Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Loo lessons - São Paulo

My bathroom never looks this neat. But it does have a little trash can next to the toilet

I'm feeling a little bad that this following subject has been left to my last week of daily blogging. But the story must be told. The grim truth is this: in Brazil, you do not toss your toilet paper in the bowl and flush it away. Nope. The sewage system here just cannot handle it. 

Instead, at the side of any toilet bowl in houses or commercial buildings or airports or schools, is a small trash bin. You do your stuff, you wipe your stuff, you throw the wipe in the bin. It's completely foreign for most visitors to Brazil and the cross-cultural learning can be tough if there is a flooded bathroom or two.

Be warned, visitors. Toilet paper in the trash, not in the toilet.


  1. I was warned back in 1997 before coming here the first time. I've been all over this country (except for the far south) and it's the same everywhere. Imagina na Copa. :-)

  2. Dear friend,

    This subject always puzzled me, because my at parents home (while growing up in Brazil) we never had "the little dirty basket of shame" and we always flushed toilet paper down the toilet and never had a problem with clogging, ever! We lived in an old building built back in 1974, my father still lives in it.
    However, it is true that it is very common to see the infamous trash bin in Brazil, very, very often.
    I worked recently in a dairy factory, and received regular visits from Sao Paulo state's health department. In all visits, and as a part of the strict health code of the Brazilian food industry, the state representative enforced the compliance rule of the prohibition of said "trash bins" in the workers toilet.
    It is a simple matter of opening up a possibility for contamination, the employee's bathroom in a cheese factory or any other food factory for that matter cannot have bins filled with soiled toilet paper.
    I took the opportunity to ask the state employee what is up with this "habit" in Brazil, because civil engineers have already assured me they are not aware of any difference between Brazilian plumbing and plumbing from any other country, and furthermore, they assured me, no toilet will be clogged if you throw toilet paper inside. Toilet paper is engineered to dissolve in water, and rarely clog toilets, unless you throw a large amount of paper inside at once, just like any toilet would clog with any large amount of paper.
    So, the mystery remained to me, WHY, oh WHY people have this horrible, despicable habit of keeping the nasty little baskets for soiled toilet paper.
    I frequently ask, and I always hear the same thing, from civil engineers, from the state health department person, from a CETESB ( state sewage authority ) representative who visited our factory, from architects, the habit still exists in Brazil simply because until 30 years ago a HUGE portion of the population still lived in rural areas with no plumbing, people lived in rural areas with cesspools and septic tanks that are NOT toilet paper friendly.
    So most Brazilians living in cities today are either from a rural area originally or their parents came from a rural area in the 1950's and 1960's.
    My family has always lived in the city, my great-grandparents had indoor plumbing installed in the 1930's, hence my family's total lack of the nasty little habit of the despicable toilet paper basket.
    Now, be brave, don't be afraid, go ahead and get rid of your nasty little trash bin of shame and use your toilet normally, breath deep and just do it! :)



    1. Interesting especially because there are so many places (my kids' school, the airport, etc) that have signs asking you NOT to throw toilet paper in the toilet. And my 30 year old house does indeed have an issue with it, but maybe that's just an individual problem. I probably don't have your courage... :)

  3. Eh eh eh, you are correct. I bet these public places have an issue with people throwing too much paper all at once in the toilets, at least this is what most professionals I have asked told me.
    You know what is even more interesting, the technicians at CETESB have told me that sewage treatment plants actually need paper material thrown into them, because the bacteria that helps clean the water feed on paper!!!
    Oh, we can talk about toilet paper, we can write an entire book on toilet paper, lol! :)