This Is Why Public Toilet Seats Are Shaped Like a U

Have you noticed that the toilet seats in public restrooms look a little different than your toilet at home?

It might be something that you miss unless it’s pointed out to you. Next time you go to a public bathroom, take a look before you sit down on the toilet seat. You won’t encounter an oval or circle, but something incomplete; a U. This is an open-front toilet seat, and thanks to the American Standard National Plumbing Code, it’s the go-to for most public restrooms.

This code was created in 1955 and further cemented by the Uniform Plumbing Code in 1973 by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). The code states, “Water closets shall be equipped with seats of smooth non-absorbent material. All seats of water closets provided for public use shall be of the open-front type.”

Why Are Some Toilet Seats Shaped Like a U?

The rationale for both of these rules comes down to hygiene. With an open front, there’s less surface area that can make incidental contact with your nether regions. But what about the toilet seat covers you can use? Unfortunately, those don’t offer as much protection against germs as you think they do.

They were also designed with women in mind, according to Lynne Simick, the senior director of code development at IAPMO. The gap in the seat is designed to “allow women to wipe the perineal area after using the toilet without contacting the seat,” she tells Slate. Simick notes that the design also benefits men. She says an open-front seat “eliminates an area that could be contaminated with urine” and also “eliminates the user’s genital contact with the seat.”

Why Are Some Toilets Sloped?

Another thing you might notice in a public restroom is a toilet that is sloped down. The “Slanty toilet” features an inclined seat, shifts some of the user’s weight to their legs. The sloped design makes it uncomfortable to sit on after about five minutes, however the time will vary based on leg strength and other factors. It is designed with the same purpose as public park benches with sloping seats to discourage prolonged usage.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest