A squat toilet (also known as a squatting toilet, Indian toilet or Turkish toilet) is a toilet used by squatting, rather than sitting. There are several types of squat toilets, but they all consist essentially of toilet pan or bowl at floor level. Such a toilet pan is also called a "squatting pan". The only exception is a "pedestal" squat toilet, which is of the same height as a sitting toilet. It is in theory also possible to squat over sitting toilets, but this requires extra care to prevent accidents as they are not designed for squatting.
A squat toilet may use a water seal and therefore be a flush toilet, or it can be without a water seal and therefore be a dry toilet. The term "squat" only refers to the defecation posture and not any other aspects of toilet technology, such as whether it is water flushed or not.
Squat toilets are fixed in-ground commodes which require the individual to squat on bent knees. In contrary to a pedestal or a sitting toilet the opening level is located with the ground. Squat toilets are sometimes called "eastern style toilets" because they can be found in various countries including Japan, China and the Middle East. In contrast, sitting toilets are often referred to as "western style toilets".
Squatting slabs can be made of porcelain (ceramic), stainless steel, fibreglass, or in the case of low-cost versions in developing countries, with concrete, ferrocement, plastic, or wood covered with linoleum. Slabs can also be made of wood (timber), but need to be treated with preservatives, such as paint or linoleum, to prevent rotting and to enable thorough cleaning of the squatting slab.
The standing surface of the squatting pan should be kept clean and dry in order to prevent disease transmission and to limit odors. Squat toilets can be considered as more easy to clean compared to sitting toilets since there is no toilet seat that has to be cleaned additionally.
Society and culture
Cultural preferences by region
Much of the world's population use squat toilets: Squat toilets are common in many Asian countries including Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China and Thailand. People in sub-Saharan countries, especially in rural areas, like Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda use squat toilets as well. Countries in the Middle East and in Northern Africa seem to often have both types of toilets, sitting and squatting. The presence of squat toilets in urban areas of Latin America seems to be rather low. People in countries like Australia, New Zealand and Northern and Western Europe generally do not use squat toilets. In Germany squat toilets have not been used whereas in France, for example, they were the norm throughout the early twentieth century. In Southern and Eastern Europe including parts of France, Greece, Italy, and the Balkans they are still in use, especially in public restrooms. Squat toilets generally are more common in rural areas compared to urban ones.
The majority of urban residents in China prefer traditional squat toilets over sitting toilets. Nevertheless sitting toilets have become the norm in Shanghai and they are increasingly used in Bejing. Sitting toilets are on the one hand associated with development and modernization, on the other hand with disease.
Since the 1980's high-tech sitting toilets are emerging that replace traditional squat toilets, especially in urban areas. One of those toilets with the brand name "Washlet" eliminates the need for toilet paper through a "posterior wash" and features heated toilet seats. However, many rural people have no experience with such high-tech toilets and need detailed instructions.
Perceptions and trends
Some people regard squat toilets as more hygienic compared to sitting toilets because they are more easy to clean and there is no skin contact with the surface of the toilet seat. That is one reason why squat toilets are more common in public places than in households in some countries. On the other hand sitting toilets are perceived by many people to be more modern, therefore they can represent a certain status. Additionally, sitting toilets are more convenient for people with disabilities.
A trend towards more sitting toilets in countries that were traditionally using squat toilets can be observed in some urban and more affluent areas, in areas with new buildings (as well as hotels and airports) or in tourist regions.
Roadside squat toilet near Toulouse, France
Public toilet at Jozankei Hot Springs, Hokkaido, Japan
Squat toilet in a high-speed train on the Guangshen Line in China
Squat toilet in Hong Kong
Public squat toilet in Hong Kong
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