Is it socially acceptable to leave a small wad of clean-looking toilet paper in the bowl after flushing?
May 23, 2010 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Is it socially acceptable to leave a small wad of clean-looking toilet paper in the bowl after flushing? I've noticed that a number of people do this on a fairly regular basis.
posted by trevyn to Society & Culture (37 answers total)
 
I'm guessing this is the result of people following the classic public restroom rule: "If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat."
posted by pecanpies at 4:46 PM on May 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


In someone's house or in a public bathroom? No/yes.
posted by griphus at 4:48 PM on May 23, 2010


It doesn't matter if it's "socially acceptable" or not because people are rarely going to know who is the culprit, and if they do happen to know there's no way the culprit is going to get called out for it. The toilet is one of the few realms where people can do whatever they want without fear of social reproach.
posted by amethysts at 4:48 PM on May 23, 2010


If you keep noticing it, then it is probably socially acceptable. Now, does that mean that personal feelings on the matter don't differ? Certainly not. But is it socially acceptable? It must be. In other words, if it's not socially unacceptable, and I don't think it is, then it's by default socially acceptable.

Social rules are also applied differently in different environments. How I manage the business in my home is in a manner entirely distinct from how I manage the business in public, at a friend's house, or at work.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:56 PM on May 23, 2010


Oh, god, social reproach must be coming, because I'm about to full on admit that I do this.

When I do this, it is clean looking because I didn't yellow and let it mellow, I didn't brown and forget to flush it down. Something happened, I used some toilet paper to clean it up, I threw it in the toilet, and I didn't feel like wasting a gallon of water to flush away the SHAMEFUL EVIDENCE of:

I blew my nose.

I wiped one of my hairs out of the sink.

I wiped a smudge of makeup off the sink or off my face.

I am pretty sure these are the sort of reasons other people use too, and don't gag or get horrified when I walk into a bathroom and there's a wee bit of tissue a'floating.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:58 PM on May 23, 2010 [38 favorites]


In a public restroom, people will sometimes use a small piece of toilet paper to flush the toilet (so that they don't have to touch the flush lever), and presumably this piece of paper doesn't always make it to the bowl in time to be flushed.

As for social acceptability, it doesn't seem out of line to me. I disagree with amethysts: there are norms regulating toilet behavior and (indirect) ways of communicating them.
posted by hattifattener at 4:58 PM on May 23, 2010


It doesn't matter if it's "socially acceptable" or not because people are rarely going to know who is the culprit,

Sure they will. A notices B exiting a stall, which A has been waiting to use. Once A goes in, A can assume that anything in the toilet bowl was put there by B.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:05 PM on May 23, 2010


Are you aware that sometimes the paper does not all go away with a single flush? As you seem to be male, you have likely been spared the common experience in female public toilets of finding that the last person in there has used a dozen or so sheets of paper for no apparent reason (seriously, do they use that much at home? or is their mum buying it for them?), and left a massive floating wad despite flushing. And then you flush again and it's still there. Joy.
posted by Lebannen at 5:08 PM on May 23, 2010


What Juliet Banana said, with a side of pecanpies.

The key thing to the Sprinkle Wipe Theory is the premature flush, where the user flushes reflexively before proper inspection and maintenance of the unit has taken place, after which a second flush would be a) conspicuous to nearby ears who may draw their own horrible conclusions, and b) a waste of water.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:14 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


It neither socially acceptable or not. It's irrelevant to most normal people.
posted by fire&wings at 5:14 PM on May 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


At home, do what thou wilt. You're the king (queen) of the castle, and no one can tell you what to do.

At a library or gas station or other public facility? It's anarchy and I don't even want to try and impose order upon that level of chaos.

But at the office? No way is it acceptable. Why wasn't it in there when the other stuff was flushed?

If it's a "sprinkle when you tinkle" issue, a) why didn't they lift the seat when tinkling, and b) why can't the tissue just go in the basket? If the guy before me is going to make a mess, I don't want any indication that there was ever a mess to be cleaned up.

Also unacceptable (and somehow considered otherwise by many of my co-workers) is to leave the toilet lid down when they leave the stall. I, for one, do not like having to use the toe of my shoe to lift up the lid to see whatever may or may not be in there. Allow me the courtesy of giving it a visual inspection from a good two meters away-- don't make me get all up close and personal when that's a game of chance I just don't want to be playing.
posted by holterbarbour at 5:18 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you're a "if it's yellow let it mellow" area, fine. Otherwise: violates social anonymity so we can't collectively pretend that nobody was just sitting there doing their horrible filthy business.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:19 PM on May 23, 2010


No, no it's not. Even if there are no horrors lurking in the U-bend beneath this pillowy jellyfish of tissue, ones imagination will be forced to create them. Not a nice thing to do to a person.
posted by unliteral at 5:21 PM on May 23, 2010


Yes, totally. It's also socially acceptable to leave a moderately dirty-looking wad of toilet paper in the bowl, at least in Australia where water restrictions are in place in many regions. Lots of public toilets actually have signage to encourage people to let it mellow. Being squeamish about this stuff is a luxury.
posted by Weng at 5:27 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sometimes a toilet doesn't have the pressure to get all the toilet paper through on one flush. If that happens to me and the lingering wad isn't offensive-looking, I don't flush a second time. Also, seconding Juliet Banana's list of alternative reasons a bit of paper might be in the bowl. Come on people, you've never blown your nose with tissue paper and tossed in the toilet instead of a trash can?
posted by me3dia at 5:31 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unacceptable.
I say toss the slightly used tissue in the garbage or flush it down.
If you're not flushing in order to save water I'm right behind you flushing before I do my business 'cause seeing mystery toilet paper in the toilet scares me/grosses me out.
posted by simplethings at 5:31 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why wasn't it in there when the other stuff was flushed?

Because when I'm blowing my nose/fixing my hair/sorting out my mascara/using eyedrops for my contact lenses I prefer not to do it with a bowl of piss sitting right next to me. Instead I flush as soon as I'm done with that, wash and dry my hands, then move on to whatever else needs to be done. If there's no rubbish bin (which there often isn't) then any extra paper goes into the bowl where I'm not going to waste a whole bunch more water flushing again.

A small wad of toilet paper isn't going to jump up and smear itself all over you. But I guess like anything toilet related there will be a wide range of what people find acceptable but really, as long as you're not being unsanitary what are the fussy people going to do? Send round an email complaining about small wads of toilet paper?
posted by shelleycat at 5:34 PM on May 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, please flush everything, or pitch it. If I'm sitting down, I'm going to flush it anyways before I sit down, so you're not saving any water, because I'm flushing twice.
posted by SNWidget at 5:34 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heaven forbid that the bowl I'm about to crap in isn't pristine. I can't have random pieces of paper contaminating my immaculate dumps.
posted by Menthol at 5:45 PM on May 23, 2010 [25 favorites]


If I'm sitting down, I'm going to flush it anyways before I sit down, so you're not saving any water, because I'm flushing twice.

That wasted water is all on you and your bizarre hangups, dude. What do you think is going to happen if you don't flush first?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:47 PM on May 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Another addition to the list: The toilet sprays a bit as it flushes, so the droplets appeared after you flushed. There aren't garbage cans in each stall, so you'd have to carry the tissue out of the stall with you to deposit it in a garbage can. Try getting a purse back on your shoulder and a locked stall open, along with a damp-with-toilet-water bit of TP in your hand. Much better to just drop it in the bowl and figure the next person will be someone other than Howard Hughes.

Anyway, even if the fussy people flush first, I wouldn't, so you still may be saving water, depending on who encounters the clean-looking TP first.
posted by palliser at 5:48 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


That wasted water is all on you and your bizarre hangups, dude. What do you think is going to happen if you don't flush first?

I'm not arguing whether or not it's rational. I'm just saying that it's something that I don't do and would prefer that someone didn't leave me in that situation.

My wife does it at home, and it still bugs me. It might be training, it may be conditioning. It's just not something I'd ever do.
posted by SNWidget at 5:55 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The toilet sprays a bit as it flushes, so the droplets appeared after you flushed.

Ug, yeah, one of our toilets here at work does that. It sometimes even sprays onto the floor so it looks like your aim is really bad. They're all unisex toilets too so it's easy to think the worst. I'll clean up the seat but not the floor FWIW (again, I notice after I flush because I really want to spend as little time as possible with my own waste).

I also prefer bits of toilet paper down there in the toilet bowl rather than perched on top of the bin where the paper hand drying towels go. My hands are clean and dry by the time I get to the bin and they tend to be taller and at least partially full (so closer to my hands). Plus toilet paper is ambiguous (who knows what's on it?) and I'd much rather it went in the bowl which I expect to be dirty anyway and where I expect to see toilet paper rather than see it out of place and try to second guess what happened.

People who flush before they go just confuse me but firstly, they seem to do it regardless so a small bit of paper won't change anything and secondly, it's wide spread enough that it must be reasonable or acceptable even if I don't personally get it.
posted by shelleycat at 6:04 PM on May 23, 2010


Ew. No, it isn't socially acceptable. I'm having trouble believing anyone would walk up to a toilet with ANYTHING in the bowl and be A-OK with it. I think this is the sort of thing that if someone does it, everyone else is grossed out and will flush first... and if anyone else does it, that same someone will be grossed out and flush first, even if he/she wouldn't admit it here.

I think it's the sort of thing that seems fine for that person to do but wrong if anyone else does it. Yuck.

There's always a trash can somewhere nearby. Throw it out.
posted by 2oh1 at 6:09 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've used plenty of toilets that aren't perfect: you flush, and sometimes everything goes with it, sometimes there's a little bit of toilet paper that sticks to the side or just swirls around the bowl. And since most toilets are one-flush-and-done, people usually assume that the toilet got everything and don't stick around to check. Sometimes everything goes down but then two minutes later there's a little bit of residual toilet paper (or, embarrassingly, half a cardboard tampon applicator) that floats back up and someone's like HEY YOU FORGOT TO FLUSH and you take offense because WTF you NEVER forget to flush, that's like forgetting to put your pants on. And sometimes you remember that you have to double-flush when you're at that guy's house, but usually you don't.

(Do you see this in public restrooms, or at people's homes, or both? Single-sex or unisex?)
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:22 PM on May 23, 2010


This has been derailed into a number of bathroom-related issues, but in answer to the original question many toilets do not flush efficiently enough (at least in terms of exchanging bowl contents) to get rid of everything. Especially stuff floating near the top, like a stray sheet of toilet paper. The toilets in my house are like that and unless you wait around for the tank to refill there is no way to get rid of that last bit of detritus. I would bet most people don't realize they are leaving anything behind and the others have just thrown away a piece of paper they used to blow their nose, blot their makeup, or whatever as mentioned above.
posted by TedW at 6:23 PM on May 23, 2010


Leaving the area clean is really a matter of courtesy to the next person-- if you can't handle a toilet full of your OWN urine right next to you while doing your makeup, etc., imagine how grossed out the next person is going to be if they see what very well looks like an unflushed toilet left by some mystery slob.

"Did some chick just go number one in here, wipe up and drop her TP in the bowl and walk out without flushing? That's just nasty."

Sure, they could be wrong. But that's what it looks like. Me? I don't want any kind of evidence of people using the toilet before me, be it a skidmark (horrific, but unavoidable), floating TP (perhaps incorrectly perceived as gross, but so very easily preventable), or sprinkles on the seat (perp should be publicly humiliated and perhaps tortured). It's just common courtesy to leave the place clean, and no matter how strong our individual constitutions, we shouldn't expect that the next person just tough it out and deal with it.
posted by holterbarbour at 6:39 PM on May 23, 2010


I can't begin to express how funny some of you are.

Yes, water restrictions, and they will become more common.

And appearances to the contrary, no toilet bowl or bathroom is ever pristine due to "the flume". So, the tiny floating square of tissue paper is really the least of your worries.
posted by vers at 6:43 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, I cannot believe the number of people saying this is socially unacceptable. I think it ought to be socially unacceptable to waste so much water making sure an innocuous piece of paper doesn't jump up and contaminate your ass.
posted by peacheater at 6:44 PM on May 23, 2010 [22 favorites]


What do you think is going to happen if you don't flush first?

I think most flush before doing business to avoid nagging fear that there's clear urine in there you can't see that's going to splash up on you.
posted by floam at 6:55 PM on May 23, 2010


Polite and healthy society depends on flushing everything, every time. I'll take a 15 second shorter shower to make up for my spurious flushing, thank you very much.
posted by gjc at 7:30 PM on May 23, 2010


If you're wiping up the spray from the flush -- and thank you for doing that -- or blowing your nose then throw the paper into the garbage (don't all stalls have them?). If a bit of toilet paper floated back up, whatever. If the next person cares, they'll preflush, if not, water savings. (I preflush if there's stuff in a public toilet because most of the time it seems to be yellowy stuff. I don't bother for private toilets, because most of the time it's low-flow toilets.)
posted by jeather at 7:32 PM on May 23, 2010


Another vote for totally fine. It's harmless. Generally I side with being over-cautious, because accommodating other people's hangups is fairly simple (compared to the stress they seem to cause), but on this one I say get over it. There is nothing it can do to you, and it's a hideous waste to preserve some false idea of cleanliness. If I'm showering over a bucket so I can keep my herbs alive, then you can be quite sure I won't be flushing a single square of paper just so you can feel at peace with your porcelain.
posted by twirlypen at 9:29 PM on May 23, 2010


I'm having trouble believing anyone would walk up to a toilet with ANYTHING in the bowl and be A-OK with it

Whut?!!!

Wow, I cannot believe the number of people saying this is socially unacceptable. I think it ought to be socially unacceptable to waste so much water making sure an innocuous piece of paper doesn't jump up and contaminate your ass.

Agreed.
posted by penguin pie at 3:24 AM on May 24, 2010


It isn't really possible to take a bathroom ettiquette issue such as this and find a social norm for it, because this is one of those things that people very rarely have open conversations about. And, apparent from the content of this thread, when you do crack open people's heads you find wide extremes in what they consider acceptable, appropriate, inexcusable, intolerable, etc. Funny because someone else's viewpoint can seem just as wacky to you as yours does to them.

Funny also how much we strive to obliterate from the common consciousness something which everybody does every day of their lives. Maybe that's why it is such a strong social taboo - because it is so universal. Shame proportional to its ineluctability.

Otherwise, I have nothing to say personally on the matter, as the only use I have for the bathroom is as a convenient secluded area to crap in my hand and smear crude sketches of animals copulating with dead celebrities on the walls.
posted by schmichael at 4:16 AM on May 24, 2010


My coworker leaves a perfect square of paper in the toilet after every time she uses the bathroom. It was weirding me out so I made a random comment about it to her and she confessed to doing it. (Awkward conversation that I subsequently regretted) She said she left the toilet paper in there so she could know if someone had used it since she had. Apparently her obsessive/compulsive tendencies required her to do some cleaning if her stall had been used.

But usually when I see a wad of toilet paper floating at work it just irritates me because our automatic-flush toilets don't always work perfectly and just don't flush well. So when I see toilet paper in the bowl it just says that someone can't be arsed to push a little button on the wall.
posted by Mouse Army at 5:03 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why are people freaked out by a piece of paper floating in the toilet bowl, and perfectly ok with the same piece of paper in a trash can? Clean-looking paper in the bowl is fine by me, and humans and their ever-varying purity rules are a mystery (which is part of why I love AskMeFi so dearly).

Or, what schmichael said, minus the last paragraph.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 1:28 PM on May 24, 2010


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