How to Use a Toilet

how-to-use-a-toilet.jpgWe live in a world of excessive information, where every single product, no matter how simple, has instructions (place this toothbrush in your mouth), warnings (do not place this toothbrush in your neighbour’s mouth) and a “help line” to call (Yes, hello, can you tell me something interesting about my toothbrush please?)

However there are two things, things we use every day of our lives, that come with absolutely no instructions whatsoever. I’m talking, of course, about toilets and toilet paper.

Where are the informational videos, the “how-to” books, the evening courses? Are we born knowing how to use triple-ply, or do we get secret training during gym class, or learn from the older boys or from farm animals?

Well now the ignorance will come to an end with this definitive guide to toilet use. So wipe down the plastic ring, pull your undies way past your knees, and let’s get defecating!

1) The reading material. Now when I feel a certain pressing need, the first thing I do is to find something to read. I will hop from foot to foot in agony while scanning the bookshelf for something light, simple and distracting. A great toilet writer, I find, is Bill Bryson. So let’s open up Mr. Bryson’s “Notes From A Small Country” and away we go!

2) Pick a toilet. At home this tends to be no problem but in public it can be troublesome. The public toilet checklist has a few points to consider:

  • Hook on the wall to keep bag or jacket faeces-free – check!
  • Less than one meter of space under the door – check!
  • A seat devoid of unidentified stains or piddle – check!
  • Distracting ambient noises to hide farting or grunting – check!

3) In a quiet toilet, you may be worried by your “splashing” or “plopping” noises. A good way to minimise “plop” is to tear off some paper and drop it in the bowl before your business begins. This creates a handy “silencer” and people passing by will wonder what you are up to in such exquisite silence.

4) Also a quiet toilet may be a little too quiet to allow you to apply the necessary pressure. Some good “masking” tips here are:

  • Stick fingers in ear and make “hmmmmm” noise
  • Turn on water as covering fire
  • Flush repeatedly and hope for noisy re-fill
  • Cough or clear throat in a very loud and obvious manner

5) So then, your flank is covered and your business is underway. Good for you! However, if there is a rapid build-up of solid matter in the bowl, you will get a sudden and powerful stink, not so good if you are at home or in the office! A good trick here is the supplementary flush—getting rid of the first batch, and its smell, as quickly as possible, and then settling down to enjoy the rest of the process. Nobody will care if you flush a few times, and the next person in will thank you.

6) Now the last of the brownies have emerged, and its time to think about the wiping. First, though, you will need to give a little shake, to dislodge any clingers. Then reach for the toilet paper and tear off as many sheets as you think you require.

hello_kitty_toilet.jpgNote: there are many schools of toilet-paper use. Some people go through a roll of the stuff per day, whereas others split the two-ply paper in two thinner sheets to stretch it out until the summer. I generally take 2 or 3 sheets at once, so lets deal with this method first.

Simply fold the sheets once or twice to make a larger, thicker sheet that covers the front of the hand. Then apply it to the area in question with a quick wipe, applying just a little pressure.

Those who prefer many sheets might take the “wraparound” method, which is simply to wrap the entire hand with paper, front and back. This is very wasteful, especially in these resource-troubled times, although you can redeem yourself by using both the back and the front of the hand before dropping the paper in.

There is also the “ball” method, which consists of ripping off as many squares as you can fit in your hand and crushing them into a fat, bulging ball. Not a very efficient way to wipe, and shame on you if you use it!

If you have a water source nearby, you can dab some water on the paper to improve the cleaning effect. But beware, not too much or you risk a push-through (see point 8)!

7) An interesting question emerges about the wiping process – should one wipe towards the front or towards the back? Ladies tend to avoid wiping forward as it can cause some unspecified disease, but I find that the forward wipe gives a good deal more effect. May I suggest that the men-folk wipe back a few times, and then finish off with a forward wipe, with a spot of water for that all-day fresh feeling!

8) Push-through can happen to the best of us, and nothing raises a shiver like a sudden finger poking where it should not poke. But breath deep, and do not panic, you can recover the situation! Finish the wiping process with a “wraparound” and keep the offending finger covered until you can get to a source of soap. Do not, under any circumstances, pick your nose at this point!

Apply a thick layer of soap to the finger and leave it sit for a minute, without any water. Then rub it in well with a paper towel and rinse. There may be a slight, lingering odour but as long as you avoid shaking hands for the next hour or so, nobody will be any the wiser.

9) It happens that you begin the process and then find that no paper is available. There are several things you can do in this situation, in ascending degree of disgustingness.

First check for paper towels in the vicinity; they are coarse and sandpaper-like but will do in a pinch. If there are none then check carefully through your bag and pockets for napkins or tissues. If this comes up blank, try a few sheets of paper from a notebook or paperback – old school, but does the job! If this fails, then you are in a bind! You can either choose to sit there until you air-dry (never guaranteed) or else choose an item of clothing you could do without and tear it into strips. I find that socks are a good option – soft, easy to tear and easily replaced!

10) Now it’s time to flush. This should be simple enough, but once in a while you will get a floater. This is the determined little chap who will just not go under, popping up over and over like Jaques Costeau. A floater cannot be flushed in the conventional way, and must be dealt with carefully. Remember: a floater in somebody else’s house can end a relationship as sure as a dick on the dinner table!

So here’s what to do: tear off a few sheets of paper and drop them carefully over the floater. Give them a minute to soak in, and then flush once more. The floater, with its extra ballast, should now go under without any further struggle.

If this fails you will have to dismantle the floater with the toilet brush and flush down the pieces. And if this fails, all you can do is drop in enough paper to hide the little guy, and hope the next customer does not notice.

11) Sometimes the flush will not work. This always happens at parties, especially when a queue is building and you have just had the chilli con carne. But panic not, you can always perform that most ancient and complex of rituals: the manual flush!

Simply take the biggest container you can find and fill it up with water – rubbish bins are recommended, but even a plastic bag will do. Now pour as much of the water as quickly as you can into the bowl, making a big “schlunk” noise. Now repeat until the little monsters have left the building! And, as a bonus, you can have a chuckle by telling the next person in line that the flush is out, and watch their face squirm in anguish.

12) Now we have left the area of actual toilet use and are entering the realm of etiquette. You will not want to make the next toilet guest uncomfortable, and nothing does this more effectively that skid-marks. You know what I’m talking about – those long underwater streaks that a skilled forensic scientist could use to work out the gas content of what you had for dinner.

In short: do not leave any skiddies! There should be no trace of your passing, so grab that toilet brush and give it the old one-two.

Toilet brushes can be troublesome. First there is that small pool of liquid that they sit in, otherwise known as “poo soup”. Then there is the fear that bits of fecal material will climb up the brush, across your arm and do a little dance on your tongue. Then there is the problem of “flick” when you extract the brush and its worrying, flexible prongs. But no matter – if you skid, you must brush!

I generally give the skid a good old scrubbing and then flush. Just before the flush is done, I extract the brush and swirl it in the flushing water, making it hopefully a bit cleaner, and then replace it for the next brave soldier.

If there is no brush, you are in trouble. A determined stream of pee can sometimes wear down a skid-mark, but if this fails you can make a temporary brush by wrapping a pen or other long object in a tight wad of toilet paper.

Only the bravest among us will actually put their hand in the water and scrub manually, but if you want your place in heaven then sometimes this must be done. Just remember to wash that hand well afterwards, ok?

13) And finally, everything is done and clean and sparkling, but don’t go just yet! There is still the problem of “linger”, that troubling scent in the air that tells the next person in that you have some bad intestinal disease.

So open the window, if there is one, and fan the air like a madman to circulate it out. If there is some air freshener, for God’s sake spray it now! Otherwise you will have to poke around in the bathroom cabinets for something scented that you can spray – deodorant, perfume, even hairspray. Failing this, you could try mouthwash, sprinkled around in a hearty manner or else toothpaste smeared liberally around the walls.

If there is absolutely nothing to be done, then you have to brave it out. Simply exit the bathroom, close the door theatrically, wave a hand in the air and grin insanely while you say “Listen friend, do not go in there!” And then you leg it as fast as you can to the other end of the party and put a bag on your head.

So there you have it, a lifetime of toilet tips condensed into one easy-to-use guide. Now get out there, eat something dark and spicy, and make us all proud!

/ paddy


71 thoughts on “How to Use a Toilet

  1. Oh good lord, that’s hilarious. I feel so much better about how often I’ve written about toilet rules now that I’ve seen you write at this length. Excellent work!

  2. My goodness! You’ve quite forgotten the all-important step 11a: how to use the toilet brush. Leaving skid-marks in the pan ranks right up there with the floater, especially here in Sweden.

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to fail you on this one: do it again, and get it right next time!

  3. Mr Shocked: I hang my head in shame. But never fear, see the all-imroved “How to Use a Toilet” with a shiny new chapter 12 – Skid Marks!

  4. Virtuality: Thank you for your kind support in the toilet area. Feel free to add to Christmas Card, but please send image of said card! Will make me happy.

  5. Paddy,

    Great instructions. I need to create a “Standard Operating Procedure” for the toilet users at our plant in Melbourne Australia. (most of our factory workers are foreigners who, it seems, do not know how to use a toilet.) Do you mind if I use some of your material?


  6. Errol Peterson: You mean foreigners like me, or foreigners like you? Because we’re all foreigners somewhere. But sure, fire away! Just put up a credit somewhere on the page and make me happy.

  7. this is brillo and hilarious. i take it your little lego man has his pipes BLOCKED up!!

  8. Hi Paddy,
    I’m really very thankful for u r toilet artical, you know i’m basically from small village from india, i had no experience about modern toilets but some how i manged, but always had confusion how to use stuff inside the toilet. Now your artical made me comfortable. thanks a lot

  9. any ideas how I can contact Errol Peterson? I also need to create a “Standard Operating Procedure” for the toilet users at work.

  10. HAHAHAHAHA, I do not remember the last time I laughed so much!
    Spread it like a virus, everyone has to be aware of this amazing collection of essential rules!

  11. Paddy, that is great. Perfect instructions. Now all that is needed are little drawings showing each point in action. For the smell a tip: just light a match (from a matchbook, but in our times that may be hard to come by) and blow it out right away. That will cover the smell. Learned something new about the different ways to handle the t-paper. But you know that even t-paper has different sizes in different countries.

  12. thankyou paddy!! haha i’m in hysterics atm. that is classic! i shall be spreadng it!!
    absolutely smashing!!!!! =D
    well done! haha

  13. Hey Paddy,

    An article on lavatory use in airplane would be of greeat help..pls, do write on how to use a toilet in an airplane…write it in detail, like, right from how to wipe or wash etc.


  14. hilarious! Thanks for the laugh :D
    One good thing about toilets in Sweden is that they are often separate cubicals. This seems to solve a lot of potentially embarrassing situations!

  15. How to the toilt (WC).I have doubt abot seat pad .when we use the toilet ,we will sit on the seat pad or open and sit.please send me the correct answer.

  16. Awesome.

    As reading material I can recommend encyclopedias. I always keep one next to the toilet at home to prevent searching in urgent matters. And each visit I learned about one more serial killer or comic figure or whatever the topic. The articles are usually short enough for short stays, so when finished I don’t have to stop in the middle of something interesting or stay longer just to finish my reading; and in case of longer visits … well, proceed with the next article and then the next.

      • Don’t take a general one. There are those who are just about one topic and they are not so heavy.

        Something else for point 13: my mom uses matches for killing unpleasant toilet odor. Just light one match and chemistry (or is it physics) is doing the rest.

  17. Excellent article. Did you address the problem of leaving post-wipe “granola” on the toilet seat? Men are the typical culprits. It can be an irritating problem for the next in line, and is most troubling to room mates or other house guests.

  18. Oh yeah, baby. #3 and actually has a side effect that less of that brown gooey substance is left as skid marks, assuming you spread the paper liberally.

  19. Gr8 work….
    You’ve done your job for the world man..
    and saved my world.

    Pls go on with more & more “embarrassing to wright” articles.

    p.s. you should try writing comedy scripts. think u’ll be good at it.

  20. i am working in an construction site. i am fed up .the men here doesnt know how to flush a toilet,neither how to pot in toilet paper in the toilets. also when they unirate they dont know how to open the sink. please advise me how to cope with this suitation. regards debbie schneider tobago

  21. I myself prefer starting with the “pinch” method when wiping. This involves pressing the paper lightly on the front and back of the opening and drawing the fingers together at the same time. Very successful at removing any remaining substance before getting down to the actual wiping. I’ve considered patenting it, but am hindered with the practicalities of collecting royalties.
    Here in Mother Sweden, on another toilet related note, I am completely baffled by the number of times I have used the toilet after a Swedish woman, to find that they have left the toilet seat up, a la man style. It’s almost like the ultimate equality fuck you, I can leave the seat up too. Although I never ever ever leave the seat up, or the lid up. The proper way to leave a toilet is with the lid down. That way you have more chances of not having to rest your mobile phone in a pile of disinfecting rice for a week.

  22. Reading about the “pinch method” while eating breakfast – bad idea…

    Also, I am totally baffled as to why anyone cares about toilet seats and their orientation. Is it that hard to move it up or down? It takes like two seconds. Less time than locking the door. How often are people using toilets so that this becomes a massive problem for them?

  23. For women there is the added awkwardness of hovering over public toilet seats, which involves tensing one’s thigh muscles in order to sustain hovering, while at the same time relaxing enough in order to start the flow of urine. It’s a delicate balance, I tell you.

    I used to be hoverer but I these days I don’t unless there is visible residue on the toilet seat. It’s been proven that toilet seats (even public ones) are actually pretty clean, so there’s no reason not to sit right down and be comfortable.

    Your thighs won’t get as much of a workout, though.

  24. Ah, I sit right down, unless as you say there is visible residue. However I usually clean the whole stall pretty well also, because ya know, I don’t want the next person to think I’m a pig. That is if the next person happens to see that it was me, because really, when I go to those public washrooms, I don’t want to know who was in before me. Just don’t want to know.

  25. This is really fascinating, You are an excessively professional blogger.

    I’ve joined your rss feed and stay up for searching for more of your excellent post. Additionally, I have shared your web site in my social networks

  26. After a lot of research on the best rated toilets per American standards, I got one which has a centre piece drain. It was relatively easy to install as I installed it by myself. It has bronze screws with plastic armature and a gritty black gasket.

    I must say that it has been a wonderful decision and I am glad I made one.


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