A squat toilet (or squatting toilet) is a toilet used by squatting, rather than sitting. There are several types of squat toilets, but they all consist essentially of a 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” refers only to the expected defecation posture and not any other aspects of toilet technology, such as whether it is water flushed or not.
Squat toilets are used all over the world, but are particularly common in many Asian and African countries and those with a large proportion of people of Muslim or Hindu faith who also practise anal cleansing with water.
A squat toilet is also referred to as Indian toilet, Turkish toilet or French toilet. Squat toilets are sometimes called "eastern-style toilets" because they can be found in countries to the East of Europe, including Japan, China, India and the Middle East. Conversely, sitting toilets are often referred to as "western-style toilets".
Squat toilets are arranged at floor level which requires the individual to squat with bent knees. In contrast to a pedestal or a sitting toilet, the opening of the drain pipe is located at the ground level.
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.
Squat toilets are usually easier to clean than sitting toilets (pedestals), except that one has to bend down further if the squatting pan needs manual scrubbing. They can be cleaned by using a mop and hose, together with the rest of the floor space in the toilet room or cubicle.
Society and culture
There are two different attitudes towards squat toilets, largely dependent on what users are used to, or whether the toilet is at a public or private place: Some people regard squat toilets as more hygienic compared to sitting toilets. They might be easier to clean and there is no skin contact with the surface of the toilet seat. For that reason, some people perceive them as more hygienic, particularly for public toilets.
Some people regard sitting toilets as "more modern" than squat toilets. Sitting toilets have a lower risk of soiling clothing or shoes as urine is less likely to splash on bottom parts of trousers or shoes. Furthermore, sitting toilets are more convenient for people with disabilities and the elderly.
Squat toilets are used in public toilets, rather than household toilets, because they are perceived by some as easier to clean and more hygienic, therefore potentially more appropriate for general public use. For instance this is the case in parts of France, Italy, Greece, or the Balkans, where such toilets are somewhat common as public toilets, but not as private ones.
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.
Preferences by region
Much of the world's population use squat toilets, especially in rural areas.
- Squat toilets are common in many Asian countries, including Japan and Thailand. They are also common in Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, North Korea, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Myanmar, Iran and Taiwan.
- People in sub-Saharan countries, especially in rural areas, for example in 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.
- In Southern and Eastern Europe including parts of France, Greece, Italy, Balkans, and Russia they are common, especially in public restrooms.
- In Muslim or Hindu cultures the prevalence of squat toilets is generally quite high, as is the practice of anal cleansing with water.
People in places like Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, and Northern and Western Europe generally do not use squat toilets. In Germany squat toilets have not been used, but in France they were the norm throughout the early 20th century and are still commonplace as public toilets throughout the country.
Many areas in China have traditional squat toilets instead of sitting toilets, especially in public restrooms. Nevertheless, sitting toilets have become the norm in major urban areas and cities. Sitting toilets are on the one hand associated with development and modernization, and on the other hand with reduced hygiene and possible transmission of diseases.
Since the 1980s high-tech sitting toilets are emerging that replace traditional squat toilets, especially in urban areas. One of those toilets with the brand name "Washlet" includes a "posterior wash" before wiping and features heated toilet seats. However, many rural people have no experience with such high-tech toilets and need detailed instructions.
Typical toilet in urban Syria: Flush toilet squatting pan with hose on the left for anal cleansing.
Public squat toilet in Tsarskoe Selo, Russia
Squat toilet in a high-speed train on the Guangshen Line in China
Squat toilet aboard a Japanese Ginga train
Public toilet at Jozankei Hot Springs, Hokkaido, Japan
Squat toilet in Indonesia
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