27 May 2016

Dirty Toilet is a Mindset – Clean it!

“No, the toilets shouldn’t be here, it would be an ugly sight. No, no, no it can’t be there, the wind would blow the smell into the tent.”

This is a typical instruction from the commanding officer at any event site while deciding where to build toilets for the public during big events. Working for Bhutan Toilet Organization I was engaged in few such committee meetings and it’s disappointing to observe that even the most educated official among us had to be told that the toilets won’t be dirty and it won’t smell if we don’t want to. But almost all the time they win, and these people who won’t have to worry about managing the toilets in the following days make the decision on where and how toilets should be built.

Having grown up with dirty toilets, it has now become a mindset that all toilets will be dirty. The moment we discuss about public toilet we imagine all the filthy toilets we have seen in the past and even remember how it smelled. This very mindset affects all the decision we make now and stops us from moving forward into better future. This has happened to all our existing public toilets in towns across the country.

Working for Bhutan Toilet Organization I had the privilege of managing toilets at three major events in last few months. We began with Paro Tshechu, went to Punakha during Zhabdrung Tshechu and Peling Tshechu in Thimphu. We must have served at least fifty thousands people.
During those events, standing near the toilet door for days we had fun giving people the surprises of their lives. People would walk into our toilets with their nose covered because they knew from all their fond memories that the toilet would be dirty. A moment later we would hear them exclaim from inside, “Wow, it’s so clean”. And few good people would come out without their pride and thank us for the clean toilet.
At Paro Tshechu 
We surprise the people more by sitting under the shade of the toilet and enjoying our lunch while they come in and go our of our toilets. We believe that a toilet should be clean enough to sit by and enjoy a meal. We aren’t obliging anyone to live by our belief but because toilets are kept so clean our volunteers voluntarily enjoy their lunch near the toilet.

We have a long way to go on this journey of providing clean toilets to everyone and longer way to go in making people appreciate clean toilets and develop sound toilet habits in them. Many organizations and individuals are working on this. Everyone seems to understand the need for change but what must change first lies within us. We must change the dirty toilet mindset.
We must acknowledge that a public toilet can be a nice refreshing place. It should be given its due importance. We must stop pushing toilets away from us into the locations that are hardly accessible. At least the highly educated people who make decision on the design and location of public toilets must have clean toilets at home to base their perception of toilets, unless it’s so dirty at home.

This article is originally published in Business Bhutan on 21st May 2016.


  1. This is so true about the general mindsets that toilets are dirty. The same applies in my country but we are slightly different as we also have mindsets to use the hotel's toilets because they have air-cond and smells perfume! LOL

    The common mindsets of tourists in China are their many toilets have no cubicles at all and if they do, it doesn't have doors! I am not kidding.

  2. It may take another few years to change that classic mindset of ours. However, with BTO doing various campaigns and volunteerism works, I think things are changing. We can feel it. Keep going!

  3. Very rightly pointed out, Sir. Most of us do have that kind of mindset and as u say, it might take some years to change this mentality. It's not the toilet that stinks: it's we the users who make it stink...In the west, I have found the toilets even more clean than our living rooms.... A very insightful article. Is this the one that has brought u the cheque? haha

  4. What purpose does a toilet serve if it inaccessible, inconvenient and too dirty to use. Toilet is not a dirty word and thank you and your team for the incredible work.

  5. What purpose does a toilet serve if it inaccessible, inconvenient and too dirty to use. Toilet is not a dirty word and thank you and your team for the incredible work.

  6. Good post! Yep toilets are definitely a "No Go" for everyone until they need to. A mindset we have since childhood, more so if it's a public toilet. But being in a public toilet that is totally clean and fragrant, is sure a good treat. Something that we owe to toilet janitors. Regards from EvoEssay and thanks for this wonderful share.


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