Sunday, 25 September 2011

A Much-Needed History Lesson for the Great Unwashed

We naturally assume that all our readers are wild-eyed barbarians, and need all the help they can get when it comes to hygiene and education. We are therefore extra thrilled today to announce that we have received a hot tip about a fun, light-hearted, yet educational tv programme, suited to a wide range of intelligence levels. It is called If Walls Could Talk, and one episode is devoted to the bathroom. Lucy Worsley, chief curator of the historic royal palaces, takes us on a jaunty caper through bathrooms of different ages.
If you have already washed all your linen with lye and urine today, and happen to have the luxury of a lazy Sunday with nothing to do, this delightful programme can be viewed on the BBC iplayer.

This woman has got the right idea
Related Reading
Other Posts About Lucy Worsley
Joy in the Morning, Afternoon, and Well into the Night: Caitlin Moran in a Bathroom

Saturday, 24 September 2011

A Bog Roll Article Was Overdue

It's Christmas. Yes, it is. It is no use trying to deny it; September is well advanced and therefore, in the eyes of the giant, scaly monster we call Retail, it is now Christmas. Christmas makes us think of trees, and trees make us think of toilet roll.

Velvet - "not too bad" (revolting cutesy design with golden-haired child notwithstanding)
We're working our way through the FSC-labelled toilet roll in our local supermarket. A recent candidate was Velvet. We have a very low opinion of bog roll companies, and so take the ecological friendliness of Velvet's claim to "replant three for every tree they use" with a barrelful of salt. However, viewing the list on the Ethical Consumer website, Velvet ranks 8.5, about the middle of the scale, below Andrex but above Nouvelle.
In an article by WWF, SCA, the company behind Velvet, is given the dubious credential of coming out top in a survey of the eco-friendlieness of tissue companies, in a report which concluded that none of the major European tissue companies use enough recycled fibre (n.b. the article is from 2005).

So we suppose the overall eco-friendly mark for Velvet is "not too bad".

The crucial FSC label

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Privy Counsel Book Club: Dissolution

Intellectual Friend is back in our good books after doing us an undisclosed favour, and we now feel perky enough to tell you about a most exciting book we've read recently. It's a historical whodunnit set in 16th-century England, called Dissolution, (London, Pan Books 2007) by C. J. Sansom (aren't you dying to know what the C. J. stands for?).

We've got a treat for you: the main character, the hunchbacked Master Shardlake, is pondering monasterial plumbing:

I passed a row of dovecotes, beyond which a large pond surrounded by reeds could be seen.  It was a stewpond, dug out for the keeping and breeding of fish.  The little stream flowed into it before running through a small culvert under the rear wall a little way off.  There was a heavy wooden gate nearby.  Monasteries, I recalled, were always built by a stream to carry away waste.  The early monks were clever plumbers; there was probably some arrangement to divert the waste to prevent it befouling the fish pond. (161)

There are all kinds of goings-on in the monasterial privies as well, but we'll leave it to you to find out what!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Finnish Mania: Despite Negligence, We Forgive Intellectual Friend

Intellectual Friend has, in a feat of unrivalled toilet negligence, still not sent us any Icelandic toilet photographs. However, he sent us a picture of a Finnish public toilet instead! Being mere lowly toilet chroniclers, we're not picky and have hardly any dignity. Therefore we forgive all and caper with joy in a most pathetic manner. Here's Intellectual Friend's intellectually valid story of a Finnish bog! Hurrah!

Helsinki public toilet, à la Minas Morgul

Fascinating how this toilet mania can spread freely and unhindered (writes Intellectual Friend). After spending just a few days in York with a (by association) occasionally toilet-aware Intellectual person (toilet-aware by association, not intellectual by association), Very Special Friend then travels to Finland for a laudably serious academic purpose and, despite being (heretofore) utterly toilet-unobsessed (as far as a Scandinavian can be that), yet dashes out to a park in Helsinki in the gloomy pre-dawn hours yesterday and sacrifices some of her precious pre-dawn stroll time to go out of her way and take a picture of this disturbing Minas Morgul-style toilet!

On account of having systematically been spoken to in Finnish by the Finns, Very Special Friend had assumed she must look Finnish; however, the explicit expectation displayed on this toilet that both sexes will use urinals made her wonder whether she can really stand up to Finnish women after all.

On account of having systematically been spoken to in Finnish by the Finns, Very Special Friend had assumed she must look Finnish; however, the explicit expectation displayed on this toilet that both sexes will use urinals made her wonder whether she can really stand up to Finnish women after all.
We alleviated this little dismay, though, by discussing the attendant linguistic evidence (just about distinguishable by zooming in). Interesting how the Finnish word, pisuaari, seems to come ostensibly from French, while the Swedish urinoar looks more akin to the English (though both are ultimately from French too, a subsequent OED-helped research reveals; urinal in 12th c. French meant "glass vessel or phial employed to receive urine for medical examination or inspection").
Quite apart from the concept of charging some toilet activities and not others, one can make out (after zooming) and ponder the two trilingual signs "Maksuton / Ingen avgift / Free of charge" and "Maksu / Avgift / Charge". This is of course the occasion to delight in this schoolbook example of the very productive and versatile Finno-Ugric suffixes of negation, in this case -ton.

We are sorely tempted to insert an appalling pun here about how linguistic analysis, like chlamydia testing (see our previous post On the Eighth Day God Created Paratroopers, but He Forgot Soap), is a piece of piss, but we hesitate to offend and upset neurotic readers still in possession of their mental faculties, and so we abstain.

Related Reading
More Negligence by Intellectual Friend: Bulgaria: An Intellectual Treat
The Icelandic photos did, eventually, arrive. And were they ever worth the wait! Woof! A Splendid Christmas Present: The Best Toilets in Iceland

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Rejoice, for We Bring You Another Celebrity Crapper!

Our toilet celebrity has recently moved house (you can view the old toilet here), and we, in our capacity of toilet reviewer to the stars, were naturally invited to view the toilet as soon as it was ready.
Creeping in with our camera, we were overwhelmed by this toilet's loveliness. It is rich in light and ceiling height, and that aura of glamour that celebrity toilets always have pervades every nook and cranny. This is no ordinary crapper - it's a star-dusted celebrity crapper!
We chided our famous dusky beauty, who remains anonymous, for not having mixer taps in the bathroom, casting her suggestion that period properties shouldn't have them on the dungheap, where it belongs! We would go so far as to say "pish and piffle" to that idea! Also "stuff and nonsense". Be that as it may, there is at least a mixer tap in the kitchen, a picture of which we include below to calm and reassure sensitive, high-strung readers.
Let the loveliness begin!

A vision of loveliness

The sink. Hygeia, naturally, frowns at the separated taps and has to fight the urge to rip them out with her teeth

Regular readers will recognise these prints

A lovely toilet...

...and it's got a water-saving flush!

A saucy print from the Arabian Nights, adding that je ne sais quoi so essential to the celebrity bathroom

Many, many mirrors! Eight of them, in fact.

The kitchen mixer tap. You can all breathe again now.
All in all we enjoyed our latest celebrity toilet jaunt very much, and look forward to bringing you many more in future!

Related Reading
Celebrity Toilet Premiere
Coming Soon: Celebrity Toilets!
For more mirror bedazzlement: 
Czech Mate (Yeah, Yeah, We Know, Sorry)

Monday, 12 September 2011

On the Eighth Day God Created Paratroopers, But He Forgot the Soap

Yesterday we donned our favourite tweeds and went for a brisk stroll in the countryside. The weather was bracing, with the feisty hurricane Katia in mischievous mood. We enjoyed the scenery, just outside the little village of Catterick, very much; there was an abundance of moorland, woods, pine trees, juniper bushes, etc, to gladden the eye and put a song in the heart of even the most cantankerous old sergeant-major. A legion or so of strapping young men in uniform lined the way, cheering us on during our outing - most invigorating!
If you hadn't guessed already, we happened to be taking part in the Paras 10 race at Catterick Garrison, in aid of the Parachute Regiment charity! It was a fantastic day, and we recommend the experience warmly to anyone who likes running, or who just likes pain.

We've got some exciting interiors of a disability toilet to show you, as well as a portaloo!

The disabled toilet at Catterick garrison: Most clean and hygienic, with plenty of space.

A mixer tap and paper towels! However, there was no soap. Also, note the paper towel already scrunched up and discarded in an odd place, due to the lack of a bin. (Hygeia frowns.)

One can only applaud this military anti-bacterial campaign

We love NHS posters aimed at the military! Getting tested for chlamydia is "a piece of piss" apparently!

Getting tested is easier than you think

A close-up of the mixer tap, because we loved it!
Unfortunately, despite the admirable cleanliness and the mixer tap, this toilet only earns 1 measly point, due to the lack of soap, bin, coathook and toilet roll holder! The lack of a bin actually had comical consequences, as at the end of the day there was a pile of paper towels reaching halfway to the ceiling in one corner! One pities whoever was on latrine duty that day...

Now for the portaloo.

Early in the day and the portaloo is well stocked with bog roll, paper towels and soap

Hygienic paper towels

The toilet. Perfectly civilised, if somewhat muddy - perfectly understandable

The amount of toilet roll needed was seriously underestimated
The portaloo gets 4 points. Though there wasn't nearly enough toilet paper for all the runners, the loos were clean (at least during the early part of the day) and smelled very pleasantly of eucalyptus!

All in all, we had a smashing time at Catterick. The scenery really was astounding, and the Paras had put up cheering signs along the way, with slogans such as "Train hard - fight easy" and "On the eighth day God created paratroopers, and the Devil stood to attention". The pain is temporary and the mud was easy to wash off.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Book Club: Cocoa and Corsets

 Today we continue our book club with a riveting read called Cocoa & Corsets (Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London 1984) by Michael Jubb. It contains amusing and quite often disturbing advertisement posters from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

This was a time when both hygiene and advertising were developing and branching out into previously unimaginable directions. Nobody used soap much before the 19th century - some people still don't!
Soap fit for a queen: Robert Brown's White Windsor Soap, 1885. "Purest for infants and persons with delicate skin, promoting a beautiful complexion."

Handwashing is not a recent obsession: Royd Chaffeur Soap, 1907

It took a while for London's water companies to get their hygiene right. One imagines one would be pretty pissed off if, after paying one's water bill, one ended up with cholera! East London Water Consumers' Defence Association, 1898

Friday, 9 September 2011

Trust the National Trust to Have an Alright Toilet

 We are indebted to Canadian Friend for this update. The below pictures are from the National Trust Tea Room in York. Our friend was most impressed with this toilet which, although bog-standard and by no means fancy, has a mixer-tap, covered toilet-roll holder, well-filled soap dispenser and coat-hook! Moreover, this is a disability toilet (which might be the reason it's got a mixer tap), so everyone can have a go. The flush handle, however, looks like a traditional British flush requiring large mechanical strength to turn, and therefore disability-hostile.

Covered bin which doesn't look as though it would get uncomfortably close, and a covered bog-roll holder. However, the flush handle looks like it might not be easily manoeuvrable, and therefore it might not be disability-friendly

A mixer-tap!

Paper towel dispenser. Paper towels are hygienic, and much preferable to air-dryers, unless of course there is a hygienic, low-energy one available (read more about them here)

This looks like an excellent coat-hook. And the door opens outwards!
We meant to quote a Morrissey song which we seem to remember having the words "National Trust" in it, but we're too hungover to remember which one it might be. If you happen to know, please drop us a line.

Since we haven't been to this toilet ourselves we find it hard to review, but we estimate that it gets roughly 9 points out of 17.

National Trust Tea Rooms
30 Goodramgate
York YO1 2LG

01904 659282

Thursday, 8 September 2011

A Talking Picture and a Lovely Prize

We're feeling ever so slightly mentally unbalanced today, and therefore we're not going to attempt writing anything at length, but will let the below picture say more than a thousand words.

It has been suggested that this may be the House of Commons toilet, where apparently they need plenty of tissue to mop up all the verbal diarrhoea.

Do you have an amusing suggestion of your own?
Atrocious puns, appalling double entendres and wild, untamed flights of imagination are all welcome - send them to for the chance to win a lovely prize!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Onto the Bleach: The Battle Continues

We imagine you're still reeling from our recent bacterial onslaught, so we thought we'd kick you while you're down, by introducing this thought: when cleaning the bathroom, do you clean frequently touched surfaces like the toilet flush handle, door handle, and light switch (or, if you live in Britain, annoying string light pull)? We rather thought not.

Personally, we favour bleach as a cleaning product, not necessarily because we're bacteriophobic, but because we live in Britain and British bathrooms are notoriously mould-infested.

We've done some research for your benefit, for instance into how to protect yourself from the dangerous flying toilet bacteria which are, if you believe the bleach companies, every moment plotting death and destruction for you and your family.
Here, feast your eyes on these pictures!

Morrisons bleach: kills all germs, apparently

"Kills all germs. 24 hr protection against flying toilet germs"

Domestos doesn't just kill germs, it "kills them dead".
This superior efficiency might be why it costs twice as much as Morrisons' own brand.

Domestos likes to think of itself as the Spiderman of bleach products, clinging to the toilet even after flushing.

Apparently there is such a thing as a Royal Society for Public Health.
Whatever it is, Domestos has been approved by it.

Our bathroom has a towel ring in rather an odd place. Personally we'd rather eat our own liver than use a towel hanging this close to the toilet. (Hygeia feels faint and has to sit down with a glass of brandy at the mere thought.) We've been trying to think of an alternative use for it, since someone went to the trouble of putting it there, and our landlady probably wouldn't be best pleased if we removed it. Monkey, for instance,  likes to use it as a trapeze. If you think of a clever, amusing or useful use of this towel ring, feel free to leave a comment or send us an e-mail at!

Monday, 5 September 2011

A Visionary If Not Strictly Toilet-Related Update

Forgive us for this not-strictly-toilet-related post, but we've been spending some time in Oxfam lately and, while there, our nose alerted us to the presence of these highly delectable bath melts from a company called the Visionary Soap Company. Our local Oxfam shop stocks the geranium and lavender varieties. Fairtrade, vegan, and entirely devoid of planet-hostile palm oil - bingo!
If you have the nerve to get into your bath after our last bacterial update, we highly recommend taking these babies with you! Alas, we can't transfer the scent of them via the picture below, but we would describe it as, to get poetical, really, really, really yummy.

Really, really, really yummy

...While we're on the subject of Oxfam, may we recommend a look at their Unwrapped gifts? The Build a Bog happens to be a favourite of ours.

...And, if you happen to be Scandiwegian and like bath- and beauty-type products, we recommend you have a gander at this blog.

Related Reading
The Lord Privy Seal Brings a Badly Needed Touch of Class. Also Monkey-Friendly Soaps.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Toilet Roll Holders (But Were Afraid to Ask)

We have received queries regarding our fierce obsession with covered toilet roll holders.  “Why,” the cry goes, “must they be covered?” “At home,” it goes on, “I just leave my bog roll lying around – is that wrong?”

Is this wrong?

 To explain our viewpoint on this matter, we shall once again escort you into the realms of literature, and reach for our favourite book, Flushed with Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper by Wallace Reyburn (Pavilion Books, London, 1989).

“An interesting thing to note is that Crapper and other plumbers of his day lay themselves open to infection not only by direct contact during the course of their work [more on this in an upcoming blog update].  Crapper, perforce, spent a great deal of time flushing toilets, and one learns from a recent issue of Lancet that the water closet is a fine example of an aerosol.
Not visible to the naked eye, the spray sent out by a toilet has given hospitals cause for concern and in 1966 The Lancet carried a report on tests made in connection with the fact that ‘flushing a wash-down water closet produces a bacterial aerosol’.
[...] After the slit-samples were incubated for 24 hours, not only was the disturbing fact revealed that the average wash-down closet had sent out 37.5 colonies of bacterial contamination per 100 cubic feet.  Tests made with the seat cover down resulted in ‘a rather surprising finding’.  Far from the seat cover blocking the spray, the number of bacterial colonies jumped from 37.5 to 46.9.  Apparently the spray was forced out through the gap the rubber buffers create between the seat and the rim of the pan and this made the toilet into a much more efficient aerosol, like turning the nozzle of a hose to ‘jet stream’.
All of which makes a nice new thing for anyone with a contamination complex to worry about.” (p. 28)

Our favourite work of literature

Mr Reyburn’s is not the only brain to tackle this problem.  An online article by Sarah Tan gives us more information.

“[The aerosol effect] seems to have first been brought to light by University of Arizona environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba when he published a scientific article in 1975 describing bacterial and viral aerosols due to toilet flushing (2). He conducted tests by placing pieces of gauze in different locations around the bathroom and measuring the bacterial and viral levels on them after a toilet flush, and his results are more than just a little disturbing.
First is the confirmation of the existence of the aerosol effect, even though it is largely unrecognized. 'Droplets are going all over the place—it's like the Fourth of July,' said Gerba. 'One way to see this is to put a dye in the toilet, flush it, and then hold a piece of paper over it' (8). Indeed, Gerba's studies have shown that the water droplets in an invisible cloud travel six to eight feet out and up, so the areas of the bathroom not directly adjacent [to] the toilet are still contaminated. Walls are obviously affected, and in public or communal bathrooms, the partitions between stalls are definitely coated in the spray mist from the toilet (1). Also, toilet paper will be cleanest when it is enclosed in a plastic or metal casing; after all, it's subject to the same droplets splattering on it, and its proximity to the toilet bowl makes contamination potential obvious.

[...] There are also greater implications from the study of the aerosol effect than [the] simple grossness factor. Most obviously, bathrooms should be cleaned even more meticulously than before, with emphasis not just on and around the toilet, but equal emphasis on all areas of the bathroom because all areas are equally affected by the spray. Using the right cleaners is important because all-purpose cleaning solutions are not necessarily antibacterial, whereas most cleaners made specifically for restrooms are referred to as disinfectants or germicidal cleaners (1). Given that the sink area teems with bacteria, one must now be more careful about washing hands properly after walking into the bathroom for any non toilet-related purposes like washing your face and brushing teeth. Using a hair dryer can potentially be problematic in regard to bacteria counts because the effect would be largely the same as hot-air hand dryers, which actually increase the bacteria on hands by 162 percent, as opposed to paper towels, which decrease them by 29 percent (7). If you're still not convinced that bacteria exist in any significant quantities on your hands, consider that [the] kitchen sink actually harbors the most fecal matter in the average home, carried there by unwashed hands after using the bathroom (5). A tablespoon of bleach in a cup of warm water on the offending sink will fix the situation ... for the day.
To limit the scope of the aerosol effect, the simplest method is to close the lid on the toilet every time before flushing (5). This would also provide the peace of mind that while you are washing your hands for 30 seconds, microscopic, bacteria-laden water droplet[s] will not be descending upon your person. Unfortunately, most public toilets, including the ones in Bryn Mawr's dorms, don't even have lids for that option. Besides, given the large number of people who have used the toilet before you, it probably wouldn't make much difference. After washing your hands, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door to leave, in order to avoid being recontaminated (4). And today, get a new toothbrush and always, always keep it in the medicine cabinet or some other enclosed place after use (2).” (

 We imagine that quite a few of you, dear readers, are now paralysed with fear, and vow to a) have a colostomy pronto and never, ever, ever go to the toilet again, and b) ditch your best friend and start a deep and meaningful relationship with your hand-sanitizing gel.
However, there is no need to panic!
Hygeia, our patron goddess, has several handy hints and tips for dealing with your increasing toilet paranoia. We shall attempt to outline them in a handy list, easy to read even for hyperventilating, panic-stricken recent hygiene-obsessives.

Print This out and Put It on Your Fridge 
(Or, even better, have it tattooed on your forehead for the benefit of the hygienically challenged)

1) Wherever possible, put down the lid when flushing.
2) When installing a toilet roll holder, make it a covered one.
3) If possible, keep your toothbrush in a bathroom cabinet.
4) Don't bloody use hand-dryers!!! (Unless, of course, they're of the hygienic, Privy Counsel-approved variety (see below).)
5) Wash your hands.
6) Wash you hands.
7) Wash, and we really can't stress this enough, your hands.

(Information on how to wash your hands properly is available here.)

So what kind of toilet roll holder should one go for? Some of our personal favourites come from the Lake District, parts of which are laudably hygienic. For instance, Café Treff, home of the best toilet in England, has a toilet roll holder from the Swedish company Katrin, whose products have been awarded both the Scandinavian eco-label The Swan and the EU Ecolabel.

The Café Treff bog: a pattern toilet!

 Another good toilet-roll holder is situated not far from the best toilet in England, in the Hiker's Bar toilet at the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub, Langdale, which we reviewed the other day. It is the hygienic Smart One holder.

A commendably hygienic toilet roll holder

We also recommend, as an alternative to traditional air-dryers (paper towels are great but not particularly tree-friendly), the new hygienic, energy-saving ones. Two examples that we have come across are the Dyson Airblade and the Veltia Hand Dryer.

Woof! Fancy getting your hands on this one? Enjoy the toilets at Kennedy's in York!

To rub against this baby, get yourself down
to the Berrick Saul building at the University of York!

We hope that you now feel informed, reassured and hygienically competent. (If not, don't hesitate to e-mail us at

Related Reading
Thomas Crapper: The Silence of the Toilets
Thomas Crapper Day Greetings from Winchester
A Study of the Correlation between the Extremely Scary Toilet Aerosol Effect and Acute OCD in Toilet Bloggers

Thursday, 1 September 2011

We Enjoy Ourselves, If Not Royally, So at Least Ducally

 Our life has been pretty rich in social events lately. We even went to a club one night, returning home no earlier than 2 am - pretty rock'n'roll for a provincial town! The club in question is called The Duchess, and is extremely rich in rocking and rolling.
We have very little experience of clubs in provincial towns, but one thing is certain: the toilets in this one are a godsend to the pissed! We have in all honesty never seen a cleaner club toilet - this is very different from the seedy London establishments we used to frequent in our salad days! One could, without giving the matter a second thought, kneel on these floors and place one's head in the vicinity of the toilet bowl, then return to the dancefloor without worrying about bits of rotting rats' corpses sticking to one's hair.

We didn't, in all honesty, expect anything other than separate taps.
The sink was extremely clean, though, and the soap in plentiful supply.

We didn't in all honesty expect anything other than an air-dryer either.
Check out the emptied bin and the clean floors, though!

The pièce de résistance: the toilet! So clean! Covered loo roll holder,
and even a bloody toilet brush, indication that these toilets are actually cleaned, probably even regularly!

Alas: there was once a coat-hook here!

Canadian Friend striking a Debbie Harry pose in the toilet, and looking so hot we had to mask her identity for fear of love-struck males setting up camp outside her house!

Unfortunately the taps, air-dryer and lack of coat-hooks drag the score down so low we are loath to post it, as we really enjoyed ourselves and had a cracking time in the toilets!
If you fancy a night out on the tiles we really can't recommend the Duchess enough - the staff are friendly, the music is great, and the toilets really, really, really clean!

The Duchess
Stonebow House
York YO1 7NP
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