German Bathroom Fixtures… What is the Deal with Those Toilets?

Germany and America are countries separated by both language and bathroom fixtures. The two main issues are hand-held Shower heads, and Toilets. It’s funny I traveled back and forth between the countries for years and never had serious issues with German bathroom fixtures. In fact, I LOVE the hand-held showers in Germany …. As for the toilets? Well, they are better than the “squatters” I’ve dealt with in other places. But then, I traveled with an American… and boy did he have a lot to say.

Those German Bathroom Fixtures!

Why do I have to hold the Shower Head in Germany?

For some reason hand held shower heads, are troublesome to Americans. (You don’t HAVE to hold them, but you can) I think German Showers are fantastic. You see, I’m a little on the short side, and I absolutely LOVE being able to raise and lower the water to a perfect height. If I don’t want my hair to get wet, I can slide it down the pole. And if I want to spray water right on my knees, I can hold the sprayer at the perfect angle. Of course, the American I was with had nothing good to say … “it slides down!” (tighten it), “Why do I have to hold it?” (to get all your bits clean!), “Why can’t this be like an American Shower” (because, sigh, you are in Germany… I can, however, arrange a flight home for you this afternoon).

(And… speaking as a Californian who has spent YEARS with low-flow timed showers, can I just tell you how indulgent if feels to stand under heaps of flowing hot water?? )

Best of all…. Cleaning the shower is 100 times easier when you have the handheld sprayer. You can easily get into the corners.

german bathroom fixtures

Still, as much as I LOVE the hand held shower (in fact I installed one in my home shower) I do question the tiny showers. When I drop the soap, it stays down, unless I get OUT of the shower to pick it up.. Or even scarier… the bathtub half shielded by a glass door. The bathtubs in Germany are deeper than I’m used to, so stepping over while holding on to…what? the glass??  It’s all just takes too much coordination and concentration to get out safely before coffee.

german bathroom fixtures

Why is there a Ledge in a German Toilet?

For those of you who have never experienced an older German toilet (and wonder what could POSSIBLY be different), picture this….. a toilet with a shelf for your business to land on. AKA, a Reverse Bowl Design.  Hmmm. Now, there is a perfectly good, and almost scientific reason for this shelf. Germans have always been concerned about health and well being  (ask my kids…. I’m always saying “a clean colon is a healthy colon”). With a shelf, you get a chance to make a quick inspection to see that ….well… things are coming along nicely. It’s also a great way to do a quick check for parasites, important in a world where pork is a major source of protein. (Granted, that hasn’t been much of an issue in the past 70 years….) One article even pointed out that it was easier to retrieve any coins or jewelry that your child may have swallowed before it gets flushed away. But… that may have been a joke.


german toilet

American Toilet design on left… German Toilet Design on right

Sadly, seeing your Hinterlassenschaften, and maybe worse, smelling your Hinterlassenschaften is an issue for many Americans. It is kind of yucky. And there is always a worry of the WHOOSH of water ricocheting and splashing out if you forget to close the lid. (Before you leave the room, please check to see if you need to give the bowl a swipe with the ever present Toilet Brush!)

german bathroom fixtures

I understand there may also me a ricochet issue for men who pee enthusiastically… honestly,  I have never experienced this firsthand, so I don’t feel I can comment on that… other than to say this is a HUGE concern for people who hate to constantly be wiping up the bathroom tile. But, I don’t see the toilet as cause for international incident…. (Unlike SOME people who just can’t finish up, and then move on with their lives). I really don’t think you will get an entire nation to change their bathroom habits…especially if they are doing it just to please visiting Americans.

And remember, the Reverse Bowl Design Toilet is still better than a Porta Potty on a hot Sunday afternoon during a weekend long Youth Soccer Tournament.

And can I just say…. having the toilet hanging off the wall makes cleaning the floors SOOOOOO much easier!! Look at this set up… brush on one side… little bin on the other…  And the button is up on the wall so you don’t have to bend over the bowl (and possibly lose your glasses) when you flush.

german bathroom fixtures
A modern German Toilet…no ledge… and suspended from the wall, so you KNOW the floor gets cleaned properly.

What is a WC?

A WC…pronounced Veh Zeh is a Water Closet… Small room with a Toilet and Sink. It has everything you need to take care of 80 % of your business. I don’t know why they chose to call it a WC, it just is. I know there are several other words people use for Bathroom …Badezimmer, Toilette, Kloh…Deal with it.

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Assorted Other German Bathroom Fixtures….

Then there is the little stuff that seems to confuse non-Germans…

Why is the toilet paper covered by a metal flap? To prevent the toilet splash from wetting the paper… (You did remember to close the lid before flushing, right?)

Why are the towels on hooks?  It’s more space efficient. Use them

Why is it always so COLD!? Because it’s always cold in Germany…

Why does the toilet paper feel like sand paper?? It doesn’t any more…well, not as bad as it used to be.  Now they have the same cushy soft stuff that American behinds are accustomed to. (Does anyone else remember the grey stuff that they had on the Deutsche Bahn back in the day?)

Why is there a Toilet Brush? Because in a civilized country, you don’t leave evidence of your last visit….

Do I have to use the Bidet? Granted, you won’t find one everywhere, but if you want to use it, that’s up to you… just remember, it’s NOT a drinking fountain.

Why is the Washing Machine IN THE BATHROOM? In older houses or small apartments, the washing machine might be tucked in next to the shower. Why? Because that’s where the pipes are.

Embrace the differences… it’s just a bathroom.

The toilet is not a crime scene! Traces may be removed.The toilet is not a crime scene! Traces may be removed.The toilet is not a crime scene! Traces may be removed.



German Bathroom Fixtures for YOUR Home

Wesco Single Master-German Designed-Small Step Trash Can, Powder Coated Steel, 2.4 Gallon / 9 L, Lime GreenWesco Single Master-German Designed-Small Step Trash Can, Powder Coated Steel, 2.4 Gallon / 9 L, Lime GreenWesco Single Master-German Designed-Small Step Trash Can, Powder Coated Steel, 2.4 Gallon / 9 L, Lime GreenBAKALA Brass Chrome Faucets Single Handle Bathroom Sink Faucet Household Wash Basin Faucets with German Neoper Ultra-thin Water Outlet Nozzle CoreBAKALA Brass Chrome Faucets Single Handle Bathroom Sink Faucet Household Wash Basin Faucets with German Neoper Ultra-thin Water Outlet Nozzle CoreBAKALA Brass Chrome Faucets Single Handle Bathroom Sink Faucet Household Wash Basin Faucets with German Neoper Ultra-thin Water Outlet Nozzle Core


GROHE Power and Soul 130 Shower Set with Hand Shower, Starlight ChromeGROHE Power and Soul 130 Shower Set with Hand Shower, Starlight ChromeEssentials Guest Bathroom Set, 3-In-1Essentials Guest Bathroom Set, 3-In-1




What is the Deal with Those Toilets?

49 thoughts on “German Bathroom Fixtures… What is the Deal with Those Toilets?

  1. Thank you for this info! I lived in Germany for 8 years back in 1984-92 and still didn’t know all of those little things. I think the toilet shelf serves one BIG service you missed. In a country that served meat-centric meals and had high rates of heart disease in folks over 50, the toilet shelf allows for a quick visual check for blood in stools. For your consideration.

  2. “why is the toilet paper covered by a metal flap? (To prevent the toilet splash from wetting the paper…”

    No, that’s not true! The flap is supposed to maintain the paper flap in the front, so you can take the paper neatly, and not have to search for the beginning or unroll a big quantity of paper

    1. another thing…why the heck are the fixtures so damn big to turn on the shower? the handle sticks half way into the shower (7.5 inches into space, no joke I measured and everyone I know has the same)…..and for sure you bump it just trying to turn around. absolutely unnecessary.

      1. I’ve scalded myself a few times bumping into that handle.

    1. No, WC = With Coin means it is a pay toilet.

      Toiletten are free toilets.

      1. I’m fairly certain it means Water Closet or Wasserklosett

  3. This is such a great article. I spent my summers with my family in Germany, and my schooltime in the U.S. It is so nice to know that others realized these interesting differences!

    You are a great writer; very down-to-earth and entertaining!

  4. I live in the US and have had a hand held shower for the last 38 years. I like it for all the same reasons you do. And, I must say, the German toilets are much more efficient than most, but not all, American ones. So, even though some Americans are pretty sold on all things American being superior, don’t judge us all the same, ok?

      1. American things are in no way superior -lol. I am a german born person now American, that has lived in the US for over 50 years now and I can tell you that a lot of americans really have the wrong idea about what is superior or not. Most americans have never been away from their home and they have absolutely no idea about germany and how advanced they are (also Japan for that fact). Many other countries are much more advanced than America is. So, americans need to get of their superiority complex and start to realize that they are actually lacking behind when it comes to a lot of things. A LOT OF THINGS.

    1. I recently went to Germany after 30 years and what I liked most about their
      bathrooms were the towel drying racks. Installed on the wall and electric. Just the feel of a warm towel when getting out of the shower was soooo nice

  5. Hi,
    I’m German and enjoyed your article about our German toilets a lot!
    I used to be an exchange student in the US 30 years ago and lived in Ohio for a year. Can you imagine my surprise using an American toilet for the first time?? I thought the water would run over the edge and thought I broke something… haha.. that sure scared me..
    By the way, I think our toilets are designed that way in order to avoid splashing.
    Thanks for your arcticles – it’s nice to see someone being so open minded towards a different country!!

    Best regards from Hannover, Northern Germany

  6. I was taught to put a piece of toilet paper on the ledge first. To make for a clean sweep when flushed!

    1. I was taught the same.

      Otherwise what you said about the ledge is quite true and especially helpful in hospitals for those tests.

    2. Yes, my family and I have always done that 🙂

    3. What a wonderful practice! Makes so much sense.

  7. Yes the DB gray toilet paper was terrible. It had what appeared to be bits and pieces of things that did not seem well mixed in with the rest of the paper. As kids we joked that you could use it in word working as a substitute for sand paper! We also joked that the brown paper towels to dry your hands was softer than the toilet paper. As I recall the toilet paper was made with a lot of recycled content!

    Also the first place I ever say the very large industrial sized super thin and narrow toilet paper roll was at a McDonald’s in Germany. Now they have this every place but this was back in 1988.

    1. I’m pretty sure those bits and pieces were splinters!

  8. Why is the flush handle or button for a German toilet located in the wall above and behind the toilet? Why is there no water holder for the toilet?

    1. I’m guessing the water tank is in the wall? And the button is by the tank?

    2. The tank is in the wall. Not sure what is involved if there is an issue with the tank that needs repair. Some American toilets are also this way with the flush button on the wall.

  9. Another difference is that German toilet bowls, as well as most new bathroom cabinets, do not sit on the floor – they are hung on the wall, providing a cleaner look and the ability to mop the floor a lot easier. While I’m at it, in Germany the bathrooms tend to be totally tiled, all walls, all the way to the ceiling, unlike in the US.
    Rolladen (roll-up window shutters), tilt-and-turn windows that open towards the room, and window ledges are other differences, but not only in the bathrooms…

    1. I loved the rolladens, the windows and the hanging toilets! I would also like the shower on the pole. I totally want a German sty.le bathroom!

      1. I love all those features, too. Many other European countries also have those features. I wish the wonderful windows that are triple glazed and virtually sound-proof were also standard in the US.

        1. Since I sleep with open windows, it wouldn’t help much at night… but yes, on those days when the neighbors start their mowers EARLY or the students celebrate late into the evening, it would be great

  10. My German aunt calls the WC the Winston Churchill!

  11. German toilets have changed a lot during the past 20 years. You don´t find toilets with a “shelf” anymore. Also, new toilets tend to buttons with which you can save water.

  12. I have a toilet deoderizer from Frosch and cannot figure out how it stays in the toilet. Can you tell me how the Frosch brand stays in the toilet?

    1. magic?? kidding

      It seems to have a small basket that hangs under the rim

  13. I like it that german bathrooms always have a window in them and you can keep open most of the time by tilting it…no worries about lingering smells or having to worry about mold and mildew in the bathroom like in US where you have to run the fan to remove the moisture/humidity…

    1. The extraction bathroom fan is very useful, in northern climates where it’s cold but also in southern areas where it is very humid.

  14. For what It’s worth WC:
    “The phrase ‘water closet’ arose in England in the 1870s. Originally ‘wash-down closet’, it quickly evolved into the phrase water closet through common usage. Over time, it has simply become ‘WC’. In fact, in some countries such as Mexico WC is widely used on toilet signage, although the majority of the population don’t actually know the derivations of the letters.

    1. See… and I thought it was for Water Closet… now I’ve learned something. Thanks!

  15. If you think that old gray toilet paper was bad, you should have been in Germany during WWII. There was no toilet paper available, so we used newspaper, carefully cut into appropriately-sized pieces. Unforgettable!

    1. My father told me (more than once) that cutting the paper was part of his job.

  16. Ah, the old toilet paper! In Hamburg in the early 70s one could but a better class paper for the home, but elsewhere… My recollection is waxed paper rather than sandpaper, but either way (shudder)

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