Toilet etiquette in a water-saving culture

To toss or not to toss toilet paper after wiping one’s bottom, that is the question a number of us have been left pondering lately.

While Day Zero keeps shifting further away, water reserves in Cape Town remain low and we need to continue saving to avoid the supply being shut off completely.

My colleague, who strictly adheres to the slogan “If it’s yellow, let it mellow”, also does not flush her used toilet paper. She tosses it in the bin to prevent clogging up the toilet system already managing under reduced water pressure.

Eeww. We all cringe in the office, fearing our hygiene being threatened and wondering what to do in the office toilet, when no one is looking.

Do we secretly flush the toilet because we can’t handle the surprises before sitting down? Or do we copy another company which, I’m told, has a tag system letting employees know whether they can flush. This is usually after the toilet has been used a few times.

Employees can also bring their own grey water in a bottle to manually flush the toilet.

The City of Cape Town encourages citizens to flush toilets manually using a bucket of grey water, rainwater or other non-drinking water.

I saw this in action at a family member’s house. The cistern’s tap has been turned off. Grey water is stored in buckets nearby to be used for flushing the toilet.

I am fine with these water-saving measures at home and among people I am familiar with but in shared spaces it can be difficult to police or manage.

I also spotted online a recipe for “toilet fizzies” which can be popped into the loo to keep it smelling fresh.

There are also foam-like products which you can spray into the toilet bowl to hide the urine.

So perhaps I should make a batch of the homemade fizzies for my house and buy the spray to keep in my bag and use in the office toilet or at someone else’s home when I am visiting.

Another company has also switched from two ply toilet paper to single ply, which disintegrates in the toilet a lot quicker and prevents blockages.

So, the jury is out on which are the best methods to save good quality drinking water from literally going down the toilet. Urine is essentially sterile, which means it is free of bacteria. However faeces is a health hazard as it contains disease-carrying bacteria and microbes.

According to the World Wide Fund (WWF) SA: “You can pee in your private garden onto soil; it will be absorbed and not present health problems providing the volumes aren’t too high. And spread it around so that it doesn’t get concentrated and smell.”

It is critical that faeces are dealt with safely and do not come into contact with people or pets.

The fund’s fourth Wednesday Water File points out that our waterborne sanitation system has been designed to safely remove poo and pee and ensure we don’t come into contact with it.

“Good sanitation, combined with hand-washing, dramatically reduces the risk of disease. In the ‘New Normal’ – a drier future for Cape Town – we need to relook at the best methods to safely provide sanitation while using less water. This challenge is recognised around the world,” read the file.

Fizz ball recipe:

Mix 160g of bicarbonate of soda and 60ml of lemon juice in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, mix a half tablespoon of vinegar and a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide (3%, which you can buy from the pharmacy). Combine all ingredients and add 15 to 20 drops of a fragrant oil. Press into ice trays and allow to dry overnight.

Use this as an eau de toilette to hide the less romantic odours in the toilet.


Level 6B water restrictions, which came into effect on Thursday February 1, include a daily limit of 50 litres or less per person whether at home, work, school or elsewhere. Outdoor usage of boreholes is strongly discouraged. Usage for irrigation purposes will be limited to a maximum of an hour only on Tuesdays and Saturdays before 9am and after 6pm: borehole or wellpoint water use must be metered and all users are required to keep records and have these available for inspection; and permission from the National Department of Water and Sanitation is needed to sell or buy borehole or wellpoint water.