Thursday, July 6th 2023
Throwing Away Your Used Toilet Paper in Mexico: Why Mexicans Don't Flush Their TP
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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, Expat Insurance 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.
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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