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I was recently in Italy, and I noticed all public toilets had no seat. This happened around Rome and Tivoli mainly restaurants and bars, and also mid-range ones that had comfortable seating and were very nicely furnished. However, their toilet bowls are as tall as other northern European/American toilets and if I try to squat I would end up sitting in a dirty and cold ceramic rim (I wish they had squat toilets, it would make more sense).
Am I allowed to poop in such a toilet or are they designed for peeing only? If they are also for pooping what is the best way of doing it?

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    The dreaded "we're all adults here" there returns!
    – phoog
    Dec 18, 2023 at 19:42
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    Most likely the seat was removed by vandals (or by staff to avoid the inevitable).
    – WGroleau
    Dec 18, 2023 at 19:49
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    This usually ends up with a ton or two of toilet paper.
    – jcaron
    Dec 18, 2023 at 21:35
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    It's debatable how 'dirty' a rim can be considered to be. At least one expert considers toilet seats in a domestic environment to represent a 'gold standard' of cleanliness - bbc.com/news/magazine-20324304. Urine is generally very clean other than in rare cases where someone who has urinated has specific diseases, and even then, basic handwashing hygiene would mostly mitigate any direct hand contact with the rim. Also it's more likely for faeces to be present on a toilet seat than a rim since a toilet seat presents a broader surface for faeces to potentially come into contact with. Dec 19, 2023 at 5:09
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    @ChrisHalcrow whatever the state of urine when it comes out, it is a skin irritant and will become more so as its components decompose into ammonia. "Also, it's more likely for faeces to be present on a toilet seat than a rim since a toilet seat presents a broader surface for faeces to potentially come into contact with": the toilet in question has no seat.
    – phoog
    Dec 19, 2023 at 11:19

4 Answers 4

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The canonical way is to wipe the rim thoroughly and then cover it with toilet paper. You sit down on that. Some squeamish persons are known to do that even if there is a proper seat. Some contact with the rim is typically unavoidable because, of course, the paper tends to shift and expose the ceramic. The contact will be physically unpleasant because the ceramic feels cold. It may also be mentally unpleasant because of the vivid imagination of all the buggy bugs now being transferred to your skin.

But rest assured that the buggy bugs already there will either welcome them if they are nice, or take care of them if not.

All told, not touching the ceramic is mostly a cultural issue. We have all been conditioned as little children to not touch the toilet bowl, but that was at a time when we had our fingers in our orifices all the time, and probably the hand-washing conditioning was not completed yet. By now, hopefully, we have moved out of that developmental phase, so no damage done.

"Oh, just one more thing:" Works not only in Italy.

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Squatting ... dirty toilets ...

Please do not do the squatting with your feet on the ceramic rim. It holds strong until the time it does not hold your weight. There are anecdotally reports of deaths and at least one entry of serious scientific literature about serious injuries.

The good useless custom we acquired with Coronavirus, i.e. to have hand sanitizers with us may actually be an helpful thing in travelling times: just use a ton of paper and some alcohol and then you can squat/seat on the ceramic rim. Enjoy!

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  • Did you mean "alcohol" instead of "alcool"? I think the latter is in another language.
    – Clockwork
    Dec 19, 2023 at 16:53
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    @Clockwork just the italian spelling ;) , thnaks.
    – EarlGrey
    Dec 19, 2023 at 17:04
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    Should be all-cool, maybe.
    – DonQuiKong
    Dec 20, 2023 at 9:55
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    @EarlGrey did you mean "thanks" instead of "thnaks"? Just kidding, just kidding :)
    – WoJ
    Dec 21, 2023 at 18:01
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You have a few options:

  • Sit down on the ceramic rim.
  • Hover over the loo and hope you aim right.
  • Bring something with you to clean and/or cover the rim.
  • Or hold it till you are in a place where you feel better about sitting down.

There are also people who stand on the rim and squat there but that is risky for falling, higher risk of damage to the toilet. And a high risk of aiming to far back. While sometimes done it is not advised to use this method.

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    And of course, you have a roll of paper in the day pack. Dec 18, 2023 at 22:20
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    These seems all awful options. What do you usually do? I wonder why Italians don't just use squat toilets.
    – André
    Dec 18, 2023 at 23:00
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    @André I would just sit on the ceramic. It's not that much worse than sitting on the toilet seat, is it?
    – gerrit
    Dec 19, 2023 at 10:08
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    Reg. not advising the "stand on the rim": a part from the egoistic stand "it may be dirty where one may seat/hover, so I make it definitely dirty with my shoes", one should remember that broken ceramic/porcelain can easily cut through skin and blood vessels like a sharp blade.
    – EarlGrey
    Dec 19, 2023 at 10:53
  • @EarlGrey Indeed, there are some very graphic photos of such injuries. Perhaps a small chance but the potential consequences are severe. Dec 19, 2023 at 13:30
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WRT "Dirty and cold" toilet seat: These are two separate issues.

1. Dirty The porcelain is usually glazed--that is, covered with a thin layer of glass. A smooth glass surface is a fine place for bacteria to grow given the right conditions, but also among the easiest to clean. As other answers have suggested, you can carry some disinfectant (alcohol or diluted chlorine-based don't overdose!) and a paper towel to apply. This way you will be in no more danger of infection than with a toilet seat.

2. Cold This may take a bit of getting used to, but it is not at all dangerous. Unless it has actual ice on it, that is, like this (minus the seat):

picture of toilet with icicles

Then you should chip the ice off, and use some sort of thermal insulation between your skin and the toilet, to avoid being frozen tight.

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