Have you ever taken the time to really study the toilet seat in a public bathroom? Even if you’ve only taken a passing glance, you’ve probably wondered why public toilet seats are U-shaped (especially since the one in your house is ovular and closed). Even the weirdest toilets on Earth have this seat shape. It turns out there are lots of good reasons toilet seats are shaped like a U — it’s cheaper, more hygienic, and maybe even more comfortable than that rounded model you currently have in your bathroom at home.
Just as there are smart explanations for toilet stalls not going all the way to the ground, there are plenty of really good reasons for U-shaped toilet seats in public restrooms and you’ll finally have an answer for the question, «Why are public toilet seats shaped like that?»
They’re Required by Code
Although you’ve probably never heard of it, there’s an organization called the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) that writes the codes that most states adopt as their public restroom laws. Since 1955, the American Standard National Plumbing Code (as written by the IAPMO) has called for U-shaped toilet seats in public restrooms in the US. Why? Because, apparently, there are a whole host of hygiene benefits offered by the open-front design.
They Reduce the Risk of Backsplash
There’s a running theory that some, shall we call them “gentlemen,” aren’t as careful with their aim at public toilets as they are with their private ones. Well, the U-shaped toilet seat provides a partial solution for this potential misfiring. Thanks to their open-front design, they reduce the chance of urine backsplash at the front of the toilet seat. And really, lady or gentlemen, who doesn’t like less chance of backsplash?
There’s Less Room for Junk Mingling
It really doesn’t matter who you are or what genitalia you bring to the toilet — if you’re a toilet sitter, the U-shaped seat reduces the chances of your junk touching a place where someone else’s junk recently rested. It provides a nice, breezy, hygienic gap to avoid the chance of this happening. And, even if it’s basically a paranoid myth that you can catch things from toilet seats, a little extra precaution never hurts.
They Make Front Wiping a Breeze
According to Lynne Simnick, the senior vice president of code development at IAMPO, the biggest reason for the U-shaped toilet seat is to make female wiping more hygienic. Apparently, that big open gap at the front of the seat is meant to “eliminate the user’s genital contact with the seat,” and to “allow women to wipe the perineal area after using the toilet.”
They’re Cheaper to Produce
So here’s an obvious one: U-shaped toilet seats require less material to produce than the fully rounded ones. Since they’re most often found in public restrooms, it makes sense that business owners and restaurateurs opt for the cheaper design in outfitting their bathrooms. So next time you sit on your personal, fully rounded seat, take the time to bask in its luxurious circularity.
They’re Less Tempting to Toilet Thieves
Toilet seat thieves aren’t exactly clamoring to get their hands on one of these U-shaped treasures. In fact, one of the alleged benefits of the U-shaped seats is that they’re less likely to be stolen. And, before you ask, apparently toilet seat theft is a real problem, so much of a problem, in fact, that some public restrooms have begun forgoing toilet seats altogether.
They’re More Ergonomic
There’s also a running theory among lay toilet connoisseurs that the U-shaped seat design is simply more comfortable. If that’s true, though, it doesn’t really make sense that more people don’t utilize the open front for their personal toilets.