Friday, October 4th, 2013

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.

29 Comments / Post A Comment

scrooge (#2,697)

I flush with my foot (or, more accurately, shoe on my foot). So I guess you've got all the germs from my sole on your hands… sorry.

Mutton (#249,612)

I'll cop to it. But it's not the germs on my hand, it's the spray. Public toilets flush with a lot of splash. I've been hit with droplets from vigorous flushes; I am NOT interested in getting that on my face as I lean over to reach the handle. Sorry if my shoe germs make you feel you have to wash your hands more thoroughly! Maybe you should wash your face too! (Shudders)

SkinnyNerd (#224,784)

If only we could shake other people's hands with our shoes.

If no one teaches you how to go to the bathroom, then what was all that potty training about?

It's it's yellow, let it mellow…

Trilby (#3,897)

Why does it offend you that people flush with their shoes? I do it and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I thought everyone did.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

When I learned that foot-flushing was a thing, or more precisely that Southern women flush their leavings away with the toes of their shod feet, I asked my sister if it could possibly be true, not believing it. Of course we do, she said: "Just think of all the feet that have been on that handle!"

BadUncle (#153)

Always with your foot. Unless you're barefoot, in which case, why the fuck are you in a public restroom, you pig??

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

On my (like) second day in United States we had this meeting at my (all male, community toilets and showers) college dorm in which the RA complained that we are not flushing. He said he knows that some people may be grossed out by the idea of using their hands, so he told us that we can use our feet. I still remember his exact words "You can't get AIDS through your feet. Especially if you are wearing shoes." He then put his hands around his mouth and yelled: USE YOUR FEET! From that point on, the toilet situation improved significantly.

My point is: I'm guessing that my broke immigrant ass and Kevin Rose didn't attend the same college (and probably don't frequent the same public spaces these days either).

I'm so grateful this was posted! I thought I was alone in using my foot to flush in public lavatories. Do you know how guilty and ashamed and alone I felt? One time I even pulled a thigh muscle (because yes, I do it with those high urinals as well), and I felt like God was punishing me.

Pound of Salt (#15,166)

These will be the last great debates of the Western world. Over or under, wadded or folded, hand or foot.

fabel (#201,544)

I flush with my foot ALWAYS, but that's also the only germ-o-phone habit I have. Like, I touch handrails in subway stations. But I will always flush with my foot.

RachelTheC (#187,198)

i foot flush because you never know if that dive bar bathroom is out of soap or not. if i cant guarantee an adequate wash of hands, why further compromise them with poop-splash particulate?

Donkey_Cabbages (#249,795)

I honestly thought that was what that long handle was _for_. I even refer to is as the "kick handle." If it was meant for hands, why not make it a little button or smaller handle higher on the wall? (those are real. I have seen them). Kick handles appear to be designed for shoes, and I will happily remain in the foot flushing majority.

Tim Shundo@facebook (#249,796)

So much defense! I'm far from a germaphobe but I don't like touching stuff near a toilet. I don't expect someone to be touching my butt later but that doesn't mean I'm not gonna use a paper cover thing when I sit down on a toilet.

If the toilet is lower and it's one of those "all-direction" handles I tap it with my foot. If I'm at a urinal and the handle is near eye level I'll use my hand. It's not that big of a deal and hardly an indication of someone not "living a little!"

There's germophobia and there's ritualistic germophobia. One is a fear of germs, the other is a fear of ritualistic "germs." Toilet peripherals are way higher up the ritualistic pollution ladder than subway poles. Both, it should be noted, are free to be irrational and/or inconsistent as the enjoyer sees fit.

Basically don't fucking try to boss us around, you filthy, cack-handed freak.

themnemosyne (#241,230)

I don't…how do you…what? That's insane. Almost as insane as the people who spend five minutes industriously laying the seat of the toilet with a wedding cake thickness of toilet paper before putting their delicate butt on it, then walking off (presumably, now, having flushed with their dirty-ass shoe) LEAVING IT ON THE SEAT for the person behind them to take care of. Or the people that manage to poop on the floor, which, if someone can tell me how this happens, when adults in full control of their motor and sphincter faculties can poop on the floor, I want to know. At least, in a gaping-at-a-car-accident kind of way.

Why are people so weird about bathrooms, basically, is my question. I cannot get over flushing with one's foot. I have never heard of this, ever in life.

GEEKitty (#249,802)

I distinctly remember in 6th grade, a very close friend of mine telling me that she flushed using her foot. I was horrified, and I asked her what the hell she expected hand-flushers to do. She responded, cool as a cucumber, "That's their problem."

So the next time I was eyeballing a toilet handle, I thought long and hard about it. And I flushed using my foot. I still do. I can't make every person in the world use their hand, and if I can't beat them, in this case, I will join them.

cameralucida (#249,803)

My mother specifically taught me to always flush with my foot. I remember getting gently reprimanded for flushing it with my hand once. I will usually use my hand if the handle is high up, though, or one of those green antimicrobial ones.

sarrible08 (#245,478)

@cameralucida Yep, mine too. Most people are taught how to go to the bathroom by their parents taking them into public restroom stalls with them. My mom is squicked out by public bathrooms, so among other practices, she flushes with her foot. So do I. This doesn't seem like that big a deal to me.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

Wait is this North Korean propaganda designed to make Americans seem weak and stupid, or do you guys ACTUALLY FLUSH WITH YOUR FEET?

you're a kitty! (#240,787)


blythemichele (#249,814)

The original tweet comes from a man, therefore he probably doesn't have a bunch of stuff with him when he's using a public toilet. As a female, I almost always have at least one bag or something with me in a public restroom. You cant just wash a bag that you have to grab hanging off the back of a stall door. I always flush with foot.

spottedwren@twitter (#243,128)

Flush with my feet. I think it is mostly because I often find that the metal of the flusher has moisture beaded on it, and it creeps me out. Is it toilet spray? Is it condensation? Either way, I don't want it on my hand.
If it is really hard to flush the toilet without touching it, I'll flush with my hand, I'm not obsessive. I just hate the wetness!

greenteasundae (#10,241)

I have nothing but pity in my heart for the fruitless germ-avoidant efforts of the habitual foot-flushers of this world. Well, no, there's some ire too…

Titania (#8,471)

Always with my foot. I'm scared of the spray hitting my face, which totally happens. I always wash my hands, but I didn't sign up for face-washing multiple times a day. And yes, I Purell my hands after I touch the subway pole because WHY THE HELL WOULDN'T YOU? It's the dirtiest thing in the world, especially now that I know that 1/3 of you have toilet-hands.

Ames@twitter (#194,272)

Whoa, I did not think this was such a widespread thing. I don't think I've ever legitimately considered flushing the toilet with my foot.

eriklazer (#8,232)

This is fucking ridiculous. I can't believe all the foot flushers in here. WTF do you think you're preventing? Besides the immediate hand washing after using a toilet… do you not take your shoes off WITH YOUR HANDS at some point later in the day? Do you wash your hands immediately after that? Do you think your shoes magically clean themselves as you walk around all day?

This is just fucking stupid. ugh. people.

scrooge (#2,697)

@eriklazer You need to get yourself some loafers.

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