If you come to China, you’re going to have to deal with something that many people dread – the squat toilet.
So in today’s article, I thought I’d share with you the questions I’m often asked about this unique hole-in-the-ground toilet.
Let’s jump straight in. Pun intended.
(And if you’re wondering, I have a sit-down toilet in China, thank you very much.)
Does China have toilets?
No, plumbing doesn’t exist in China and you have to wade through other people’s poop.
I’m kidding! Of course China has toilets.
If you’re traveling around the country, you’ll usually encounter the squat toilet in public places.
What is a squat toilet in China?
It’s a hole-in-the-ground porcelain or metal toilet, which you don’t sit on.
Instead, you squat over it and do your business with your butt fairly close to the ground.
Squat toilets are found all over China, from public places to businesses like restaurants.
However, in modern private homes people have a sit-down toilet. Hotels, airports, and many popular tourist attractions in China have sit-down toilets too.
How do you use a Chinese squat toilet?
You face the door, pull your pants down, and squat down while trying to keep your feet flat. Then, you let gravity do the rest.
If your leg muscles haven’t been stretched in a while, you might have problems holding your balance and body weight.
So, you can always put your hands on the wall beside you to help steady you.
Once you’ve done your business, you put the used toilet tissue in the waste basket, or flush it down if there’s no basket. That’s the general rule.
And, remember to BYO toilet paper!
Are squat toilets in China clean?
In all honesty, the public toilets in China can be putrid. Although many of them have attendants, in my experience the locals treat public toilets poorly.
The toilets that have waste baskets for your used toilet tissue can be really stinky, not to mention gross to look at while you’re in the cubicle.
Some tourist attractions have tourist star-rated toilets. Try to use those ones if you can as they’re usually sparkling.
I always save my business for home (or hotel if I’m traveling) and will only use a public squat toilet if I’m desperate.
Is toilet paper provided? And what about soap?
Nope, and nope.
You need to carry toilet tissue whenever you leave your home or hotel in China. It’s also worth bringing sanitizer as soap generally isn’t provided.
If it is provided, it’s often icky and watered down, and there’s usually no hot water to kill the germs either which is why having sanitizer is important.
Where do you put your belongings when you squat?
This is a really good question.
In most public squat toilets in China, there’s nowhere to put your belongings, let alone a hook on the back of the door.
Ask your travel buddy to hold onto your stuff or, if you have to, find a clean and safe place outside the cubicle to leave your stuff.
Do Chinese toilets flush?
They sure do.
There’s either a push-button flush or a foot pedal flush, which you don’t have to touch with your hand.
What do Chinese squat toilets look like?
They’re basically a porcelain or metal hole in the ground that flushes.
To see a bunch of photos, I recommend checking out blogger Gayle’s article on Chinese toilets. Only relatively clean toilets have been included, I promise!
Are there any Chinese toilets with no doors?
You may have heard the horror stories about Chinese toilets with no doors.
Don’t stress – you’ll probably never have to use one unless you’re in the middle of a remote area. Check out these rural Chinese toilets if you’re game!
I spotted them in Xinjiang, western China.
You can also still find a handful in Beijing’s famous hutongs (back alleys), though there are plans to relace them all soon.
For more on Beijing’s toilets without stalls, check out this article and photo on Taiwan News.
One of the good things about public toilets in China is that they can be found everywhere, so if a particular loo doesn’t take your fancy, try another one a few blocks away or use the facilities at a fast-food restaurant.
Who invented the Chinese toilet?
Historians aren’t sure who invented the first toilet.
According to Live Science, the oldest toilets on record are simple pits lined with hollow ceramic cylinders. These date back to about 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia.
The oldest known toilet in China is a 2,400-year-old flush toilet, recently unearthed by archaeologists in Shaanxi province.
The ancient loo – consisting of a bowl and pipes leading to an outdoor pit – was found in the ruins of the palace in Yueyang City, an archaeological site in Xi’an.
It’s thought to be a luxury object used by high-ranking officials during the early years of China’s first unified empire.
But the toilet didn’t flush automatically. Servants poured water into the bowl after each use.
Why are there squat toilets in China?
They exist for hygiene reasons.
Squat toilets are said to be cleaner because your body doesn’t touch the toilet. It’s only your shoes that touch the surrounding area of the toilet, which is usually tile.
The Chinese like to take off their shoes when entering the home, which is why they don’t seem to mind if their shoes get a little grotty.
What kinds of toilets are in China?
You’ll only find two kinds – the squat toilet and the sit-down toilet.
Hotels have sit-down toilets, international airports offer both kinds, some major tourist attractions have both kinds, while everywhere else you’ll find the squatty potty.
I hope I’ve been able to answer your questions about the good old squat toilet in China. If not, fire away in the comments below.
For more information about this intriguing topic, read the 11 things you must know about Chinese toilets.
FAQ about the squat toilet in China
Are there squat toilets in China?
There sure are. Millions and millions. Many private homes have sit-down toilets, but in all public places and businesses (like restaurants) you’ll find squat toilets.
What countries use squat toilets?
Many countries in Asia (including China, India, Thailand and Indonesia), as well as countries in Africa (e.g. Egypt) and the Middle East (e.g. Iran) have squat toilets. There’s often a variety of different toilet styles and types in each country depending on where you go.
Does China still use squat toilets?
It sure does, and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon. Squat toilets have been used in China for centuries. However, in modern private homes there are sit-down toilets.