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 (19)

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

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