How to use the Indian squat toilet

Tourists coming to India will have their first culture shock when they come out of the airport. First thing they will notice that India is one crowded country, too many people walking around, people wanting to talk to you or staring at you, some even offering you to take you to hotels and so on.

India for kids

The second shock comes in quite unexpected. As soon as you walk in a public toilet you will notice that toilets are different to what they are used to. You may not notice this at the hotel as most hotels will have western style toilets. Depending what part of the world you are coming from, you will notice that the Indian toilets are like a hole in the ground. It’s not exactly the same as the pit latrines or the makeshift squat-holes you will find in sub-Saharan Africa but close. But there you have it, these are the traditional latrines used in all over India. You will find these types of squat toilets in many places in India including trains. Unless you are travelling on the Maharaja express you are bound to encounter squat toilets.

You will be forgiven to think, how on earth people take their dump. First things first, don’t panic, it’s quite simple. Also known as the squat toilets, they are pretty simple to use. It’s used in many countries around the world including Japan.

How to use the Indian toilet

All you need to do is take your pants down, yes take them all down including your undergarments and hang them on the hook on the toilet door. Make sure they are hung properly otherwise they might drop and get wet or dirty. You can always pull them half down to the knees but there is a remote possibility of getting them wet even soiled if you haven’t done this before.

Then sit down on the ceramic commode in a squat position. This goes for both men and women. You will require the extensive use of muscles, hamstrings, tendons and ligaments. They will include hip flexors and extensors, knee flexors and extensors, lateral and medial hip rotators. It’s a good exercise, wouldn’t you say. It sure will make you fit in no time. Think of it like the gym lifting Olympic weights sitting across your shoulders in a squat position. Those are half squats, now just be brave and get down to your knees and perform the full squat. So you see, there are natural benefits of squatting as well. It might be uncomfortable in the beginning but believe me, it’s not that bad, and you might even like it. It’s all about practice. Anyway, take a dump. Try to aim in the hole.

"Half Squat"
Remember the half squat at the gym

Oh by the way, make sure before you couch down that there is a bucket of water in the bathroom otherwise you are out of luck. Indians like to use water rather than toilet paper and it is unlikely that you will find a bidet in a public location. Anyway, fill the mug of water and wash your backside with your left hand with multiple washes and make sure it’s thoroughly washed. It may seem strange at first washing your own backside with your hand, but that’s the way majority of the Indians do it. If this is your first time, you might even like it and discover something you never knew about yourself.

As a matter of fact, squatting is a good you. It has been suggested that those using the squat toilets are less likely to suffer from colon cancer. The rationale behind is that squatting empties the bowels completely while in the western styles, some crap remains in the colon and over a period of time it stiffens leading to cancer of the bowel (sorry no references).

Now get up, pull the flush chain, and wash your hands in the sink. It might be a little difficult to stand up from the squat or crouch. Often you might not find soap as health and hygienic education is poor in India. You should have checked this before you couched down. This is what I call tough luck.

If you did find soap or you’ve got your own, wash your hands thoroughly. You might need to wash several times to wash the faecal matter off your hands. Now you’re done. Put your pants back on and walk out and enjoy the rest of the day.

Don’t let cultural factors ruin your latrine use. I would like to hear about your experiences of your stay in India and your use of Indian toilets.

How to use a squat or the Indian toilet

41 thoughts on “How to use the Indian squat toilet”

  1. Thank you for the instructions Shalu and I think most people who travel have seen this kind of toilet before 🙂 Anyway, it’s fun to see the confused face of someone who hasn’t seen those before.

  2. Shalu. I have never seen a blog post like this before. I am sure that it has helped many tourists!

    What do people do who have physical disabilities? I don’t think that I could squat like that anymore!

    Good post.

  3. We used to have many of these back in my previous university. Many people in Africa grow up using this but tourists might easily confuse them for a urinal

  4. Never though of this. Now I understand why the university near me has ‘do not squat’ pictures on the toilet walls. Next to these are visual instructions on how to utilise the western style toilet facilities.

  5. This is the first article I’ve seen which suggests that you take your clothes completely off to use a squat toilet. I could never do that, as I’d feel too vulnerable. Maybe the lock on the door doesn’t work right, and someone may walk in on you…eek!

    As for self cleaning with water vs. toilet paper, I wouldn’t ever want my bare fingers to come into contact with fecal matter. Most of the people (Americans) I’ve ever talked to about using a latrine or a squat toilet are already grimacing at the thought of it. The thought of not having toilet paper would make them lose their minds! 🙂

    I used a squat toilet on my trip to India last year and observed that it takes a little more accuracy than a latrine. And I always brought my own tp. 🙂

  6. In any travel that you do, you should always pack a your hygienic resources because you can’t be too sure of the ones provided in your area. You should also have the knowledge of the hygiene and health issues in the said place so you would know where to have your hygienic rituals.

  7. This is so helpful Shalu. Those were excellent and much needed tips. I cannot believe how you laid it down so plain and simple.
    When I was healthy, it was okay for me. Now that I am partially handicapped, suddenly I have realized how basic toilets are hard to use.
    It is sad that the toilets in India are not friendly for handicapped or differently abled people.

    I do not agree with the remove all your clothes bit. You can use it without removing the undergarments entirely.

    Once when I traveled to a place to watch elephants, this government funded place had a public toilet, but first I couldn’t climb the step – hello, have you heard of a slope for people who cannot life their leg and second – they only had an India style version – what about me, I cannot squat…

    Anyways, things need to change and for the better. I am hopeful.

  8. This is an awesome guide on using the squat toilets! We also have them in Romania, but the difference is that we use toilet paper, so there won’t be any water bucket nearby. In poor areas of the country the toilet paper will most probably be missing, so you need to have the toilet paper with you, otherwise you’re in trouble 🙂

  9. Hello Shalu, this is very informative article, thank you!

    Here in my country we have these toilets like in India and we use water. For foreigners traveling, you should always be conscious to learn where you are going and if there is a western (high) toilet available.

    Purchase yourself a pocket tissue paper and there is a pocket soap/paper soap you can keep with you everytime.

    I hope this will save you in tough situations!

  10. Dear Shalu,

    We recently visited India and found the conditions of toilets generally very bad throughout India (Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, Munnar, Kochi). This was due not only to the squat toilets but also, to the use of water in the normal toilets. Very often the water is lying all over the floor and this makes it very unpleasant as one does not know if it is water or urine lying all over.

    We experienced this not only at airports, but also at some 5 star resorts and hotels. With all due respect to cultural traditions and age old toilet habits, I think it is time that squat toilets as well as the use of water should be done away with in public places in India. Water can be replaced by wet toilet paper which would serve the same purpose and is more hygienic. Just make sure that the toilets are adapted to flush the wet toilet paper down.

    • Hello Ysar
      I know exactly what you mean about the wetness of the floor in the toilets and bathrooms. As far as the wet floors is concerned, this could be due to the fact that Indians use water to wash their backside. In addition, there are taps that you can use to draw water in buckets. Hence some of them them might be spilling on the floor. Indians will not be able to adopt to western style toilets. Hence it will remain a fact of life for tourists visiting India.
      I am amazed and surprised by the conditions of the 5 star hotels. Which ones did you stay in?

    • @Jack So what makes you think that the hand that wiped the arse with toilet paper is cleaner? At least these wet washers use soap afterwards, but the TP wipers will just pull up the pants and walk away.

      FYI, in some areas in India, tribals are known to half-squat on the ground, and when the matter that be has been ejected, they wipe their arse with leaves from the shrubs around 😉

      Sorry Shalu to have reacted strongly.

      • I agree that Jack person was a jerk, (and stupid; you don’t shake left-handed) but do people really think those who use TP don’t wash their hands afterward? I assure you that’s not the case for the most part. Of course there are some gross people, but every child is taught to wash hands after using the toilet. I can see that using a squat toilet can be *as clean* as a sitting one, but I’ve never understood why some thought it was *cleaner*. If they mistakenly believe TP = no hand washing that would explain it, I guess. I prefer wet wipes, clean + less splashy, but if I ever get the chance to visit beautiful India I’ll learn to adjust. 🙂

  11. Hi
    When Chatsworth in South Africa was built ,these toilets were called low pan.I a ready for travel ,i used this toilet before

  12. But, people from other countries are aware of the Indian toilets. They have done their research before coming here. But a good attempt of explaining things. Thanks

  13. Same with most of the toilets in China. Had traveled to China for most part of 2003-2008 and this is the toilet situation at that time, not so much with big hotels though.

  14. we do have this in old schools in italy!
    well, not in the teachers’ bathrooms, they always have the “western toilet” that we call water (read vater) these “squat toilet” we call it turca (singular) and turche (plural, read turke) that is the same as the adjective Turkish. that’s why, as a kid, I thought they have something to do with turkey 😉
    when you use it, I would advice to cross your arms and put your hands over your knees, maybe even lay a bit forward; it’s a comfortable position.
    i would also advice not tu push down skirts but to gather the hem in your hands and keep it up (unless you wear a mini, push your skirt down is a guaranteed disaster).
    …for what i know, men do use it standing to pee

  15. Great read, Shalu! I’m a fan of Indian culture (and food of course!) and the idea behind squatting over the toilet is something I wish more Westerners understood. It’s so much healthier for your body!

    I hope you don’t mind but I linked to your site in a recent post of mine highlighting toilet stools and how they can help us westerns use the toilet better. You can find it at the Toiletops Blog site.

  16. Do men in India usually squat when they urinate, while using a squat toilet (as to reduce the likelihood of accidentally peeing over the floor)? This is more relevant when visiting someone’s private house… What is the custom in India?

  17. Goes to show what an idiot you are.. if any who wonder about an eastern toilet , should go look at a kid who is not yet potty trained. Toddlers sqaut to poop, its the most natural position for humans to poop. And its hygenic bcos you dont put you arse in a disgusting toilet and share it with a 100 other people. The so called stupid western toilet is another white man’s invention of promoting laziness

  18. I found this to be very interesting. I just wonder what do you do if you have someone who has no legs or who is paralyzed how do they use the restroom. If you have no legs you can at squat if you’re paralyzed you cannot squat. I would really like to know


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