FAQ: Toilets

Toilets? I thought this was about culture?

Yes, toilets may seem to be out of place but this topic of culture would not be complete without some discussion of sanitary facilities. If the only Mexico you know is the one you’ve seen in 5-star resorts, this may be an eye-opener for you.

Why are there no toilet seats?

In fact there are toilet seats, just not on every toilet. They are considered a luxury option and many public toilets do not have them. Neither do many newly constructed or rental homes. It’s not that they are not available, it’s just that squatting without touching is not considered abnormal. If your legs aren’t up for the task, you may need to buy seats or if in public, bring a cane or something to lean on.

What else is missing?

Ahhh… glad you asked. Toilet paper. Yes, that essential element of any bathroom is often missing from Mexican bathrooms. So, never leave home without it. We’re not talking about carrying a roll on you, but it’s wise to always have a small wad or a package of tissues in your pocket or purse. You never know when you might need it. In some public facilities there will be someone outside the door selling toilet paper for something like 5 pesos but you can’t always count on that either. Remember the old Boy (or Girl) Scout motto and be prepared.

Toilet paper – to flush or not to flush?

The age old question. You’ve possibly heard this and wondered why. If you’ve never ventured outside the 5-star resorts you may have never had a need to ask. Part of what your 5-star price pays for is the construction of expensive NOB style drainage and sewage treatment facilities but in normal construction this can’t be assumed. Some homes have small drain pipes that clog easily. Septic tanks are often built to very different standards, essentially just a bottomless pit, so filling it full of toilet paper quickly clogs it. And many homes have virtually no unoccupied land on which to place a septic tank so they just have a very small drainage pit. These are some of the reasons not to flush the toilet paper. So then what do you do with it? Well if there is a basket next to the toilet, always assume that’s what you’re meant to use. It’s not as icky as some would make it out to be; just fold neatly in half and place in the basket. Even in your own home, if you do this and empty the basket daily your septic system will last many many years without any kind of maintenance or pumping.

I used a ‘rural’ toilet while on a jungle tour. What’s the bucket of sawdust for?

In this case there is no running water and you are essentially using an outhouse. To keep it sanitary and keep the odors down, a bucket of sawdust is provided so that when you are done you can scoop a small amount and spread it in the hole.