How to use a water closet or Western toilet: Europe and USA

You should sit with your bottom on the toilet seat. Don’t stand on the toilet as this can break it. Your feet should touch the floor.

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It is possible that the lid of the toilet is closed (see image below). Simply lift it up. Don’t use too much force when you do this. The lid will rest against the wall or toilet tank.

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This is how you use the toilet. You sit on the toilet seat. Don’t stand on it as this can break a toilet!

Use toilet paper after you are done to clean yourself. The toilet paper can be placed in the toilet bowl. You can then flush it.

Once you are done, you can use the toilet brush if needed. Close the toilet lid again before you wash your hands. 

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You can lift the toilet seat if you want to pee while standing. This is not recommended as it can cause a mess. Make sure that you don’t splash around the toilet on the floor.

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What toilets do they have in the west: how to use

Standing toilets

Standing toilets are quite similar to what you see in the USA. They are mounted on the floor.

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In Europe, the toilets have less water in the toilet bowl. This can take some getting used to as you might see some of the contents inside the bowl. It also increases the need to use a toilet brush.

Hanging toilets

Hanging toilets are quite modern. These toilets are attached to the wall instead of on the floor. This makes them easier to clean.

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 They have a weight limit so be careful when you sit on them. 


These toilets are meant for men. Men stand while using these. In most instances, the flush will work automatically. 

Mobile versions of this are also used during music festivals.

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Example of an urinoir. Image by PlumbingInstantFix. All rights reserved.

How to flush a toilet or water closet

Most toilets in The Netherlands and Amsterdam have one or two buttons. You should push these. Don’t apply too much force though as they can break.

One button

Just follow these steps. 

Step 1: Prep your toilet. – First, you want to make sure your toilet is ready to be flushed. This includes putting down the lid. 

Step 2: Press the right button. – Then, decide which button to press on your toilet. The button you choose will determine how much water your toilet uses to flush. The small button is used for pee. The bigger button is used for poop as this requires more water to flush.  

Step 3: Press it. – Finally, press the button on your toilet to flush it. As long as you followed the above steps, you’ll be fine. After flushing your toilet, you can sit back and relax. You did it! If there are two buttons, you should only push one. Don’t push both at the same time!

Example of a toilet with a flush bottom in the toilet tank. Push it down gently. Image by PlumbingInstantFix. All rights reserved.

Most newer toilets have a wall-mounted flush. Older toilets might have a flush inside the toilet itself. You will have to push the part down in the toilet. Don’t push it too hard as these parts can break quite easily. You also shouldn’t push them too deep.

Some toilets only have one button. Push it gently on the lower part of it. Image by PlumbingInstantFix. All rights reserved.

Some toilets also have a handle that you have to push down. Once again, don’t use too much force when you do this.

Two buttons

Dual flush toilet. Image by PlumbingInstantFix. All rights reserved.

The next thing you should know about flushing a toilet is what each button does. This will help you determine which button to use for your toilet paper.

The small button is used after peeing. The bigger one is for poop. There are separate buttons for this as poop needs more water to get flushed. We want to save water with these separate buttons. This is why newer toilets often have two buttons. 

What can you flush in toilets or water closets?

It is important to remember that there are a lot of things that you can’t throw in the toilet. This ranges from food, dirt, and cooking oil to wet wipes. 

All of these items don’t dissolve in the toilet drain and can cause clogs. Your toilet won’t work anymore and this can lead to expensive repairs. All of these items should go in the trash bin instead of the toilet!

You can only flush toilet paper, pee, and poop. All other items can cause problems. Even wet wipes and paper towels shouldn’t be flushed as they don’t dissolve in the toilet. This can lead to problems and clogs.

Tampons should be disposed of in the bin next to the toilet. It is not allowed to flush these as they will clog up the toilet!

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Bin next to a toilet in The Netherlands and Amsterdam. Image by PlumbingInstantFix, all rights reserved.

How to unclog a toilet or water closet

Toilet clogs are a common issue that is often easy to solve with a plunger. It is a frustrating issue when the toilet isn’t flushing properly, but more importantly, it can cause damage when water backs up into the home or office. Here’s a list of simple steps that can be taken to unclog any toilet quickly and efficiently.

If that didn’t work, you can consider using a closet auger (see below). Wear gloves and goggles when you do this. This can push the clog further down your drains.

 Be careful when you do this as it can damage your drains if it is not done properly. Furthermore, it can spray water out of the toilet. Most people shouldn’t do this. We have discussed how to use this here.

If that didn’t work, you will probably have to call a plumber (we have discussed using a pressure washer below but this is a more advanced technique).

  In some instances, they will have to remove the toilet as something is stuck inside of it. While you can do this yourself, it is important that you get the toilet back in place (don’t forget the wax ring!) and it is possible that this won’t fix the problem.

If you are handy, you can use a water jet or a drain snake, we will discuss this below. This is not for everyone as you can damage your drains if you don’t use it correctly.

Are there public toilets in Europe and the USA and do you have to pay for them?

Yes, most cities have public toilets. 

In most instances, they are free to use. In Ghent, for example, there are toilets near the Korenmarkt. In Antwerp, there are also public near the city hall.

Most museums, stations, and some underground parking also have toilets.

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Toilets in a museum in The Netherlands and Amsterdam. Image by PlumbingInstantFix, all rights reserved.

These toilets are generally quite clean but in most instances, there is no one present so you might arrive in a dirty toilet if the person in front of you didn’t take care of it. 

These are generally not open 24/7. The easiest option is generally to drink something at a restaurant and go to the toilet there.

If you don’t drink something at the restaurant, they generally will ask you to pay something to use the toilet. Even if you drink something, they might ask for a contribution.

Once you are done, you can use toilet paper to get things cleaned up. This toilet paper can be flushed. Most toilets have 2 buttons. This allows us to save water.

Only flush poop, pee, and toilet paper. Other items can clog up the toilet.

You shouldn’t use too much toilet paper or flush from time to time. Too much toilet paper in a toilet bowl can lead to problems.

If needed, you can use a toilet brush to clean the toilet bowl. You can also use toilet paper to do this.

After you have gone to the toilet, you should close the lid again.

This might sound quite difficult to do but after a few tries, it will become easier.

In the previous article, we provided an overview of how you can use a water closet or toilet. Some European countries such as France and Italy also have different toilets or bidets.

The two main things that you have to know are that you sit on the seat and don’t stand on it. You also have to remember that a lot of items can’t be flushed. If you flush the wrong items, it can clog the toilet and lead to further problems. Don’t flush food down the toilet!

Toilets have to be cleaned often. This is quite easy to do and you can use a sponge and some soap for this. Just make sure to clean every part of the toilet. It might start to smell if you don’t do this every few days.

Working with a toilet seat can take some time to get used to but after a while, you will get the hang of it. Bidets are not that common and in most places, you will have to use toilet paper. We have discussed how to use toilet paper here.

If the toilet is hissing, it is possible that something is wrong with it.