Throwing Away Your Used Toilet Paper in Mexico: Why Mexicans Don’t Flush Their TP

Why do Mexicans not flush their toilet paper.

There is a curious social convention in Mexico where used toilet paper is thrown into the wastebasket instead of flushed down the toilet, as it would be in the United States. It seems this has sparked a series of threads—some which got quite heated—over why Mexicans don’t flush their toilet paper in Mexico.

 

LACK OF FACTS: 

Little seems to have been written on the subject of why Mexicans tend to throw their used toilet paper in the trash can, while Americans, Canadians, and Europeans are accustomed to flushing their toilet paper down the toilet. The only information comes from threads discussing the issue. If you have any information on the definitive answer as to why you should or should not flush your toilet paper in Mexico, WeExpats invites you to join in the discussion.

 

THE FEW FACTS:

 – Drainage –

Some, like Steven Higbee, believe that the drainage is the issue. In Mexico, they do not have what he refers to as “sanitary Y’s” and “T fittings with graceful curves”. Instead, the fitting below the base of the toilets in Mexico have a normal 3” or 4” T fitting. These fittings are most likely PVC unless they are really old. Therefore, the toilet paper doesn’t have the velocity to clear the pipe’s smaller-sized T fitting. According to Steven, this issue is only exacerbated when the space past the toilet’s T fitting is poorly-vented through a floor drain—or even entirely unvented—which then lowers the velocity further causing frequent clogs.

– Size of Septic Tank –

Other people believe that the size of the septic tank is the issue. In Mexico, if there is a septic tank, it is probably far smaller than those in the United States—especially if it is in rural areas. Therefore, flushing toilet paper in Mexico would require the septic tank to be cleaned more frequently.

Many larger hotel chains have their own septic systems that are wider to accommodate their Western travelers, so many people claim that Americans should not have to fret about flushing toilet paper in Mexico when they are at massive hotel chains such as an all-inclusive resort.

 

THE SANITARY ISSUE:

Many Americans, Canadians, and Europeans object to the social custom of throwing used toilet paper in the wastebasket because it is unsanitary. However, as one Reddit contributor comments, surely it’s more sanitary than a backed up toilet.

Some people make the argument that women often throw their used menstrual products in the trash can—and used toilet paper is no different. However, others respond by saying that used toilet paper can spread disease. Many are adamant that in the heat of the summer, the smell from the trash can is unbearable, yet other people are equally sure that if the paper is well rolled up and the trash bag is changed once or even twice a day, then sanitation is no issue.

 

THE ARGUMENT FOR FOLLOWING SOCIAL CUSTOM:

Lots of people, like Rissask of Saskatoon, Canada, believe that if there is a lined wastebasket next to the toilet, then the general rule is to throw your toilet paper there. Many larger hotel chains have their own septic systems that are wider to accommodate their Western travelers, so Rissask claims that Americans should not have to fret about flushing toilet paper in Mexico when they are staying at an all-inclusive resort. However, if they are at a small boutique hotel or in a local restaurant, then they should respect the local conventions.

Some people, like a TripAdvisor contributor named Mapchick, believe that if any hotel chains or restaurants have a sign asking you to please throw the toilet paper in the wastebasket, then you should follow the social custom. Often, in tourist areas, this sign is in both English and Spanish.

Perhaps the most prevalent argument for social custom that I have read is that not flushing your toilet paper is seen in many parts of the world—not only in developing nations in Asia and Latin America, but also in countries with antiquated infrastructure like Greece and parts of Eastern Europe. Their argument seems to be akin to, “If you want to live abroad, you better get used to it.”

 

THE ARGUMENT FOR FLUSHING YOUR TOILET PAPER IN MEXICO:

Other people, such as TripAdvisor contributor named SteveMex says that in the 12 years living in Mexico, he has always flushed his toilet paper down the toilet. He believes that throwing toilet paper in the trash in Mexico has just become social convention because plumbing used to be substandard decades ago, however we couldn’t find any corroborating evidence that a massive overhaul of Mexican plumbing has occurred in the last few decades. He claims to have never had an issue throughout all his travels—even in remote fishing villages.

One Yahoo contributor named Think4self says he is an engineer who works in wastewater. He professes that all toilet paper is specifically designed to dissolve in water, therefore any clogs in the septic tank should only be temporary.

 

IN CONCLUSION:

Most threads devolve into an argument without acknowledging that there are good arguments for both sides. When dealing with relativity of social convention—it is understandable that we should find quite strong opinions on both sides. Some people find this social custom backwards while others condemn the privilege of developed nations—and they implore us to consider the plumber who is constantly being called to unclog toilets after some Americans, Canadians, and Europeans flush their toilet paper in Mexico.

Part of the debate is also centered around the location of the bathroom facilities, for there is no one drainage system throughout all of Mexico. At our house in Cuernavaca, we welcome flushing our toilet paper down the toilet because our drainage system was updated so that the house’s grey water is rushed along the drainage system, thus clearing out any potential clogs. In many ways, Mexicans take a better-safe-than-sorry argument. No matter who you side with, nevertheless the debate continues without a clear consensus.

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Comments (47)

  • Donald Hessler

    I’ve lived in Mexico for thirteen years and athough I know some people do it, I have never met anyone who advocated throwing toilet paper in a trash can.

    Reply
    • Austin

      I know Hispanics in America that do it and that’s what all their family in Mexico does.

      Reply
    • Rick

      Lived here 13 years also. I am an engineer and Architect working here. This is common all over mexico in all parts of a very diverse society and culture. The real reason is, it is now a “customary act” with no actual basis of credibility other than “everyone else does it.” It started way back in the early days of flush toilets, as cheap Mexican made porcelain toilets had a 1 1/2 to 2″ s in them, not allowing both the fecal matter and paper to pass. They all have 4″ to 8″ lower piping and the cisterns are same size as Americans. In later years..older people accustomed to doing this taught younger children to do this, which they do even though the systems have improved markedly and can handle the waste paper. . Nearly all systems will stand flushed paper now days in mexico. The only exceptions are very old plumbings where they used fero-Crete tubes of 5″ that either collapse from seismic activity or have tree roots or such grow into them restricting passage. To tell the truth…these days…we can say that this filthy practice is in fact “All in their heads”. I mean..its hard to change a democrat to a republican also? Its what your taught. But, this is improving over the generations in mexico, now. Unlike Democrats in america…its ongoing without reprieve. 🙂

      Reply
      • Raf Bracho

        This is valuable information concerning the plumbing. Thank you so much for commenting!

        Reply
  • Lynn Law

    An industrial company I worked for in the States had a big problem with this. The Mexican workers threw their ysed paper on the floor because there wasn’t a waste basket in each stall.
    Signs apparently did little good in changing behavior.

    Reply
    • Fer

      That’s just gross and shows they were uneducated & ignorant, not all Mexicans are the same. Source: I; Mexican with good manners & good education living in Mexico.

      Reply
  • Dale

    I live in how ever I am not a National just a temp. Residente that said I am a guest as any good guest I do as my host asks me to do it is just rude to disregard any requests of your host in there home in there business in there country

    Reply
    • Rick

      So very wrong! You have a duty to educate for health concerns.. its not a good guest that leaves health concerns behind. Flush man. !

      Reply
  • Barbara

    I was just in a Costco in Celaya, Guanajuato, and in the toilet stall was a sign (in both Spanish and English) requesting that toilet paper be put into the toilet.

    Reply
  • Lee Anne J Worre Risk

    I live in Mexico. I have an orphanage here. In my house or any newerbuilding we flush. But in the orphanage (built many years before me house, we toss it. Their pipes are way smaller than the newer ones. In the ranches, with septics, it is always toss and burn. Truth.

    Reply
    • Rick

      Hello lee Anne, the plumbing pipes of old are same as today´s basically. You can relive the health issue by simply changing the porcelain bowls to newer types that will handle flushing. The problem in the old building is as you stated. Smaller plumbing, however, it is at the very beginning of the journey, in the bowls. Change the bowls improve the problem. If it still happens, then it is in fact collapsed plumbing (Old fero-Crete pipes” and time for new pipes as it will soon contaminate through seepage.

      Reply
  • Juan Pinalez

    I’ve always known the reason for not flushing toilet paper was due to the low water pressure. Most newer constructions such as hotels and stores do have more modern plumbing that allows for a proper flush. Lived in Mexico for 30 years now.

    Reply
  • Kendall Phillips

    Had a room mate in the west Texas oil field that did this nasty crap. Yet he wouldn’t admit it. Just because the pipes ain’t worth a crap down there does not mean the same in the u.s.

    Reply
    • Stephen Hawkins

      You can’t stop a demographic of the US that is just intent on degrading everyone else’s standard of living to that of a third world country. Even when trash bins are available they love to throw the toilet paper onto the floor. They also get a thrill from backing up the urinals with wads of TP. The same goes with refusing to have their children immunized from once eradicated diseases just as small pox and polio, etc. another favorite pastime is refusing to wash their hands after taking a dump. Even animals are cleaner, Viva la Mexico! Brown pride!!

      Reply
      • Stephen Hawkins is a dork

        You are a stupid dork. People need to be immunized from diseased minds as yours. BTW, “third world” has to do with trade, and you probably let your dog lay in your bed with you at night. Watch where else he kicks besides your face.

        Reply
      • Stephen Hawkins is a dork

        Licks

        Reply
      • Rick

        Hate to say it…but does this thread need racist remarks like yours, Steven Hawkins? …..Hope the mod removes you before all get inflamed over this. I am a white man married to a Mexican woman with a Mexican family in a world of lesser convenience. While mexico is behind the times, it is still a great and beautiful country with great people and advancing at a steady reliable pace. That´s why i chose to work here with these people. I dont see many here, like you, Steven Hawkins. Thank god for that small mercy as imagine where this impoverished country would be, if ever people became as racist as you. I served 30 years to give you a right to free speech, I didn´t serve to give you a right to abuse others less fortunate with your words. This is a serious subject, face it in such a manner or GTFO! Just so you know…mexico has a higher immunization rate to americans, thanks to good american doctors and persons …idiot!

        Reply
  • Alfred Sutter

    I do it on the hygienic way as in Asia. Near all toilett has a water hose (smiliar bidet) and we wash our back (not distribute the shit on the ass) and use toilett paper only to dry few drops of water. Less paper for the trash and less stinky too.

    Reply
    • Virginia Xan

      way more hygienic to use a bidet sprayer as in the East, to clean the backside … + much better for the planet and especially our forests! The bidet sprayer is an economical device attached to a toilet, not necessary to buy a toilet-type device now, and superior in cleanliness versus using toilet paper without washing backside first. Too bad not the norm in North America! Invented in the late 1700s by the French, too bad the English didn’t catch on earlier?

      Reply
      • Rick

        Living in mexico…our house is 45 years old..very large hacienda style.. out of 6 bedrooms, I did notice that there was two toilets in the unused bathroom at the end. I asked my wife why two side by side, and she said it was installed by her grandmother who was french. And yes…it is a full bidet. 🙂 Still operable. All papers in this house are and have always been flushed in last 45 years since built. It housed a very large family, has 5 bathrooms and 4 half bathrooms, and often has lots of guests…and never a problem to date.

        Reply
  • Melba Cardenas

    I live in Mérida Yucatán México where due to the hard rock underground, there is no way to put dreinage tubing and that’s why we use a basket which we place aside the toilet.

    Reply
    • Raf Bracho

      Oh that’s fascinating Melba! Thanks for contributing to the discussion. We hadn’t heard that reasoning before.

      Reply
    • Rick

      Hard rock = great footing. Lay the pipes and raise the surround of construction with a wall of block or rock and fill with compacted fill. Place septic tank further out in soft ground area. Always small areas available. You have a raised construction on solid footing with a plumbing system in place. You would be talking about low level rural constructions in impoverished areas as per my guess. . 😕

      Reply
  • Robert Stephen Browning

    I lived in Ajijic in Jalisco in Central Mexico for 7 months and wrote a blog called New Nations: The Expat Experience. One of the things that bothered me, almost as much as the stray, unspayed and unneutered dogs, was the the fact that the in the lovely, charming home I rented, I had to put used toilet paper in a wastebasket in the bathroom. It’s as gross as you imagine it to be, but you do get used to it.

    Reply
  • Cindy Hepburn

    I live in the US and was having a patio built at my home. One of the Mexican workers had to bring his 4yo son to work with him. He asked me if his little boy could use my bathroom, and I was good with that. A little while passed after the child left when I stepped into my bathroom and found quite a bit of used, fecal stained toilet paper lying in and spilling over onto my bathroom floor. I was mortified! I had never seen this before! He and his dad were gone by the time I found the mess, otherwise I would have been all over his dad to pick up after his son! I never let them use my bathroom, again.

    Reply
    • Raf Bracho

      Sorry you had this experience Cindy. Perhaps you could just inform them that they can flush their toilet paper down the drain in the US. . .

      Reply
    • Savannah

      I’ve read a lot of threads regarding this issue and the main concern a lot of people have is that it would stink up the whole house. I was raised doing this and that has never ever been an issue and I’ve had plenty of people over that have never mentioned anything. If you’re folding your used tp up well, disposing it in a closed top trash can, and changing the bag when it gets full then you shouldn’t really smell anything. Tossing it on the ground is gross though…

      Reply
      • Rick

        There is a thing called getting used to your surroundings, Savannah…sorry…someone like me would smell the stink in your house. You just cant smell yours for being used to it. Thats a serious note…not taking the mickey out of you.

        Reply
    • Italian boh

      Cyndy, your generosity is very clear, a good Christian usa style… Wishing that you rest in peace without tp if you go in Mexico….

      Reply
  • Mike Leslie

    I’ve lived in Mexico puerto vallarta area and all over cabo and a lot of other places and I have always flushed
    My girlfriend is Mexican and finally I asked her why and she said that’s the way she was taught. And alot of places don’t have seats either!!!??

    Reply
    • Raf Bracho

      Mike, yes. Our research has discovered that this social convention *may* be outdated, and merely socially ingrained from generation to generation.

      Concerning bathrooms without seats, I am right there with you. I have asked numerous patrons without toilet seats and I haven’t been able to get a straight answer. If I ever do, I’ll write a blog on it for sure. 🙂

      Reply
      • Lucy Elizondo

        People steal them to install them in their homes. Both sad and gross…

        Reply
    • Anton Holm

      Daughter has lived in an apartment in LA for 2 years. Up to now it was all flushed, but on Aug 1 the building will start a used tp in the trash policy. She wants to move.

      Reply
      • Raf Bracho

        Wow! In the United States? That’s surprising.

        Reply
      • Rick

        Why? I am certain it wont adhere to the health regulation acts in a communal setting??

        Reply
  • pelangi qq

    I do consider all of the ideas you’ve introduced on your post.
    They are really convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are very quick for newbies.
    Could you please prolong them a little from next time?

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  • Maryee

    In 2007 I studied abroad in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The host family was a woman who was a doctor, who had 2 sons and a house keeper who would come and prepare breakfast and dinner for us. We had to throw our soiled toilet paper in the trash as well. A couple of years later, I was teaching back home in Texas and I would find soiled toilet paper in the trash of my 6th grade girls…boys, not so much. So, thankfully because of my study abroad, I wasn’t caught off guard with my students. I had no problem announcing to them to throw the toilet paper in the toilet and not in the trash can.

    Reply
    • Raf Bracho

      That’s a great story! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      Reply
  • Kiana in Chatt

    The toilets in Mexico don’t come with the seat and lid. They are sold separately. So when one breaks it might be replaced and if it breaks again they stop replacing them because of the cost.

    Reply
    • Raf Bracho

      Is that so Kiana! I have always wondered why you sometimes don’t find a lid on the toilet.

      Reply
  • barry sucktero

    what’s the BIG DEAL…the people of Californication just SHIT in the streets!!!

    Reply
  • Joel Gruenberg’

    In the old days and back country newspaper was used. It doesn’t breakdown like TP. Clogs system. Now a custom. Better safe than sorry.

    Reply
    • Raf Bracho

      Interesting. Good to know, thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  • Andrew Crazy Life

    Thanks for this great post whoever wrote it. I am now convinced it is probably OK to flush toilet paper in Mexico. I’ve also noticed the toilet paper and paper towels there are, well… Toilet paper thin! Not like the cushy thick and soft toilet paper and paper towels we have here. It is hard to imagine that the super thin toilet paper of Mexico would cause any problem with any plumbing or cause excessive pumping of septics.

    Reply
    • Raf Bracho

      Andrew,

      I wrote the article, and I’m so glad you like it. It is likely (realistically) fine to flush toilet paper–except in very rural areas. HOWEVER, in no way is it okay to flush paper towels.

      Paper towels are designed to absorb water, not to disintegrate in water.

      We hope this message finds you well.

      Reply

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