf toilet?
posted by Chrysostom at 7:51 AM on July 24, 2014


Wait. You people keep the shower running while you bathe? It is not normal to adjust it as you go? Like, get wet then turn it off to soap etc, then turn it on to rinse? I get dizzy, so often have a plastic bench in the shower and it is the bomb to sit down and thoughtfully scrub etc while bathing. But not with continuously running water, that sounds both wasteful and difficult to navigate - how does one apply soap if it is being continuously washed away?

As far as I know, most people in the US leave the water continuously running throughout the entire shower.

I know when I was a teenager I went on an exchange program to France and lived with a French family for a week. The director of the program drilled it into our heads repeatedly that we had to shower by getting wet, turning it off to soap up, back on to rinse, because if we didn't we would be considered extremely rude and wasteful and selfish.

I've been to France a couple of times, lived with different people, and always struggled to shower without spraying water all over the bathroom, almost all of the showers weren't totally enclosed by curtains or doors, and had a handheld shower head. You actually had to pay attention while the water was running, instead of zoning out in a glass enclosed box with the water continuously running like I was used to.
posted by inertia at 8:06 AM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


My favourite toilet-related factoid is that the Titanic did have autoflush toilets (flushed every 10 or 15 minutes) but only in third class, where the peasants might not know to do it.
posted by jeather at 9:20 AM on July 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is like at boarding school when I realised people were not joking about getting into a bath to wash. You shower and get clean, then you go into a bath. Otherwise you are marinating in your own diluted filth.

I have never heard of anyone taking a shower to take a bath. I've heard of rinsing off with clean, fresh water after a bath, though. Different strokes and so forth.

Was it a shelf toilet?

Oh God no, not the sh*t shelf! I can't tell you how happy I am to have a normal (albeit low-flow) toilet again.

What an informative thread this has been.
posted by Betty Tyranny at 11:52 AM on July 24, 2014


The director of the program drilled it into our heads repeatedly that we had to shower by getting wet, turning it off to soap up, back on to rinse, because if we didn't we would be considered extremely rude and wasteful and selfish.

Wow! This makes so much more sense now. I almost killed myself in a Paris hotel by accidentally spraying water all over the floor and then falling on my tailbone. I didn't understand that you were supposed to shut the water off and set the sprayer down on the floor every time you wanted to do anything. There wasn't anywhere to hang up the sprayer so I awkwardly held onto both it and the shampoo bottle while I squeezed it onto my other hand. Water went everywhere.

I was alone and had the do-not-disturb tag on the door. Who knows how long I would have been there.
posted by desjardins at 12:13 PM on July 24, 2014


Shelf toilets are glorious. Your own personally created Objet d'Art on a sterile, white platform for display and clinical examination. Perfect for photography. Stare or gather data for as long as you wish, or as long as social convention allows, and then with a quick pulse of water you can relegate the whole production to the memory hole. An ephemeral brush with elegance for you and you alone.

The three greatest things about my few years in Germany nearly 25 years ago:
  1. The variety, abundance, and judgement-free beering opportunities
  2. The fast, efficient, and affordable public transportation
  3. The inestimable shelf toilet
posted by Fezboy! at 12:43 PM on July 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have never heard of anyone taking a shower to take a bath.

I do this everytime I have a bath. I fill the bath via the shower head but I don't bother putting the plug in until I've rinsed off. This way I'm able to have a fairly long shower without feeling more guilty than filling the tub and I'm not soaking in my own filth.
posted by Mitheral at 1:24 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


yeah it's likely that the fact both of us lived in Europe for random times apiece has instilled both my husband and I with a distinctly non-US sense of water conservation because definitely running the water constantly to shower is considered yet another one of Those Things Americans Do That Are Rude / Wasteful / Loud / Incomprehensible, etc... by many Western Europeans - certainly this is also somewhat regional but it seemed the default at any rate.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:26 PM on July 24, 2014


> I have never in my life managed to drop a phone in a toilet. I've been blind drunk, sleep deprived, distracted; I even surf the web from the toilet1. Is this a male privilege thing, or am I missing something else

It's a male privilege thing, partly! Men's clothes have, in general, better pockets than women's do. Your phone is less likely to slip out while you're pulling up your pants. Which leads us to the second part: you're less likely to be pulling those pants up (having not dropped them to your ankles in the first place).
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:15 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


> Instant, on-demand hot water, as much as you like, that never runs out

Like this jobby I used in Cuba? That was mildly salty water coming out of there, for extra fanciness.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:18 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Tcitl: yeah, no. That's old-skool to be generous. Even the ones I had in my cheap apartments in Germany in the early '90s were a bit more, shall we say, upscale.

We installed a Rheem tankless, like so.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:17 PM on July 24, 2014


But just go into any German toilet and you’ll find a fixture unlike any other in the world. It has a cute little porcelain platform for the shit to fall on so you can inspect it before it whirls off into the watery abyss, and there is, in fact, no water in the toilet until you flush it. As a result German toilets have the strongest shit smell of any toilets anywhere. (I say this as a seasoned world traveler.) Then there’s the filthy rag of a public towel, hanging over a tiny wash basin which has only a cold water tap (for you to dribble cold water over your right hand-or whichever hand you happen to use).

I did quite a lot of thinking about toilets when I lived in Europe. (That was how crazy Germany made me.) I once even attempted a classification of people on the basis of toilets.

“The History of the World Through Toilets” (I optimistically wrote at the top of a clean page in my notebook) “an epic poem???”

British:

British toilet paper. A way of life. Coated. Refusing to absorb, soften, or bend (stiff upper lip). Often property of government. In the ultimate welfare state even the t.p. is printed with propaganda.

The British toilet as the last refuge of colonialism. Water rushing overhead like Victoria Falls, & you an explorer. The spray in your face. For one brief moment (as you flush) Britannia rules the waves again.

The pull chain is elegant. A bell cord in a stately home (open to the public, for pennies, on Sundays).

German:

German toilets observe class distinctions. In third-class carriages: rough brown paper. In first class: white paper. Called Spezial Krepp. (Requires no translation.) But the German toilet is unique for its little stage (all the world’s a) on which shit falls. This enables you to take a long look, choose among political candidates, and think of things to tell your analyst. Also good for diamond miners trying to smuggle out gems by bowel. German toilets are really the key to the horrors of the Third Reich. People who can build toilets like this are capable of anything.

Italian:

Sometimes you can read bits of Corriere della Sera before you wipe your ass on the news. But in general the toilets run swift here and the shit disappears long before you can leap up and turn around to admire it. Hence Italian art. Germans have their own shit to admire. Lacking this, Italians make sculptures and paintings.

French:

The old hotels in Paris with two Brobdingnagian iron footprints straddling a stinking hole. Orange trees planted in Versailles to cover cesspool smell. Il est d'efendu de faire pipi dans la chambre du Roi. Lights in Pans toilets which only go on when you turn the lock.

I somehow cannot make sense of French philosophy & literature vis `a vis the French approach to merde. The French are very abstract thinkers-but they could also produce a poet of particularity like Ponge, who writes an epic poem on soap. How does this connect with French toilets?

Japanese:

Squatting as a basic fact of life in the Orient. Toilet basin recessed in the floor. Flower arrangement behind. This has something to do with Zen. (Cf. Suzuki.)
Erica Jong, Fear of Flying
posted by jaguar at 10:48 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


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