Why Are Public Toilet Seats U-Shaped?


This is the u-shaped toilet seat you see in just about every public bathroom.

According to the Toilet Museum, yes, that’s right… the Toilet Museum… the most asked question by far, regarding toilets or “water closets” (as they are sometimes called) is why do toilet seats have a break in the front?

Horseshoe shaped toilet seats – the kind with a “break” in the front are called “open front” seats or u shaped toilet seats.

You may be surprised to hear that the shape of the toilet seat that we see the most, the u-shape, is shaped that way for a very specific reason. Do you know why? Since 1955, plumbing codes actually require that the toilet be shaped this way. Must be pretty important.

U.S. has adopted and made law the Uniform Plumbing Code of which Section 409.2.2 states “All water closet seats, except those within dwelling units, shall be of the open front type.”


The original purpose for the U-shaped seat, according to Lynne Simnick, senior director of code development at IAPMO—the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials—was to aid women. Simnick explains that the open seat was designed to allow women “to wipe the perineal area after using the water closet” without contacting a seat that might be unhygienic.

The design “eliminates an area that could be contaminated with urine” and also “eliminates the user’s genital contact with the seat.”

Also, it helps for wiping.

Basically, it allows women to wipe the perineal area without touching the toilet seat. For those of you who don’t know what the perineum is, it is otherwise known as your taint.

The U-shaped are also cheaper since they require less material and the chance of them being stolen is less likely as per Roger Barry, the MD of Healthmatic – a UK based company that designs and manages public restrooms.