How do people flush the toilet?

Feb 18, 2019

Recently, the topic of toilet-flushing came up in one of my conversations. Of the three people I was talking with, two (including me) flush toilets with our feet, but the third flushes with his hand. That came as a huge surprise to me, because I had always assumed that everyone pushes the handle with their feet.

For reference, I'm talking about these types of toilets:

Not these (though it would be very impressive if you could reach that handle with your foot):

This got me thinking - how common is it actually for people to push the lever with their foot? Am I in the majority or the minority?

To collect more data, I sent out a poll to my dorm. Of the 68 respondees, 32 flush with their foot, 31 flush with their hand, and 5 flush with either depending on the cleanliness of the restroom.

Based on these statistics, it seems that the populations of hand-flushers and foot-flushers is actually very evenly balanced. Even though this fact is pretty irrelevant, I find it extremely interesting because it is quite possible that I could have lived my entire life under the misconception that everyone flushes the toilet with their foot.

I think misconceptions like this exist partly because the activity itself is so mundane that I've never thought about talking about it with someone else; instead, I just assumed that everyone flushes the same way I do.

3/8/19 Update: On a side note, the system has two equilibria points. It is a stable equilibrium for everyone to push the handle with their foot. It is an unstable equilibrium for everyone to push the handle with their hand, because if a single person switches to foot, using one's hand will no longer be sanitary, so everyone will switch. However, in real life the system was at the midpoint of the two equilibria, which should be the most unstable point! I am curious if the knowledge that people flush with their foot will cause many hand-flushers to switch and drive the system to its stable equilibrium.