Friday, April 6, 2012

Why Are There No Toilet Seat Covers?

That was the question I heard at least once every day by at least one of the teenage girls in our group when we were in Switzerland:  Why are there no toilet seat covers?  It occurred to me then that no, I had never seen toilet seat covers in any public restroom in any country in Europe.  At first, my answer was that seat covers are not necessary because the lovely Klofrau will step into your stall after you're done and wipe down the seat for the next person, all for the few Euros she charged you at the door.  Ewwww!, was the response to that, of course.  But we encountered not a single Klofrau in Switzerland.  (That was much to my disappointment, too, because personally I feel one's European experience is not complete until one has been chased out of a public restroom by a toilet lady with scrub brush in hand for trying to sneak by without putting coins in the plate or for using too many paper towels.)

In one restroom we found this product dispenser in the stall:

It's a little hard to read because I should have used the macro setting on my camera, but basically it's a cleaning soap (disinfectant, one hopes) that you dispense on to a bit of toilet paper and then wipe down the toilet seat with before you are seated.  Ewwwww, was also the response to that.

If you can read German you'll get a chuckle out of this sign posted on a bathroom stall door:

It's a little rhyme beseeching you to use the toilet brush before you leave so that no one should have to "read the tracks you left behind."

Actually, I found the Swiss quite revolutionary in the world of European public restrooms.  Take a look at their McClean facilities (does McDonalds know about this infringement on their trade name I wonder?):

A McClean public restroom facility in the Bern train station.

Since I, as a matter of principle, refuse to pay to use a restroom, I did not enter the McClean facility seen here, but one of my co-chaperones did.  She proclaimed it exceptionally hygienic and well-stocked with everything - except toilet seat covers.  As you can see from the pricing schedule below, McClean exhibits a measure of sexism in its rates:

Women have to pay 2.00 Swiss francs to use the WC; men only pay 1.50 for the pissoir.

We didn't see any free-standing pissoirs on the streets of Switzerland (à la France) nor encounter any squat toilets (common in Turkey and still seen in Italy).  In Zurich, this pay toilet stood in a busy market square:

I like to think European countries are beginning to see the wisdom in providing public restrooms (anyone like the smell in the Paris Metro?) and maybe someday will also determine them to be much more effective when offered at no charge.  And much more sanitary with disposable toilet seat covers.

This post is part of Photo Friday at


  1. Very entertaining look at the different bathrooms. The last time we were in Europe, I was 34 weeks pregnant, so I was happy to pay when I found a toilet. Normally, I would be like you and not use pay toilets

  2. I think it was when we were at the Munich airport last year-- we went to the bathroom and there were seat covers that automatically changed for you. So if you imagine a continuous tube of plastic that the seat is threaded through. The roll is at the back part of the seat-- one side used and one side new. When you flush the toilet, the plastic is automatically (that was the best part!)threaded into the used side, pulling out unused plastic to cover the part where you sit on.
    OMG!! When my daughter and I saw this-- we went running out of the bathroom to report to the rest of the family who immediately had to go to the bathroom. It was weird how much they had to use the bathroom while waiting for our flight!

    1. Yes - I've seen this before in Europe!! So funny! I actually was hoping we'd see one of those in Switzerland so I could show the girls - they would've got a kick out of it.

    2. They have these types of toilets at the Ohare airport in Chicago. i was a bit apprehensive using it until I made sure it wasn't getting recycled. =)

  3. I have lived in Europe for years and I can say most toilets you have to pay for. A rule of thumb I use is if you have to pay, then its ok. Most of the pay toilets are kept in way better shape than those that are free. Especially if you got to some Eastern European countries.

  4. I'm always fascinated by European bathrooms. I didn't use the pay ones until I traveled with my kids in Paris. They were worth the money during those "I gotta go!" moments. :-)

  5. This is so interesting and I can't get over the last picture because it looks like an elevator. I've never paid for using any of the toilets in Europe. Wow on the McClean. The nearest McDonalds or department stores usually have some pretty decent restrooms.

  6. Kind of surprising that the men get away cheaper than the ladies at the public toilets. We tend to be....less accurate.

  7. Like , @Jakori, I don't mind paying for toilets because it usually means there's an attendant and thus the toilets are clean

  8. Compare it to other countries, I think European public comfort rooms are way better. I have been in France and some of their restrooms kinda reminded me of the bathroom floor tiles in New York. It's chic and very modern.

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