Dutch Quirk #81: Have toilets with an inspection shelf for their poo

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #81: Have toilets with an inspection shelf for their poo

Let’s be real. We’ve all experienced the ghastly event of having toilet water splash back up when we relieve ourselves. Well, the Dutch use an invention to prevent this — and to make sure all is right in the digestive tract.

It’s a pretty common thing in the Netherlands — but as an international, when you take your first trip to a Dutch WC, the one question you’d probably ask yourself is: what in tarnation is this shelf-shaped thing in the toilet? 😨

What is it?

Basically, the traditional Dutch toilet in all its glory has a flat area under your bum, which is awesomely titled: the inspection shelf. This is where you will drop your deposit, so to say. 

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And the purpose of this odd toilet invention is, well, to inspect your business before you send it all down to the sewers and rats. 

Why do they do it?

Dutch toilets may not be the most welcoming of toilet models but it does save you from the appalling event of “Poseidon’s kiss” by avoiding the unwanted splash zone when you drop a big one. 😐

However, this isn’t the actual reason behind the shelf. It’s not exactly a pleasant thing to think about — but having the traditional Dutch toilet with an inspection shelf in your home could also quite literally save your life.

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Ungodly stenches aside, it has helped many lowlanders identify early signs of bowel diseases or colon cancer by simply turning around and examining their stool samples before flushing.

Just as we know whether we’re drinking enough water by looking at the colour of our urine, our bowel habits are also a strong indicator of digestive health!

Why is it quirky? 

The toilet inspection system actually comes from the Germans, but it isn’t a common thing in most neighbouring countries of the Netherlands.

The French prefer the out-of-sight-out-of-mind technique as their toilets have more of a triangle shape, which means their waste immediately goes down the toilet drain. 

American and many other western toilets have a similar idea, but their toilets contain much more water, so things float. As a result, the outright display of your bowel movements is sometimes a bit confronting for the unsuspecting international.  

Should you join in?

In this day and age, the majority of toilets we’ve all encountered in Dutch homes don’t have an inspection shelf. 

It’s an older design that’s no longer necessary in first-world countries since modern medicine has now come into play.

But listen, there are still some pros when it comes to the inspection shelf. For example, when your huisarts asks for a sample of what your stool looks like, you won’t have to fish it out of the water. 🤨

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

This article was originally published in June 2022, and was fully updated in February 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Gaelle Salem
Gaelle Salem
Born and raised on the island of Sint Maarten, Gaelle moved to the Netherlands in 2018 to attend university. Still trying to survive the erratic Dutch wind and rain, she has taken up the hobby of buying a new umbrella every month. You can probably find her in the centre of The Hague appreciating the Dutch architecture with a coffee in one hand and a slice of appeltaart in the other.


  1. it’s not dutch it’s common in all sane countries, more than half of the europe not not go shower every time you got splashed by your own doodoo
    and your smells are imaginary you spend barely 30 seconds in the toilet with a fan the only difference is that with a shelf your walls are not stained in piss, the entire flat is not aware of your adventure and you don’t have to go take a shower


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