Why Do Public Toilet Seats Have A Gap?

The next time you have to use a public restroom, look at the seat before you sit down. You won’t find an oval or a circle, but rather something that’s missing – with a gap in the front. But, why do public toilet seats have a gap?

Even if you don’t mind the stench, the toilet seat in a public restroom toilet will feel different than the one in your own home.

Nearly every public lavatory will feature what is known as open-front toilet seats. These are U-shaped and have an aperture at the front.

Yes, you might as well call it a horseshoe toilet seat!

In the specifics of this article, we shall discuss why public toilet seats have a gap.

Why Do Public Toilet Seats Have A Gap?

9 Perfectly Good Reasons Why Public Toilet Seats Are U-Shaped

Photo by Ranker

The main why toilets in public restrooms tend to have open fronts is because it makes cleaning easier. In addition, toilet seats that have a gap allow air to circulate better, making it less likely that you’ll get sick from someone else’s germs.

But, that’s not it. There are several other reasons why public toilet seats in America have a gap. Let’s have a look at these reasons and a few minor theories below:

U-Shaped Toilet Seats Are Required By The Code In Public Restrooms

The reason why there’s a difference between a public restroom and the one in your home is that the former must meet certain standards set out by plumbing codes.

These codes require toilets to be installed with two parts, a bowl and a tank and require that the bowl part be placed over the tank.

In addition, the bowls must be designed to allow easy access to the tank without having to bend down.

The majority of U.S. public authorities have adopted plumbing rules requiring the two-pronged, open-front seat.

According to Dan Cole, Technical Services Manager of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, “all seats of water closets provided for public use shall be either of the open front types (with a gap at the front) or have an automatic seat cover dispenser, except those within dwelling units,” (American Standard National Plumbing Code in 1955, and in the Uniform Plumbing Code in 1973). International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO)

While the initial version of this code was created in 1955, it wasn’t until 1973 that the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) adopted it as the Uniform Plumbing Code.

“Water closets shall be furnished with seats of smooth non-absorbent material,” the IAPMO code states. All in all, every public restroom must have open-front toilet seats.

U-Shaped Toilet Seats Are Designed Keeping Women In Mind

Public toilet seats have a gap for women

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

According to Lynne Simnick, the Senior Director of code development at the International Association of Plumbing, the open-front toilet seats were primarily created to make wiping easier for women.

Lynne Simnick explains that the cutout was designed to allow women to wipe their perineal area after using the toilet without contacting the seat.

As we all know, it is important for women to wipe the perineal area after using the toilet to avoid UTIs and other problems down there.

For this reason, public toilet seats have a gap in the front and are made in a U-shape.

(It’s obvious that the women in question have never had a talk about UTI prevention.)

Public Toilet Seats With A Gap Are More Hygienic

This is probably the biggest reason why public toilets have gaps and are made in a U-shape. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who sit on toilet seats with gaps are more hygienic than those who don’t.

This is because the gap allows air to circulate through the seat, preventing bacteria from building up.

According to Lynne Simnick, again, the Senior Director of code development, it is always a better choice to use a split toilet seat with a gap at the front because you can do your thing without contacting the seat.

This allows less chance for the transfer of germs, regardless of who’s using it – men or women.

Moreover, if you were to look inside the toilet bowl, you’d find a lot of dirt and germs floating around. But with the open front toilet seat, you can easily see everything you’re doing, so you won’t miss any spots.

If you’re worried about germs getting onto your hands, then you’ll definitely appreciate the open front toilet seat. This is because if you are someone who wipes your front area, then there is a lot less probability of germs getting to your whole hand from the toilet seat.

Moreover, in a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, researchers found that the presence of gaps in public toilet seats reduced the number of fecal coliform bacteria by 80 percent.

Toilets Without Gaps Can Be Easier To Clean

u-shaped toilet seats are more hygienic

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

If you’re worried about the cleanliness of public toilets, then you should know that they can actually be cleaned easier because of the gaps. As mentioned above, the seat gap allows air to flow through the seat, which helps keep it cleaner.

Moreover, if someone were to touch the seat, the gap would allow them to wash their hands before sitting down.

Toilet Seats With A Gap Are Less Likely To Be Stolen

According to Roger Barry, general director of Healthmatic, a UK business that develops and operates public bathrooms, seats in public facilities with a gap in the front are less likely to be stolen.

Even though you can’t see somebody stealing from a public restroom, he insists that it’s a significant issue with public toilet seats.

He notes that “U-shaped seats” are less common in the UK these days because public restrooms no longer have them installed due to theft concerns.

In other words, robbers aren’t exactly lining up to steal one of these U-shaped jewels from bathrooms.

Thus, a purported advantage of the U-shaped seats is that they are less likely to be stolen.

Since people do steal toilet seats, this epidemic has led several public restrooms to start removing toilet seats all at once.

We wouldn’t mind a toilet seat, be it a U-shaped seat or an O-shaped one!

Public Toilet Seats Have A Gap Because It’s Cheaper

Here’s a no-brainer: U-shaped toilet seats use significantly less material than their fully spherical counterparts to manufacture.

It makes sense for business owners to go with the more affordable model when furnishing public restrooms.

Relax and enjoy the opulent roundness of the toilet seat at your home the next time.

Toilet Seats With Gaps Eliminate Contamination From Urine

While the gap at the front “eliminates an area that could be contaminated with urine,” Lynne Simnick stated that it also “eliminates the user’s genital touch with the seat.” This is a distinct advantage for male users.

U-shaped seats provide you with a bit more area to relieve yourself without touching the toilet seat with your genitalia. They also reduce the likelihood that your pee will spray onto the floor.

Some guys, it is said, are less careful with their aim in public restrooms than they are in their own homes.

The U-shaped toilet seat helps mitigate this problem to some extent. Unlike conventional toilet seats, these do not have a closed front. This ensures the pee does not splash out onto the floor in front of the toilet seat.

Furthermore, we don’t think there’s a single person out there, regardless of sex, who wouldn’t appreciate a reduced likelihood of a backsplash.

They May Be More Flexible And Able To Support Different Body Weights

The law isn’t the only thing people have speculated about in the porcelain house.

A Reddit user proposed that the lack of material on a U-shaped toilet seat with a gap at the front would make it more suitable for people of varied sizes.

A Reddit engineer agreed, saying that circles are quite inflexible and hence break easily. On the other hand, horseshoe or U-shaped seat is much more flexible and resilient.

O-Shaped Toilet Vs. U-Shaped Toilet – Which One Is Better?

o-shaped vs u-shaped toilet

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

O-shaped toilet seats are usually installed in homes and private spaces while U-shaped seats are installed in public restrooms. Depending on the gender of the user, usage, comfort, hygiene, and other parameters, either toilet seat shape could be better than the other for you.

Often, toilet seats in public places are shaped like the letter “U,” rather than the letter “O” is because there’s a difference between a toilet and a urinal.

A urinal is designed to hold urine, while a toilet is designed to hold feces. And since you don’t want to touch someone else’s waste, the shape of the toilet seat helps keep everyone clean.

In fact, the shape of the toilet seat is mandated by the Standard National Plumbing Code. It has also been adopted by many local governments across America.

In California, for example, all water closets must have “open front” toilet seats, which are defined as having an opening at the front of the toilet bowl.

As mentioned, in the United States, public toilets must conform to certain standards set out by local and federal Standard National Plumbing Code. These requirements also include the height of the bowl, the number of holes in the floor, etc.

In addition to being hygienic, the open-front toilet seat design allows people to see into the toilet while sitting down. This design also allows people to use the toilet without bending over, which prevents the spread of germs and bacteria.

So, in one way, U-shaped toilet seats may be a better option. However, they are still not as prevalent because the general American public is more used to O-shaped toilet seats.

It looks like the choice may not change anytime soon, either!


What Are Open Front Toilet Seats?

U-shaped toilet seats are also known as open-front toilet seats. That’s because the seats are rounded with a gap in the front that resembles the shape of the letter “U”. Open-front toilet seats are generally found in public restrooms, whereas closed-front toilets are used in private homes.

In the open front toilet, you sit on a bowl that opens up, giving you room to wipe and touch yourself to clean yourself up.

What Are Closed Front Toilet Seats?

The closed front toilet seats do not have a gap in the front. In the closed front toilet, you sit down on a bowl that closes off the area where you pee and poop. You don’t see anything while you’re sitting on the toilet, and you can’t touch yourself.

Is It Safe To Use Public Toilet?

Using public toilets is safe and healthy. However, using public toilets can come with some risks if you aren’t careful. For instance, if you’re going to a bathroom, make sure to wash the toilet seat before using it. Additionally, avoid touching the walls.

How Do I Clean Myself After Using Public Toilets?

You can clean yourself after using public toilets by wiping yourself with toilet paper. If you need to wash your hands, just wet them first before cleaning yourself. If you’re worried about getting sick, then you can buy hand sanitizer at any drugstore.

Wrapping Up!

You now know why you see and have to use a U-shaped toilet seat in public.

It’s essential to consider sanitation and hygiene wherever possible. A gap in the public toilet seats helps to do just that.

Do you think differently about the gap in the public restroom now that you know its backstory?

Drop us a comment!

Swati Jaiswal

Swati Jaiswal is a dedicated traveler and an even dedicated individual who specializes in travel, digital marketing, & health and fitness niches. Passport stamps and coffee stains are her badges of honor.

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