feeding my own misguided insanity

Why Men Spit Before Urinating in Urinal or Toilet

August 25, 2011 Shem Radzikowski 29 Comments

Over the years I’ve often wondered what it is about men and spitting when in the toilet, or more importantly, why they feel compelled to spit before urinating. This whole spitting activity was completely foreign to me, until one day, I noticed that the guy standing next to me spat into the urinal before relieving himself.

Just to be clear, ordinarily, I’m not a spitter. There are of course exceptions, such as: whilst cycling, running or phlegmy cough; the build-up of mucus in these circumstances is quite natural.

The First Spitting Incident

The first time it happened, I thought the gentleman next to me was merely clearing his throat, something nasty that needed to be expelled — and rightly so. I really didn’t attribute any conscious thought to it at that point, although something of the event must have remained in my subconscious because I started noticing urinal spitters more frequently.

At first I put it down to cultural aspects and perhaps also related to the types of places I was visiting. Eventually I realised that this wasn’t connected to cultural or socio-economic attributes at all, it cut across all levels of society.

When in Rome — , Spit

What really surprised me, and in fact spurred on this post, was my own and unconscious participation in the spitting game. Yes, that’s right, completely out of the blue, I found myself baffled by my own actions at the urinal — I actually spat before urinating. It wasn’t that I had phlegm or that I wanted to mark my territory, it was something very automatic and unexpected.

As any self-diagnosing hypochondriac would, I decided to dig around on the Internet; I found plenty of comments by equally puzzled people. On the whole, it didn’t really reveal anything out of the ordinary, actually, most female comments were disgusted at the mere thought of spitting let alone be witness to one in progress.

There were a couple of comments which suggested that men do this — much like animals — to mark their territory. I find this a little hard to believe because, the urine as well as the spit, end up in some sewer miles away from where the territorial claim supposedly took place; although we as human beings engage in some pretty bizarre activities.

Possible Reasons for Men Spitting

Here’s a list I compiled of the most common reasons why people think men spit before peeing:

  1. May have some stuff (phlegm) in their throats which need to be evacuated;
  2. Men are marking their territory;
  3. They didn’t want to spit in the street or floor of the building they were in;
  4. Peer pressure;
  5. (From a woman): I’m female, and I cannot swallow a mouthful of saliva in the restroom. So sometimes I quietly spit into a wad of toilet paper, or into the floor drain if one is in my stall. Or I hold the spit until I’m done and spit into the toilet as it flushes;
  6. It’s a convenient, sanitary place to do it, that’s all;
  7. I like the freshness of a freshly emptied mouth;
  8. There’s a proverb which goes like this: Spitting before peeing brings money luck. Spitting after peeing brings lovers’ luck. You must chose each time you pee. Doing both voids the luck;
  9. It’s a Fashion statement;
  10. To break up the silence of standing there trying to overcome ‘stage fright’ in a crowded bathroom;
  11. Learnt from their fathers;
  12. It might be a relaxation thing. Gets the fluids going and such. Spitting leads to pissing;
  13. Because they are pigs;
  14. It’s manly & threatening — a sign of aggression (You know the saying? I am so mad I could spit!);
  15. Just like a dog salivating before it gets fed, so do some men, automatically salivate before urinating.

After reading through hundreds of posts scattered throughout various websites, I found it most amusing how some women (and men) denied that spitting in this context exists, even going as far as branding anyone asking the question, as deplorable deviants — I guess there is no cure for small-mindedness.

I’ve also discovered that discussing male toilet habits with other males is frequently met with an unusually negative response, as if to suggest that somehow this topic is taboo and should never be touched — nobody told me.

Maybe I did cross the line that one time I asked the guy standing next to me why he just spat. Ok, I lied — I’ve asked quite a few urinal spitters over the years, what better way to collect credible material from the offending bunch?

The abovementioned list, is in no way comprehensive of urinal spitting habits, but one of the most credible theories, at least in my book, is:

  • If you can smell it then you are tasting it. Some people suggest that it’s the body’s natural response to removing foul odour residue that may have been deposited in the mouth. Spitting is a way of clearing it.

— by that token, we would expect fewer men to spit in well-maintained and hygienic urinals. All the more reason to keep scrubbing that toilet. A more Darwinian version would probably sound a little like this:

I spit before I pee because I like to think, “Here in front of me is the primordial soup, the building blocks of life, the nuts and bolts of species to come– here, in this porcelain vessel made by man, from my fluids and the fluids of others could spring a lifeform that in a million years will run down the diminished creature once known as homo sapiens and make it roadkill.” Then I flush because I never have lightning handy when I need it. — Mo Nickels (http://www.metafilter.com/user/264)

What now of my own Spitting Habits

I’m not really sure what will become of my spitting habit. I can’t say that it happens that frequently at all, but when it does, I’m not really aware of it until after the fact. Either way, I put it down to something as primal as going to the toilet, you go when nature decides.

A marine and a naval officer are standing next to each other at the urinal, and upon finishing, the naval officer notices that the marine promptly exits the restroom without washing his hands. Considering it his duty, the naval officer chases down the marine and states, “Marine, in the navy, our officers are taught to wash our hands after we take a piss!”. “Haha” replies the marine, “In the marines, they teach us not to piss on our hands!”.

Saliva (Spit) — A Scientific Look

Saliva (English pronunciation: /səˈlaɪvə/, referred to in various contexts as spit, spittle, drivel, drool, or slobber) is the watery and usually frothy substance produced in the mouths of humans and most other animals. Saliva is a component of oral fluid. In mammals, saliva is produced in and secreted from the three pairs of major salivary glands, and hundreds of minor salivary glands. Human saliva is composed of 98% water, while the other 2% consists of other compounds such as electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, and various enzymes.

The production of saliva is stimulated both by the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic. The saliva stimulated by sympathetic innervation is thicker, and saliva stimulated parasympathetically is more watery.

Sympathetic stimulation of saliva is to facilitate respiration, whereas parasympathetic stimulation is to facilitate digestion.

Could this then lay the foundation for yet another theory, one where the production of saliva is an automatic reaction because we’re holding our breath when entering a stinky lavatory, and thus increasing saliva production to aid respiration?

As good a theory as any other.


Metafilter.com. (n.d.). What’s with the spitting in the urinal? – men etiquette urinal | Ask MetaFilter. Retrieved May 1, 2012, from http://ask.metafilter.com/21896/Whats-with-the-spitting-in-the-urinal
Why do men spit before they urinate?????? (n.d.).Health24. Retrieved May 1, 2012, from http://www.health24.com/experts/archive/default.asp?postid=191603
Why do Men Spit? (n.d.).tribe.net. Retrieved May 1, 2012, from http://tribes.tribe.net/d71b7e08-f6e2-4cb9-9c9a-2af4bf5f7ce1/thread/0b0cfa27-3177-4f69-b4d3-dbca7c71a7b8
Why do so many men spit into a urinal before they start using it? Is this simply to get the juices flowing, so to speak? It just seems like an odd ritual that many follow. (n.d.).Answerbag. Retrieved from http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/562255
Wikipedia contributors. (2012, May 1). Saliva. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Saliva&oldid=487552277


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29 Comments → “Why Men Spit Before Urinating in Urinal or Toilet”

  1. Peter S 12 years ago   Reply

    Interesting. I have no noticed this behaviour in men at urinals. Or more accurately, it does not seem to be particularly or regularly at urinals. I see men spitting more in the street. And about a quarter as often at each other, sometimes in anger, others times because they have something stuck in their teeth. So, is it really a thing men do?

  2. Dr.Shem 12 years ago   Reply

    If you’ve never come across the spitting, it may indicate that you and I are simply enjoying very different facilities :) Some people I’ve come across refuse to urinate in public altogether and prefer to hold it in until they get home – painfully so at times.

  3. Dave M 12 years ago   Reply

    I would have damp pants, no way would i hold on to it unless i had rubber gloves on and the smell of it too

  4. Lucy R 12 years ago   Reply

    Dear Dr Shem. Normally I would go for the ‘marking territory answer’ however, I would go with number 12. That u spit to get things started.

  5. Anonymous 12 years ago   Reply

    May be one day (in Nairobi) I will tell you the secret why women go to toilets in little groups. I am sure it will be worth blogging about it too!!! (((:

  6. Aleks A 12 years ago   Reply

    May be one day (in Nairobi) I will tell you the secret why women go to toilets in little groups. I am sure it will be worth blogging about it too!!! (((:

  7. David G 12 years ago   Reply

    Dr Shem, it has got to be number 10 – to avoid looking at the guys either side.

  8. Jane Doe 12 years ago   Reply

    You spit in bathrooms regularly when brushing your teeth, the association could lead increased saliva production and the urge to spit perhaps. It wouldn’t be acceptable to spit in a handbasin in public toilets and a urinal somewhat resembles one so you go for the dirtier of the two. Just my thought as a female kind.

  9. DH11 12 years ago   Reply

    This is a simple, if psuedo disgusting, case of expelling unsavoury fluids. Like the lady who can’t swallow spit in the restroom, it’s about being in an environment which is repulsive. We find that we have accumulated spit during our visit and this is a sub-conscious expulsion of what we perceive as germ laden spit.

  10. Mac Huerta 12 years ago   Reply

    Well i have spit in the toilet before. I am a man and the reason why is because my throat is hurting or It is a spur of the moment kind of thing. I find it to be a bad habit, as of not growing up. But is it bad to even spit in the toilet?

  11. Mac H 12 years ago   Reply

    To Dr.Shem. I mean when you think about it. When your at home feeling really sick and you need to throw up and vomit, where is the one place our moms always taught us to throw up and vomit? In the house toilet right !

  12. MJ 12 years ago   Reply

    Here is the most convincing theory i have come across:
    Spitting before urinating is coded into our habits by Evolution.
    For thousands of years men used to spit on the grass, or bushes before peeing to make sure there as no insect, snakes or other creatures that would attack them and bite their penis. The combination of sound produced by spitting, and the force of spit hitting the bush would make the creature move, signalling the man that its unsafe to pee at the place. It is mostly a safety precaution that is hard wired into us by evolution.

  13. brijesh chahar 12 years ago   Reply

    i m male and i dont need to spit before urination.i think its not good for our health spiting habit

  14. Moshe 12 years ago   Reply

    Dr. Shem, you missed the boat on this one.

    A medical researcher colleague explains that it’s because the slight scent of ammonia and bleach in many public restrooms causes the mouth to generate, very quickly, quite a bit of mucus in response as protection (also in the nose etc).

    • Dr.Shem 12 years ago   Reply

      An interesting angle on the ammonia, good to know. But there is still a part that remains unanswered: why do some people still get the urge when outdoors and surrounded by fresh air?

  15. Gill 11 years ago   Reply

    My personal belief is that in the act of stepping up to a urinal, men inhale, suck in their gut, and then hold it while they take a second to reach for/lower their zipper. This is different from the way one acts in a stall, where you casually undo the belt, and no one else is there, so there is no need to suck in the gut while you zip down. The act of sucking in the gut and inhaling is similar to the way one acts right before expelling plegm.

    This explains two things I have noted from observation and discussion. First, men don’t spit as frequently in the commode as at a urinal. Second, skinnier men that are in shape do not need to suck in a guy to reach the zipper, so unless they were once fat and developed a habit, they tend to spit less.

    In case you are wondering, I am in the military – we talk about everything, and when you’re deployed for any length of time, no topic is taboo. So, that is why I have actually had this discussion before!

  16. Pierre-Olivier D 11 years ago   Reply

    Well, I only do it while drunk or about to be drunk and I feel like it’s a way to make alcohol go out faster.

  17. Cardinal 11 years ago   Reply

    It wasn’t until I witnessed a Japanese (male) tourist do this, also before urinating, that I became resolute in conclusion that this is an autoresponse to some inner stimulus that occurs just before men urinate.
    I’ve travelled extensively with work and seen/heard men everywhere do this subconsciously at this point – I do not think it’s peer pressure, as I say, I am resolute that this is a involuntary “pre-programmed” human action in males.
    [note, I’m not some urinal spy by the way, you hear it, you see it – it’s just something we do that “just happens”]

  18. Bobby M 10 years ago   Reply

    I don’t think its number one because I find myself doing it and its completely involuntary.
    Number 2 might be possible.
    I doubt three for the same reason as one.
    4 is possible depending on circumstance but again like one i disagree.
    5, no comment.
    6 is also possible
    7 also,
    I have never heard of 8.
    I disagree with 9 as its clearly a shot in the dark.
    10, subconsciously, possible.
    11, not valid in my circumstances.
    12, not likely, as the mouth and urinal system are not organs that would normally work together.
    13, irrelevant, what your view of the male gender.
    14, on a more subconscious level, possible.
    15, impossible, when a dog is salivating before its fed what your witnessing is the build up of enzymes to help break down the food, humans have this too.

    In conclusion, I, myself started doing this out of boredom, then ever since it has been a force of habit.So for me its more psychological, but in the end, I don’t know.It could be biological for you guys, but i’m just showing my opinion.

  19. YKC 10 years ago   Reply

    This is amazing! I never realised that this is a global, cross-cultural-human species type of thing. I just thought its uncouth!

  20. Alex 9 years ago   Reply

    I came here searching because I’ve been subconsciously spitting in the urinal before I pee for years. I just noticed it a few months ago, and since then, it was like the glass shattering and now I notice other guys doing it literally every day. I work in a busy office building (and drink lots of water) and at least 10-20% of the guys spit before they pee.

    Like you, I asked a few of them I’m friendly with jokingly after the fact, and I was actually really surprised how defensive they got. I don’t even think (like me for a long time) they realized they were doing it.

    I guess maybe some things will just be left to mystery!

  21. Jim 9 years ago   Reply

    Another theory, from my personal experience – both in college dorms and in military barracks, a common prank was to put a layer of Saran Wrap under the seat. By first spitting into the toilet, you’d quickly know if you were about to be a victim.

    • FJT13 6 years ago   Reply

      Like this one the best. I never knew it existed until my husband said he wondered why they did that. It was something he was told to do growing up and it just became something that he did but never knew why. Seeing how a lot of men in his family were in the military at some point in time that makes perfect sense.

  22. Mike 8 years ago   Reply

    This is an evolutionary holdover of sorts when urinating into brush or especially standing water. A quick way to disturb the unknown to check for alligators or other hidden creatures and help on retain his… means for reproduction.

  23. Eamon Doyle 8 years ago   Reply

    I’m a thirty-year-old man and have never seen this. Maybe it’s a regional thing?

  24. Antonius 7 years ago   Reply

    Nothing regional or cultural about it, there’s a practical reason behind it.

    It is just to get an estimation of the trajectory.

    Everyone who has ever spent some time outdoors or in trains/boats/planes doing his business knows that standing on inclines, winds and vehicles moving around/cornering can have some unexpected results at times …
    The spit is just a quick and easy way to make sure you’ll ‘hit the target’ and prevents you from making an even bigger mess.

    In a way that actually makes spitting the more sanitary option, I guess …

  25. Toilet Spitter 6 years ago   Reply

    Some men spit because it helps them start the pee stream.

  26. nonlagma trend 6 years ago   Reply

    Only wanna admit that this is handy , Thanks for taking your time to write this.

  27. Deemo 6 years ago   Reply

    I really thought it was just rudeness when I first noticed it, but now I do it regularly myself. I think of it more as providing a “target” than marking territory, but any physiological/ biological link between salivating and urinating seems farfetched

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