I was having a good-bye dinner with a long time friend just before my departure to Mérida Mexico. As our discussion drifted towards the pros and cons of living in Mérida, eventually the topic of toilet paper came up. This topic is more common than not so I decided to humor him. He said, “How in the world are you going to manage not flushing toilet paper? Steve B. this article is for you. 11 Questions about toilet paper in Mérida Mexico so you will know the delicacies and etiquette of flushing, even down to how to fold your TP. Yes, that’s a “thing”. When visiting Mérida, you may also plan on visiting other nearby cities too.
You may want to know:
- Can you flush toilet paper in Mexico City?
- Can you flush toilet paper in Tulum?
- Can you flush toilet paper in Puerto Vallarta?
- Can you flush toilet paper in Playa del Carmen?
Can you flush it? Yes. Should you flush it? Probably not. And another thing – Pay attention to any signage then follow the directions. If there are no signs, look around for the trash basket. Typically if there is one next to the toilet, that is an indicator to not flush. The wise saying is when in doubt, don’t flush.
This article was updated in August of 2023.
#1 What’s the real reason behind the “no-flush” rule?
Generally, in Mérida, the problem lies in the type of pipe that is used or with the septic system. Bear with me as I give you a few technical details which will help you understand the exact process.
First, let’s talk about the type of pipes.
Short sections of red clay pipes joined together and created the drains from the houses to the streets. Because clay is porous, over time, the integrity of the pipes is compromised. The interior becomes rough and joints start to separate. Sometimes the pipes even collapse. As you can imagine, any one of these could be bad. Combine all three and now you have an actual situation which will most certainly clog the entire system. The toilet paper or waste product gets stuck inside the compromised clay pipes. This will eventually clog the pipes, stopping the flow of waste.
#2 Does Mérida have a sewer system? NO!
Now, let’s talk about Mérida and the surrounding areas. There is no sewer system here. Instead, each property has a septic system. Modern homes MAY have a newer septic tank BUT it is NOT guaranteed. The majority of Mérida’s wastewater (grey water and black water) is disposed of directly to the ground via septic tanks, soak-aways, and cesspits. Tanks and pits are dug by hand, just above the water table. Pits handle the wastewater by dissipating it and filtering it through the limestone which eventually leeches into the water table. Septic tanks work as you would expect. However, because the tank is small, this is the issue. Flushing toilet paper in Mérida Mexico would naturally require more frequent cleaning of the septic tank IF the pipes can handle the paper. Does this give you a better idea of WHY it’s NOT a good idea OR acceptable to flush? Just because you don’t have a problem flushing, doesn’t mean it won’t cause a problem in the future or for the next guest.
#3 What about flushing in restaurants or other businesses?
For the vast majority of homes, restaurants, and other establishments, the standing rule is no paper products are permitted in the toilet. Clogging the septic system would require the horrible remedy of having to clean it out. For most businesses in Mérida, they are on a private septic tank. Don’t most of us know of a situation with a septic system that has overflowed? One word comes to mind . . . YUCK.
#4 Do hotels have modern treatment systems?
I will tell you –
Some newer hotels and even some stores in Mérida do have their own waste management and treatment systems. If it is permissible to flush paper products, they will either not have a sign, have a sign telling you it is ok or you will not find the trash basket close to the toilet. Tourism is primarily Western travelers and business owners want to accommodate tourists’ needs. Some people claim that Americans should not have to worry about flushing or not flushing when staying at a large hotel. When in doubt, please ask.
#5 What if I forget and flush anyway?
Really, I’ve forgotten too. It’s hard to get used to NOT flushing toilet paper in Mérida Mexico and takes some intentional thinking. Forgetting every once in a while is not a big deal. Just remember, if you’ve forgotten more than likely other people have too. You don’t want to be the one that causes the backed up or overflowing toilet because you’re the last person who forgot to use the trash bin.
It’s pretty embarrassing when you have to report the backed-up toilet knowing you were the one that eventually caused it. Just remember the phrase, “When in
#6 Do I fold it, scrunch it, or toss it?
Believe it or not, there is some etiquette. The best way for me to answer this question is to ask you to close your eyes and imagine with me. Picture this . . .(this is fair warning for the next part) You are in the bathroom in Mérida Mexico trying to decide fold, scrunch or toss. You decide to go the easy route and toss. But when you look over to make sure you’ve tossed your paper into the bin . . . well, I think you know where I’m about to go. No one wants to see the evidence. You’ll soon recognize that toss is not an option and then choose whether to fold or scrunch. Well, I think that’s enough on that question, don’t you?
#7 What are the best toilet paper brands in Mérida Mexico?
Elite, Kleenex, and Regio are probably the most popular along with store brands for toilet paper in Mérida Mexico. These brands will also be easy on your budget and cost of living as well.
But before I go any further, let me tell you my favorite, the Costco brand Kirkland:
- Unscented – no added perfumes. Harsh perfumes are not good for my sensitive parts. Smells good? Yes. Actual use? No.
- Bulk-buying. Until you get used to the no-flush rule, you may find you use a bit more paper than normal. Even though I’m accustomed to the rule, I still find I use quite a bit more toilet paper.
- Familiar texture and quality. Yes, quality and texture is everything. TP is one item I don’t skimp on and the one-ply paper simply does not get the job done.
#8 What type of trash container is best?
I don’t want to see any evidence so the type of container is really, really important. If it’s too small, you’ll fill it too quickly. If it’s too large, you won’t empty it as often. While keeping these in mind, look for a container with a lid that will easily fit close to the toilet. In addition to that – There are options with swinging lids which I highly recommend and those with lids you will have to lift up. You may also choose a pricier model with the pedal to lift the lid with your foot. Kind of a no-touch approach. Look around and select the best one for you.
#9 What kind of trash bag should I use?
Here’s where you can use scent to your advantage. I like a lightly scented bag that fits properly into the container. Just like my TP, I don’t skimp on the bag either. You’ll find minimal choices when it comes to bags (not like in the U.S. where we have a plethora). Keep it simple with the understanding you may have to try one or two to find the best one for you. As an etiquette tip for your trash . . . please, please place this bag inside another bag for your trash guys to pick up. Common sense, I know but throwing it out there anyway…no pun intended.
#10 What about the smell?
There are a couple of smells we can talk about here. The first smell is the actual smell. You do get used to it over time. The smell will be vastly different in your home then it will be in the grocery store. For example – I’ve actually made a mental note of the grocery stores I will not go to just because I don’t like their bathrooms.
On a positive note – Trash is picked up more frequently; usually 2 – 3 times per week. Local tip: I recommend purchasing another bin with a lid on it and keeping it in an out of the way location for between trash pick up days. The other smell is the trash can. Over time, it will begin to have an aroma too. I keep a couple of cotton pads with lemongrass essential oil in the bottom of my bins. I change the pads and wash my bin monthly.
#11 Should I be worried about a sanitary issue?
Some people say that used toilet paper can spread disease. This can be true if the soiled paper is on the floor and the bacteria is transferred via shoes or hands. At times, depending upon where you are, the smell from the trash can is unbearable in the summer. Can this create an unsanitary situation or is it just stinky? Probably the latter. As long as the trash bag is changed frequently, sanitation is not an issue.
I cannot stress enough about washing your hands. Wash. Wash. Wash. And wash again.
Final Thoughts on Toilet Paper in Mérida Mexico
I know this continues to be a huge topic of conversation. Otherwise, why would my friend Steve bring it up? Many countries are not as advanced as the U.S., Europe, and Canada. Following their rules and social customs is not only respectful of the culture, at times it is a necessity. Whether you find this strange or not, the fact remains that in most places flushing the toilet is not good for the plumbing system. I’m sure you’ve been in an old or historic building or museum at some point in time.
Haven’t you seen a sign that says something to the effect of “please be gentle with our plumbing system”? The same holds true here. Better safe than sorry with no judgment. Many stories circulate about plumbers called to unclog toilets after tourists flush their toilet paper in Mexico. I hope this article has enlightened and educated you.