Flushing before using the toilet?
February 8, 2007 1:09 PM   Subscribe

I've noticed some of the women in my office flush the toilet before they do any of their business. Does anyone know what superstition or purpose this is supposed to help with?
posted by agregoli to Grab Bag (48 answers total)
 
I've noticed this same behavior with men and urinals.

I always thought they enjoyed peeing into a waterfall.
posted by koudelka at 1:14 PM on February 8, 2007


I have a shy bladder in public restrooms, and sometimes flushing the toilet makes it less shy. I'm not sure if it's the camouflaging noise that helps, or the sound of water. My bladder's social anxiety is a mystery completely outside my understanding.
posted by amro at 1:16 PM on February 8, 2007


Sometimes you pee clear. Sometimes other people pee clear. Many people don't like to splash other people's pee on themselves.

Myself, I like peeing in the waterfall of a urinal.
posted by notsnot at 1:18 PM on February 8, 2007


Sometimes there are leftovers from others in the bowl.
posted by konolia at 1:21 PM on February 8, 2007


To hide the sounds of using the toilet. There are Japanese apparatus to make the same sound electronically to save water.
posted by exogenous at 1:23 PM on February 8, 2007


Oh, and I've heard women attempt to hide, um, bathroom sounds by flushing, but it's an ineffective mask and you can usually tell when that's happening.
posted by amro at 1:24 PM on February 8, 2007


Sometimes if there's "stuff" in there already from the previous user, I'll flush first to make all the waste go down before I sit. Many toilets splash up at you when you're using them, so if there's someone elses #1 or #2 in there, I sure as hell don't want any of that splashing up into my business.

Also as others have mentioned, it could be a shyness thing. No one likes to let a loud fart or poo go ripping out when they know someone else is nearby and can hear it. Flushing gives a couple seconds of sound cover.
posted by RoseovSharon at 1:25 PM on February 8, 2007


I don't think it's to hide the sound. By the time they sit down, the major sound of the toilet is gone, in our bathroom.

Fearful of clear pee? Now that's really insane...

And splashback could still occur - a restroom toilet used by 200 people a day - does it matter if you flush before hand or not? It's going to still have bacteria in it from all those people. Augh, that's weird.

I don't think there's a real good reason, I'm just looking for the weird fearful possible reason someone would do this.
posted by agregoli at 1:26 PM on February 8, 2007


IANAW, but I'm a mildly-ocd-ish man. I pretty much always flush before sitting down, because I have to flush down all the little hairs and pee/toilet-water splashes that I inevitably find when I enter a stall.

Then there's the pee on the floor that I have to clean so that it doesn't get on my pants.
posted by grumblebee at 1:29 PM on February 8, 2007


Whenever I do this, it's because there are visible remnants of the previous person's business in the toilet. I just don't want to go on top of that. No fear or anything, just don't want to do it.
posted by MeetMegan at 1:30 PM on February 8, 2007


It could be to see if the toilets are clogged, if that happens at all where you work. Flushing first makes sure the pipes are all clear.
posted by mikepop at 1:32 PM on February 8, 2007


I think I prefer splashback of clear water filled with agregoli's bacteria that I can ignore, than splashback of someone's faeces, or menstrual blood. It's the proportion of the thing, you know.
posted by b33j at 1:38 PM on February 8, 2007


Let me make this clear:

Our toilets flush great. They are sparkling clean. I have ONCE seen a toilet clogged at our work and it was attended to within the hour. They are cleaned three times per day. So checking the plumbing seems odd to me, although if it's a habit, I suppose.

Good ideas gang! I guess it's going to be impossible to find one that makes sense to me since the action itself doesn't make sense.
posted by agregoli at 1:41 PM on February 8, 2007


Agregoli, maybe they are wiping down the seat with toilet paper first, and then flushing that down. Or maybe they are just in the habit of doing this in all public bathrooms, and don't stop to decide not to based on how clean an individual bathroom is.
posted by voidcontext at 1:47 PM on February 8, 2007


I'm a man, and when I do #2, I flush under the same circumstances and for the same reasons as RoseovSharon, above. (What she actually does, not her conjecture.)
posted by Xoder at 1:48 PM on February 8, 2007


I do what Xoder does. I also do the first thing that voidcontext mentioned.

Another idea - they've been smoking in the girls room, and their flushing their butt/roach? Although that would be detectable by smell. Maybe they're rinsing off their coke mirror.
posted by muddgirl at 1:53 PM on February 8, 2007


Smoking would be impossible here cause it's a government building - you'd be in trouble right quick!

I didn't think of someone wiping the seat down and then flushing that paper first. Which is amazing because after that, the first flushers then put down a protective seat cover on top of the seat anyway, and then, likely, hover.

Sorry, bathroom antics like this do drive me nuts. People don't have a sense of good risk assessment any more, it seems.
posted by agregoli at 2:14 PM on February 8, 2007


I often go into bathroom stalls to use the toilet paper to blow my nose. Hey, I get snotty nosed in the winter! And then I flush it. I do this at home, too if I'm out of tissues.
posted by infinityjinx at 2:17 PM on February 8, 2007


The women in my office do the same thing and it makes me nuts. One time I came out of the stall and I can tell you I most certainly flushed. But someone came in right after me and performed her pre-flush paranoia ritual. I think it's just germ-phobia. Why anyone thinks our private office bathroom is dirtier than the keyboards everyone pecks on all day or the buttons on ATMs or the money inside wallets is a mystery. There are people living on this planet in unbelievable squalor and THIS is what worries my co-workers. Sheesh.
posted by Lockjaw at 2:23 PM on February 8, 2007


These must be extremely quiet and fast nose blowers...
posted by agregoli at 2:23 PM on February 8, 2007


Why anyone thinks our private office bathroom is dirtier than the keyboards everyone pecks on all day or the buttons on ATMs or the money inside wallets is a mystery. There are people living on this planet in unbelievable squalor and THIS is what worries my co-workers. Sheesh.

=) I agree. ATMs squick me out like no one's business.
posted by agregoli at 2:23 PM on February 8, 2007


Yes, these are the same people who think it's no big deal to pick over the aging leftovers strangers leave in the kitchen after management meetings. What gives?
posted by Lockjaw at 2:26 PM on February 8, 2007


Toilet seats are cleaner than chopping boards

A 30-week study at the University of Arizona measured bacteria populations on household surfaces in 15 Tucson homes. Researchers took swabs from toilet seats, kitchen bench tops, chopping boards, tap handles and sinks. Surprisingly, they found that toilet seats were relatively clean. The fluid wrung from dishcloths hosted a million times as many bacteria as the toilet seats, while chopping boards had three times as many bacteria.
posted by A189Nut at 2:32 PM on February 8, 2007


I rest my case. Thanks, A189Nut!
posted by Lockjaw at 2:35 PM on February 8, 2007


So many people on this planet die from lack of clean water every day. We just waste it as fast as we can, for the stupidest of reasons. Sad.
posted by bink at 2:43 PM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Same reason the "hover" exists-- dumb paranoia. It seems a lot of women are so concerned about their precious princess parts coming within 50 feet of a public toilet that they prefer to do the hover, all the while peeing on the seat and not cleaning it up because, hey! Then they'd have to TOUCH THE TOILET!

Few things confuse or enrage me more than innocently entering a stall only to find the careless remnants of another woman's hover. It seems to be some sort of universal unspoken law that if you take an otherwise totally normal woman and put her in a public restroom, she will disintegrate into a paranoid hillbilly governed by wives' tales she was told in 3rd grade.
posted by hollisimo at 3:16 PM on February 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Just to clear up something before we all leave: men flush the urinal before peeing to minimize backsplash. I'd seen men do it many times and finally got around to ask someone and he explained it. It seems to work, the falling waterfall keeps the pee-pee off of me-me. :)
posted by Spoonman at 3:16 PM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Spoonman speaks true; there are a lot of ill-designed urinals that will splatter your pants if you're not careful. Flushing minimizes this.

...since I dislike flushing unnecessarily, I've since identified "splash free zones" in the urinals I use regularly, and aim for them.

Seriously. I only noticed the splash issue when I started wearing thinner pants. Eeee.
posted by aramaic at 3:22 PM on February 8, 2007


To the people who do this: please don't waste the water. I agree with bink.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 6:19 PM on February 8, 2007


hey, can i be bossy?

quit flushing extra. you waste 20L of drinking water every time. my household of three subscribes to "if it's yellow let it mellow", and by doing this, i'd estimate that we save over 50 gallons of water a day. 350 gallons a week. yeah, it's kind of nasty seeing all that pee in there, but neurotic western world wastefulness is nastier.

you're not gonna get a horrible disease from peeing on someone else's pee. but the entire planet is horribly sick from the westernized world and our overconsumption. your immune system can deal with the imaginary germs it encounters from imaginary pee vapor, and you can effectively eradicate poop splashback by laying a few sheets of toilet paper in the can to float on the surface before you log in.

just my two cents. if you're really skeeved, just do it at home with your sweetie, it still helps. and those of you who live alone have no excuse.
posted by twistofrhyme at 7:06 PM on February 8, 2007


I have noticed that one in four men, or perhaps as many as one in three, spit into the urinal immediately before letting fly.

I have no idea why.
posted by notyou at 7:15 PM on February 8, 2007


I knew someone in college who always did this. She explained that she likes "a fresh bowl". She was a nitwit.
posted by eggplantia5 at 8:07 PM on February 8, 2007


I flush while I pee it's fun to watch. Then I have to flush a second time but I'll be damned if I can't stop myself from doing it. I save water in so many other ways so I figure I'm entitled to this little bit of waste.
posted by evilelvis at 9:02 PM on February 8, 2007


I have noticed that one in four men, or perhaps as many as one in three, spit into the urinal immediately before letting fly.

I have no idea why.


My husband does this. I'm not crazy about it, and the bathroom door's closed, but still, not my favourite habit. Although, if he spit anywhere else (he doesn't), I'd divorce him.

He said it's just a compulsion; that his mouth waters immediately before peeing. Dunno. It's a guy thing.
posted by Savannah at 10:24 PM on February 8, 2007


I always thought it was female germ paranoia. I suppose it could be that they're flushing after wiping down the seats, but why they would do that, and then use the toilet, thus necessitating another flush, is beyond my understanding.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:29 AM on February 9, 2007


In Navy boot camp, we were taught to flush the urinal during peeing as this reduces odor. Whether true or no, I can't say. I was ultra-compliant in boot camp, understanding perfectly well that was the idea. Besides, my CC was a bad-ass mofo, and totally entertaining. Good thing I didn't know at the time, his name was German for 'cherry'. LOL!
posted by Goofyy at 5:10 AM on February 9, 2007


quit flushing extra. you waste 20L of drinking water every time
Huh? A modern toilet uses only 5ish litres per flush. Even less if you put a block in the cistern. Who flushes their toilet five times before sitting down?
posted by talitha_kumi at 5:37 AM on February 9, 2007


yeah, your 'best answer' doesn't really make sense because now they're freaked at the thought of having to pee into a bowl which has some toilet paper in it?

I dunno, a lot of people's habits are unexamined, so it's possible some people just sort of learned that "this is how it works," and have never thought about it, but the shyness thing sounds most plausible to me.
posted by mdn at 5:37 AM on February 9, 2007


Ironically, if it is a fear of germs and they're flushing with the lid up, all they are actually doing is coating the cubicle (and themselves) with a fine aerosol of the contents. Ha!
posted by boosh at 5:43 AM on February 9, 2007


I seem to be the only guy at my office who does not spit into the urinal. It boggles my mind. Also, our urinals spray you with a fairly strong mist of water if they are flushing while you are standing there, so you waterfall pissers would get totally soaked.
posted by daveleck at 5:45 AM on February 9, 2007


As I already said, I don't agree that flushing to mask any sounds means anything at all, in this particular office. The sound and action of our toilets are VERY quick and it's over before the person sits down (often they take the time to use a toilet seat cover too, so they arrange that before they sit, lengthening the time after the flush even more).

Also, I'm not really sure why some men here volunteered their urinal information because it doesn't pertain to my question at all - but, errr, thanks.
posted by agregoli at 8:27 AM on February 9, 2007


If there's one universal truth to MeFi, it's that urinal conversations pertain to EVERY question.
posted by rokusan at 8:52 AM on February 9, 2007


These aren't automatic flush toilets, are they? Because I've found that they just flush when they want to flush.
posted by amro at 8:58 AM on February 9, 2007


They call it a "courtesy flush" but I agree with eggplantia5, you people who "just don't want to go on top of that" are nitwits.
posted by Rash at 11:36 AM on February 9, 2007


Argh! We STILL haven't heard from any woman who cares to confess as to why she engages in this wasteful and paranoid behavior.
posted by Lockjaw at 11:50 AM on February 9, 2007


Wow, I was actually about to post a question asking WTF was up with the male toilet spitters. This practice annoys me well beyond reason.
posted by norm at 12:21 PM on February 9, 2007


Rash: "They call it a "courtesy flush" but I agree with eggplantia5, you people who "just don't want to go on top of that" are nitwits."

For me it's not a "you don't want to go on top of that," it's a "I don't want that splashing up on me." This is not irrational as many times I've splashed up on myself (yes, it's just as "dirty" that way, but it bothers me less as its both fresh [less time to fester] and mine [festered with my stuff]).
posted by Xoder at 12:48 PM on February 9, 2007


I agree with xoder. If there's something in the toilet before I sit down, I'm going to flush it. It's not an issue of "eww what is that thing?" it's an issue of splashage.
posted by muddgirl at 1:22 PM on February 9, 2007


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