Toilets and Showers in Brazil (A 1998 Journal Entry)

This is a journal entry from 1998 through the eyes of a 16 year old small-town Michigan boy. Despite my naïveté, I did my best to record what I saw and experienced so others would know what it was like. Try to interpret anything you read here through that lens and realize that it may not completely match reality.


No toilet seats! But the hole is smaller so its no problem. By most house toilets, but not public restrooms, there is a bidet.

It’s true, water really does go backwards down the pot. But, 2 things: 1) I think I’m not far enough south to get the full effect and 2) the way the water is pressurized out it spashes at the bottom so there’s no nice neat smooth spin.

It just so happens I have a high-tec toilet; it accepts TP. Many many exchange students say no, don’t put toilet paper in the toilet, but I asked an I can.


In most places in Brazil there isn’t heated house water. So showers work a little different. Basically as the cold water comes out, an electronic heater in the shower head heats it. What at the books said is:

  1.  Turn water on
  2. Put sandals on to protect yourself from shocks
  3. Turn on heater
  4. Shower
  5. Turn off heater
  6. Turn off water

If you use the heater without water you can short out the room or building…or house.

Most showers in the USA come sideways from the wall. The ones I’ve seen here come out and drop the water straight down.

2012 Update

I wanted to believe that the water went down counterclockwise. If it did though, it wasn’t because of where I was relative to the equator.

Lots of toilets in Brazil do have toilet seats, but lots don’t. The nicer the bathroom is, the more likely that there will be a seat.

When I went back to Brazil as a missionary I was in Sao Paulo and I never encountered a toilet that wouldn’t take toilet paper in real buildings in the city. The only places I found those was in places where DIY plumbing left the toilets with extremely low water pressure — mainly in favelas and in small self-built rural homes.

One other thing I didn’t note back in 1998 is that toilets in Brazil come in way more colors than in the USA. Black, red, blue, yellow, marbled…lots of colors. You can find colored toilets in the US, but they’re not nearly as common as in Brazil.

When I went to Brazil as an exchange student I must have caught the tail end of a transition from manual-on shower heads to automatic-on showerheads. The books I read before leaving gave lots of warnings about turning on the water first and avoiding shocks. I only ran into a couple of places where that was an issue.

For the most part the showerheads now have water sensors that turn the heater on and off automatically when the water comes on. As long as it has been installed and grounded correctly you won’t get any shocks either. There was only one shower I used where you could feel the electric current running through the faucet handle, but only if you had a hangnail.

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