The Bizarre Netherlands Toilet Shelf 

The unique Netherlands toilet shelf is one of the most surprising things about the ways of life among the Dutch. In fact, the Dutch commonly refer to the toilet shelf as an “inspection shelf,” not a toilet or bathroom as you would in the U.S. and other countries. When it comes to using a public toilet in the Netherlands, nothing here seems normal or anything close to easy. So if you are planning to visit the Netherlands, here is everything you need to know about the Netherlands toilet shelf.

Why Do Dutch Toilets Have A Shelf?

Discover the bizarre world of toilets in the Netherlands, from the pay-to-pee marvel to the good (or bad) inspection shelves. When moving to the Netherlands, you’re a visitor who’s just getting used to the culture, the language, and your new surroundings. Obviously, you’ll have to go to the toilet or bathroom.

If you’re a guest at someone’s house, you can only cross your legs and hold your breath for so long. But, if you’ve been to the Netherlands, you’ll know that there are some very unusual things about Dutch toilets. It may sound pretty straightforward: go to the nearest public toilet, do what you like, wash your hands, and leave.

Some ex-pats in the Netherlands are shocked to find that there is a shelf on the W.C. that allows them to look over their waste before flushing it down the toilet. In other words, the inspection shelf design means that you’ll have to look at the matter that you have exhaled before it goes to the sewer.


How Do You Sit On a Dutch Toilet?

The bathroom in a typical Dutch house is small – a mere four square meters. This is a very tiny room that it would make an elf a bit miserable. But, before trying to awkwardly try to find a place to sit comfortably and do your business in the bathroom, take a look around the small room, and you’ll notice the following features:

  • There are no windows or any form of ventilation in Dutch toilets.
  • Instead, there are air fresheners in the toilet to freshen the air in the tiny room (you will likely find some spray fresheners in the bowl as well.
  • There is an inspection shelf.
  • The ubiquitous birthday calendar

In addition, since the Dutch strongly believe in having options in almost everything you do, you’ll also notice the following flushing options:

  • A foot pedal.
  • A string or rope.
  • A button to press.
  • A flushing panel on the wall.

The toilet tanks are occasionally hidden, but you can as well find some units with tanks on the top or side of the toilet.

Why Do European Toilets Have A Shelf?

There is a Dutch Toilet Organization (DTO) in the Netherlands. DTO aims to improve the accessibility of public toilets in the Netherlands and provide clean toilets to people. The organization promises to provide grants to pay for toilet inspections. It will provide a platform for politicians, manufacturers, and other concerned parties to discuss their priorities.

They are certainly trying to do the right thing. With people using the bathroom an average of 5 times a day, there is a need for more restrooms in the country. Dr. Johan FM Molenbroek, the founder of the Dutch Toilet Organization, says that the need for more public toilets is very real.

Some of the only public toilets in the Netherlands are of the renowned pay-to-pee variety. You may only find a few places in Utrecht where this is true. Amanda van Mulligan, an ex-pat in the Netherlands for nine years, says that is because people are getting more and more entrepreneurial. Shopping centers, restaurants, and bars are the culprits in this practice.


In most places, you’ll pay about €0.50 to the people who run them before you use these important facilities. However, some of the toiletjuffrouws would want you to pay €1 to get a similar service. However, the poor state of many of these public restrooms causes people to wonder where all that money goes. Definitely, it’s going towards something other than cleaning up the restrooms or keeping items like soap and paper towels in stock.

But things have been improving in the bathroom facilities. According to a survey done by Service Management, results show that the number of clean toilets has increased by 9% between 2006 and 2007. If you’re looking for the cleanest public toilets, better try ones in hospitals.

There are other options for brave people to try that don’t require them to pay a fee. Public urinal areas are very popular in the lowlands, particularly at festivals and fairs. These are odd, huge, booth-shaped structures containing four small urinals. The urinals are placed at just the right height and are not very private. So, if what you want is some level of privacy when using a toilet, something else is needed. There are no curtains to protect you from passers-by.

Some people think that it is unfair for men to have the option to use public urinals and make it sound unsuitable for women! Thanks in part to an invention by a woman called Moon Zijp, ladies can now go to the bathroom in a crowd or use a different one in other areas. She invented the She-Pee, as they are referred to in the U.K., which is a funnel-like contraption that makes it comfortable for women to visit public restrooms in the lowlands.

Wrapping Up

Dutch people treat themselves very differently. Going into a public toilet in the Netherlands is different from going anywhere else. You can follow the silver lining approach and think that every visit to a public toilet is a new adventure or a new challenge. It is also strange that every time you go to a public toilet in Holland, you must pay a fee for using the facilities.


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