Why is it that in most home or apartment environments you find toilet seats that look pretty much like this:

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(Picture Source)

And yet in offices and public places you will most often find toilet seats that look like this (although many also without the lid):

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(Picture Source)

What is the deal with the open front?

I ask this because I always wonder when I DIY replace old toilet seats if I should select the second style.

  • Must be regional - The open front style is never seen in New Zealand. I'm assuming you're US-based ?
    – Criggie
    Feb 3 '19 at 7:49
  • In large part because US plumbing codes require the second style in public men's rooms.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 3 '19 at 13:51
  • @HotLicks In women’s restrooms too.
    – Lee Sam
    Feb 3 '19 at 21:23
  • @LeeSam - Well, I don't get into those very often, so I was unsure.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 3 '19 at 22:46

It’s a “Public” and “Private” toilet issue.

Health Departments and plumbing codes require the “open front” seat in public restrooms.

It’s a sanitation issue. Here’s why: http://mentalfloss.com/article/64677/why-are-public-toilet-seats-u-shaped

  • 6
    Could you transfer more of the explanation from that link into your answer? The part you currently give, “the codes are different for public vs private” isn’t very satisfactory on its own — it just pushes the question back to “…but why are the codes different?” Feb 3 '19 at 17:23


I have wondered about this myself (believe it or not) and come to the conclusion that this is to help minimize the amount of cleaning necessary. Without getting too graphic, the front section of the toilet seat is the section most likely to have repeated dirty liquids on it. This is particularly the case in a men's room, as toilets will often be used instead of urinals at busy times. It may not apply as much in the women's room, but not having the front section does not in any way affect the use of the seat, so it is easiest to have one type of seat for all toilets in a building. Should men using a toilet standing simply lift the seat: yes. But (a) the seat often doesn't stay up well and (b) many people don't want to touch the seat at all, for the same reason that disposable seat covers are supplied in many public bathrooms.

The lid is a combination of cleaning - if you don't have it, you don't have to clean it - and aesthetics. Simply put, the lid in a home bathroom keeps things relatively out-of-sight when using the bath or shower or sink. But in a public bathroom, most people spend as little time as possible in the bathroom (leaving more extensive grooming for their personal bathroom at home) and the toilets, except in a single-toilet bathroom, are behind a door so they are out-of-sight when using the sink anyway. A lid is also useful to sit on a toilet as a chair, which could be useful occasionally in a public toilet (e.g., if you are using a stall to change clothing), but is definitely useful at home.

  • I question the statement that people spend as little time as possible in the bathroom when they are not at home. In recent times in the work place I note that some people are spending inordinate amounts of time in the toilet stalls. All I can only guess that they are staring at their smart phones as most the stalls seem very quiet even though occupied.
    – Michael Karas
    Feb 3 '19 at 2:35
  • I thought it was for handicapped, a buddy of mine was in a chair and he would complain about non ADA compliant toilets, but the dripping issue sounds plausible.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 3 '19 at 9:42
  • 1
    The lid is also nice to sit on sometimes.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 3 '19 at 13:52
  • @EdBeal - AFAIK, an ADA compliant toilet is a 'chair height' toilet, so the seat level is a little higher than standard.
    – brhans
    Feb 3 '19 at 15:04
  • @brhans , I knew there were height standards but also thought the seat style was what Tom complained about, I did give an up vote as I did not know the answer.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 4 '19 at 14:09

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