Why Do You Animals Flush The Toilet With Your Feet?

People are always saying things on the Internet all the time. But they are such teases. We like details. So we have to ask.

Kevin Roose! So what happened here?

Well, someone posted this survey that was claiming that two-thirds of Americans flush public toilets with their feet. And that just did not seem correct to me. I had never foot-flushed in a public bathroom, nor had I heard of anyone else foot-flushing. So reading that story was like being told that two-thirds of Americans were obsessed with some sci-fi series I’d never known existed. One third? Maybe that could fly under my radar. But two-thirds is a lot of people. So I’m thinking, okay, maybe two-thirds of Americans have foot-flushed at some point in their lives. That seems possible. But no, the survey didn’t say “once flushed a toilet with their feet.” It was a generalist claim. Two-thirds of people flush with their feet habitually. And so I called bullshit.

And I guess I was expecting some “LOL, no way” sympathizer tweets or something? But that did not happen at all. Apparently, a lot of people who follow me on Twitter do flush with their feet! So I got some, “Ew, really?” tweets, and some “Hope I never shake your hand!” tweets, and the whole thing was so disorienting—again, the sci-fi series—that I just had to make sure I wasn’t being made the subject of a mass prank.

Does the realization that lots and lots of people flush public toilets with their feet make you think less of those people, and will it influence the way you flush going forward?

Yes! It makes me think less of anyone who even considers doing this. I understand germaphobia (even though I think it has given us all weak little immune systems compared to our dirt-eating grandparents). I get that public restrooms are gross. And I often will do stuff when I’m in one like reaching for the bathroom doorknob with a paper towel, or turning the handle with my pinky so as not to dirty the rest of my hand. I’m not a monster. But the practice of foot-flushing seems totally impractical in every way. For starters, you press the toilet handle before you wash your hands. (Or at least I do. Maybe two-thirds of Americans don’t!) Anyway, if you’re washing your hands immediately after you exit the stall, what does it matter whether you touch the handle or not? Are people not as thorough at hand-washing as I am? Do people, like, lick their fingers on the way to the sink? I don’t get it. And I will not bow to this insane, nonsensical practice unless someone gives me a good reason. We are a nation of proud and resilient people—not a nation so afraid of a few (soon-to-be-killed!) germs that we’re reduced to karate-kicking little metal bars every day.

Lesson learned (if any)?

Bathroom habits are one of the last great social dark spots. Basically everything else in life is a learned behavior. Even if you’ve never had sex, for example, you know what it’s supposed to look like, thanks to movies and whatnot. But nobody teaches you how to go to the bathroom. And so we all have our routines, and we don’t know any differently, and we all persist in our ignorance until someone (the Bradley Corporation, in this case) takes a survey and tells us who the freaks are. I imagine there are a few other social phenomena like this, but not many.

Just one more thing.
I will never again look at the bottom of a shoe the same way.

Matthew J. X. Malady is a writer and editor in New York.