General Question

Jeruba's avatar

Why do they flush first?

Asked by Jeruba (52932points) May 12th, 2009

Why do so many users of women’s public or semipublic bathrooms walk into a stall and flush before they use the toilet?

I have been observing this for years and noticed that it is mostly Asian women who do this. It happens even in well-maintained office buildings that they work in and where they use the facilities many times a day, where there is no reason to suppose things aren’t working right.

What is the reason? What is the purpose? Why waste the water? Even if there were a little particle of paper or something left in the bowl by the previous user (all the time?really?), it’s not like you’re going to touch it. So why flush first?

Do they do this at home?

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37 Answers

asmonet's avatar

Usually, I do it if there’s something in the stall like, a full uses worth but the rest is clean.
I also do it habitually to make sure I am not gonna get surprised with someone else’s present.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Lol, never heard of this phenomenon – I don’t do it unless necessary

MrKnowItAll's avatar

How long have you been observing other peoples bathroom habits? For Years??!! And you have Data, too?!!

When classifying the behavior of others as to WEIRDNESS, an extra flush or two comes in at a distant second to the monitoring of strangers flushing habits. The bigger question is: Who comes in second to Asian women?

Lupin's avatar

I am not a member of the fair sex, but as a long time resident of Japan, I believe I can answer this question. Preflushing is common. So common, in fact, that some restrooms have a noise making device mounted on the wall near the toilet that simulates the sound of a toilet flush when pushed.
Why? 1)It covers the indelicate sound of the act. 2)The sound of running water increases urgency in some people.
This all goes with the overall theme that bodily functions are considered private matters and are not to be shared with nor inflicted upon strangers.

Dog's avatar

@Lupin Brilliant!

Now if we could figure out why some do not bother to wash their hands afterwords…

reverie's avatar

Many Islamic people, when using the toilet, also wash themselves with water. I’m not Islamic, and obviously I haven’t witnessed this personally, but I could guess that perhaps the person flushing beforehand may be filling some sort of receptacle to wash themselves with later (possibly – although I don’t know if they would use toilet water). At the school I used to work at, the majority of students were Muslim, and there were a high proportion of Muslim staff. I know that in the cubicles in the ladies’ bathroom, there were small jugs sat by the toilets, that people could use to fill with water for washing.

This would be my explanation for what you are witnessing, particularly if you notice it mostly in Asian women. Even if they are not filling a receptacle with water, the Islamic faith does have some extensive rules with regards to hygiene, which may also explain the behaviour.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@Lupin You’re closest to being correct. If I’m in a public restroom & doing something that I don’t want everyone to hear, I flush to cover up the sound. These people may not know me from Adam, but it’s just a modesty thing with me. Believe me, I wish MORE women would to it. I don’t need to hear everything that’s going on in the next stall!!

Lupin's avatar

@Dog In my office, the gentlemen washed their hands before and after. They considered washing before far more important than after but were willing to do both to not offend American guests’ sensibilities. Privately, after consuming much alcohol, one gentleman mentioned he thought it bizarre that Americans would only wash after – especially after shaking hands with people.

RocketGuy's avatar

It makes a bit of sense with a toilet because you never know what was left over from the previous flush. Better to start with fresh water, in case any splashes up during your use.

What bothers me is when men use a urinal and flush before they are done. What’s up with that?!! The remaining water will have the last of their pee in it. Thanks a lot! Now I have to flush it before I go, in case any splashes out when I go.

Dog's avatar

@Lupin That is fascinating. It does make sense to wash before too but it never crossed my mind.

Lupin's avatar

@jbfletcherfan I’m happy to hear there are females in the US that still retain a modicum of modesty.

dynamicduo's avatar

Because many people have a fascination (mostly disgust) for doing business in public places. Which I find completely strange and unneeded. Sometimes people do it to cover the noises one makes while doing their business. As Lupin says, it’s common in Japan to the point where toilets feature a button that makes such noises without wasting water.

MissAusten's avatar

Everyone should wash hands before and after using the bathroom. When I worked in daycare, we had to wash our hands before changing a child’s diaper even though we wore latex gloves. I’ll be honest though and admit the habit never caught on outside of work for me. I still only wash my hands after using the bathroom.

Lupin's avatar

@Dog Shhh Don’t tell anyone, but even in the US, I do it both times, too.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@Lupin well, it’s few & far between, I know. Most just think anything goes.

Dog's avatar

@Lupin I paint daily and because the pigments are often toxic I wash my hands before during the day. Now I can guarantee you I have a new habit as do my kids. So why were we in the US not taught this as part of basic hygiene?

Jeruba's avatar

As soon as they enter the stall. Before they do anything. Before the door is even latched, never mind any zipper sounds are heard. This is not covering noise. It is purely preliminaries.

You can’t use a bathroom every day that has twelve stalls and a lot of activity without noticing anything at all. I really began to notice this phenomenon some 10 or 15 years ago, at another company, when my group shared a floor with a QA team that was all Chinese. The women went to the restroom in groups of two to five and carried on high-pitched chatter the whole time. And each operation would begin with a chorus of flushes before any other activity commenced. The same where I am now, with a large team of Vietnamese engineering testers as neighbors.

DarkScribe's avatar

There is another possible answer. Many Asians won’t sit on a toilet seat, they squat on the rim. The flush might make things easy as far as making sure that there is nothing but clean water under them, water that might splash back. Do they kick their shoes off (if in heels)?

Lupin's avatar

@Jeruba Those two cultures are very different from Japanese. There was no chatter in our office restrooms. It was very quiet indeed. And always immaculate. It was common courtesy to leave a stall in perfect condition. Not so, in other countries.
By the way, if you ever get the chance, you should visit a Japanese maternity ward. They are quiet. No yelling, cursing, screaming, etc. The only sounds you hear are a few muffled grunts. Amazing.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@Lupin Good luck with that!

rooeytoo's avatar

Here’s my take on the subject, in Australia there are 2 problems which cause this to occur, first the older toilets must have a strange shape and the water flushing comes out at a different angle. So you almost always have to flush at least twice and even so the next person will probably find residuals and in deference to the splash back situation, a pre-use flush is always desirable.

The 2nd is that everyone here is so conscious of conserving water so not as much water is used in the flushing process, therefore again, there are often residuals. There are even 2 separate buttons on top (no handles) for flushing, one is for no paper usage and the other is for heavy duty jobs, that is it puts out more water.

I had to learn whole new methods of toilet mechanics and repair when I arrived here, what a treat!!!

MrKnowItAll's avatar

First of all, I’d like to point out, that there is a small chance that the other women in your office go to the bathroom in groups because they have noticed you hanging out there. And all that ‘chattering’ is them talking about YOU, and the fact that you ONLY FLUSH ONCE!

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I’ve never experienced this in the homes or company of any Asian people and I’ve lived and worked in heavily Asian communities.

casheroo's avatar

I’m guilty of this. I do this for almost every single public toilet I use.

Honestly? I have a fear of the toilet not flushing. I know that sounds weird, but I don’t want to leave my pee behind for someone. I have to make sure the toilet works before I use it. I never knew people noticed lol

Jeruba's avatar

Again I must clarify: not a bus stop, a theatre, an airplane, or a mall, but an office building,
a modern,
perfectly functional,
cleaned daily,
never out-of-order restroom
in a high-tech Silicon Valley company,
used by the same people day after day,
year after year,
among colleagues and friends,
where I have virtually never seen any problem with any kind of “residuals” and never a problem with flushing or anything else—and the people who use it daily know this place as well as they know their own homes.

Why flush before using there? Do they do it at home? Do they do it at their friends’ homes? You who do this: do you do it at home?

These folks are American workers and are not squatting on the toilets.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@Jeruba: I have lived in San Francisco proper, worked there, worked in in South Bay also, always in companies with predominantly Asian co workers and I say again, I’ve never seen this. You’ve got some weirdness going on.

casheroo's avatar

@Jeruba I only do it at toilets I’ve never used before. I don’t do it at home (although, when I move somewhere new, I have major issues with using the toilet and do flush it multiple times to make sure it works properly) If it’s someplace like my work, I get accustomed to the toilets and rarely flush before use. I probably do flush before use a few times to get used to the toilet though.
(my neurosis is showing)

benjaminlevi's avatar

@RocketGuy Why do you have to flush a urinal beforehand? Its not going to touch you

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I swear, I’m focused on this now and won’t ever go into a bathroom again without listening up. In the movie theater yesterday, I thought of this!

Jeruba has added a new facet to my OCD, hee hee hee

RocketGuy's avatar

@benjaminlevi I was being facetious – talking about doing something stupid just because someone else did it.

There is a water shortage in CA. What ever happened to “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.”?

asmonet's avatar

I just found this through StumbleUpon.

It’s perfect!

Jeruba's avatar

Outstanding site, @asmonet, and I explored it with some fascination…but it doesn’t answer the question.

RocketGuy's avatar

@asmonte – excellent!

lloydbird's avatar

To avoid contaminated ‘splash-back’?

Yoyoapples's avatar

This is crazy! I work with a 90% Asian staff. I have noticed this as well. At first I thought it was because I might have left tp behind,but then I noticed it was constant. It happens BEFORE they even sit. My thought is they want really clean water in the case of back splash. That is my only reasoning behind it all.

rooeytoo's avatar

Makes sense to me!

sheezhao's avatar

@Jeruba – oh my god I’m so glad I found another person who is experiencing this situation! i live in CA and my asian female co-worker does this! every time she comes into the bathroom i KNOW the toilet is going to go off before she sits down. it’s SUCH AN INCREDIBLE WASTE OF WATER, in an office where the toilets are always clean and very few people use the bathroom.

she wastes an incredible amount of water every time she goes so i’m glad she doesn’t have to go 6 times a day.

i’m so glad there’s another person out there who seems to not have neurotic western world wastefulness. 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

I can’t believe the stupidity & paranoia about splashback out there and can now understand why people want to raise their kids in another country

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