The Purpose Of Putting A Red Cup Under The Toilet Seat

why put a red cup under toilet seat

Have you ever wandered into a bathroom stall only to be greeted by the perplexing sight of a red cup perched beneath the toilet seat?

If so, you likely asked yourself, “Why on earth is that there?” Well, you’re not alone in your confusion. 

This quirky tactic actually originated as part of an online clickbait advertisement meant to draw readers into an endless slideshow of questionable life hacks.

However, while the initial ad never actually revealed the purpose behind the red cup toilet trick, it has caught on as a legitimate practice for various sensible reasons. 

Although the thought of putting a red cup under the toilet seat may seem silly or trivial at first glance, there are some logical explanations for this unusual bathroom custom.

As it turns out, this simple trick can act as an effective visual warning system in certain scenarios when used creatively. 

So next time you encounter a mysterious red cup supporting that porcelain throne, rest assured – there’s meaning behind the madness. With context, the madness transforms into handy ingenuity.

Why Put a Red Cup Under the Toilet Seat

So, what’s the reason behind putting a red cup under the toilet seat anyway? To find out, continue reading.

1. Indicate lack of toilet paper

One of the most common reasons people place a red cup under a toilet seat is to signal (or let people know) that there’s no toilet paper left in the dispenser.

This serves as a friendly alert system to prevent frustration for fellow bathroom users. 

Have you ever started taking care of business only to realize midway there wasn’t a spare square in sight? That awkward moment can be easily avoided by taking note of an inverted red cup upon entering the bathroom.

The vibrant cup catches people’s attention, prompting them to check if the dispenser needs to be changed before sitting down. 

This clever and courteous system also subtly informs custodial staff that they need to restock the stall with a fresh roll.

So, while it may seem silly out of context, within the community of shared bathrooms, placing a red cup under the seat has become a universally understood warning sign that the TP has run out.

2. Warning system for critters

While it may sound like an urban legend, creatures entering homes through toilet pipes is an actual phenomenon, especially in regions like Florida where alligators and even snakes roam in the sewage system. 

Homeowners deter these unwelcome intruders by placing a red plastic cup beneath the toilet seat at night.

The idea is that as a reptile or rodent travels up the pipes and tries to exit the toilet bowl, it will knock the cup over in the process. This causes the toilet seat to slam loudly back into place. 

The startling noise alerts households that an animal is attempting to infiltrate through the loo.

So, if residents hear a sudden clatter coming from the bathroom, they know to proceed with caution. The red cup thus serves as an alarm system – almost like a tripwire alerting to movement. 

This ingenious hack leverages the power of physics and sound to notify humans of wild intruders. It’s a first line of defense against animals encroaching on your property from below. 

3. Training aid for potty training children

Potty training young children can try any parent’s patience. Teaching little boys to lift the toilet seat before urinating is often a very tricky task. In their rush to heed nature’s call, kids often forget this crucial first step.

The result is accidentally leaving a mess on the toilet seat and floor. 

Placing a red cup beneath the seat inserts a physical cue that prompts boys to raise the seat first. The cup visually blocks the seat hole, making it impossible for a child to position themselves without moving it.

This built-in reminder triggers their brain to lift the barrier out of the way. It turns potty training into a fun “puzzle” for kids to solve before using the toilet. 

This ingenious hack assists the training process by enabling practice. Soon muscle memory will kick in and young boys will automatically lift the seat every time without any reminders. 

So, if you are struggling to drill this habit, leveraging a red cup can improve toilet targeting and tidiness. It instills good bathroom manners early.

4. Reminder to measure urine/fluid output

For those with certain medical conditions like heart failure or kidney disease, closely monitoring urine output is a standard part of care. 

However, it’s easy to forget routine tracking – especially measurements taken during middle-of-the-night bathroom trips.

That’s why doctors may likely tell you to strategically place a red cup beneath the toilet seat as a visual trigger.

This reminder prompts groggy patients to collect a sample and quantify their fluid levels. 

Positioning an eye-catching crimson cup leverages colors strongly attached to causing action. See that vibrant red? Stop and grab the collection cup! Without even reading words, the upside-down red solo cup trains patients through repetitive exposure.

Soon the red cup cue gets etched into their brains, becoming a habit. 

5. Hygienic barriers in public restrooms

Public restrooms harbor more germs than almost any other environment. Naturally, germaphobes cringe at the thought of touching surfaces like toilet seats in shared lavatories.

An inverted red cup provides a clever solution for avoiding contact. 

The solo cup propping up the seat allows users to rest their foot on the cup’s edge, leveraging it to raise or lower the barrier without using their hands.

This no-touch hack shields direct exposure when manipulating the contaminated surface. 

So, while hovering over public toilets works to a degree, the red cup elevates hygiene to the next level.

This inventive, hands-free method protects bathroom visitors from infectious invaders. No need to squat or line the seat with toilet paper. Simply let the crimson cup guard your fingers. 

6. Alert sleepwalkers using the bathroom

For households with a resident sleepwalker, placing a red cup under the toilet seat can minimize embarrassing middle-of-the-night incidents. 

As anyone who has lived with a sleepwalker knows, these unconscious wanderers have little control over their actions.

In rare cases, they may even pee or defecate while fast asleep. Without awareness, they do not have the cognition to aim properly or clean up after themselves if an accident occurs. 

Setting an inverted crimson cup on the toilet seat edge provides a clever safeguard. If the sleepwalker sits down, their weight will topple the cup onto the floor.

The loud bang made by the cup coming in contact with the floor startlingly awakes the wanderer before commencing his or her business.

This gives the person the opportunity to either consciously adjust to the bathroom environment or head back to bed uninterrupted. 


While a red cup may be the most well-known toilet technique, people employ some common alternatives that serve similar functions.

The effectiveness simply depends on the reason behind this inventive hack. 

Toilet Paper Roll Under Toilet Seat

why put empty toilet paper roll under toilet seat

Rather than placing a red cup beneath the seat, some prefer using an empty toilet paper roll. This common bathroom item can certainly act as a prop too, though it lacks the eye-catching color factor.

If the goal is signaling a lack of toilet tissue to fellow users, the hollow cardboard tube makes perfect sense. Everyone relates an empty roll directly to being out of tissue. 

However, sleepwalkers may sleep right through the less startling sound if they knock off an empty roll in the night.

And children’s potty training likely requires a more vivid red cup cue to remind them of steps. Still, simplicity has its benefits, so choose what matches the purpose and environment. 

Colors other than red for a cup   

Red plastic cups grab attention thanks to our psychological response to that vibrant crimson tone. Scientists link the color red with action and urgency.

But other conspicuous colors can still do the job if red cups are not on hand.  The key is choosing whatever color creates the biggest contrast from the bathroom décor.

A bright yellow cup in a bathroom with light blue tones will pop more than blending red.  And sleepwalkers may wake just fine to any loud clatter, regardless of cup color.

So, while red has unique advantages, keep an open mind to experimenting with alternatives if needed. The core concepts remain the same.


While the red cup toilet trick offers ingenious benefits, experts share some words of advice when putting the method into practice.

Experts say cups are not very hygienic

From a hygiene perspective, health professionals caution that cups themselves can collect and transmit germs in shared bathrooms.

Porous surfaces like cardboard (i.e., the material used in making paper and coffee cups) are actually less sanitary than smooth, non-absorbent toilet seats designed not to harbor bacteria.

Since flushing spreads contamination through spraying water droplets, any items placed in restrooms tend to become just as unsanitary over short periods of time.

So those intending to guard fingers from germs may still come into indirect hand contact after moving cups. 

Therefore, regular cleaning and hand washing will always be the most effective method to fight against germs.

Only one cup is generally needed

The functionality of a single red cup balancing beneath the seat serves plenty for most purposes like signaling toilet paper depletion.

Unless you are concerned about the cup getting knocked off prematurely, one cup is typically sufficient as a visual flag. 

For those worrying about stability with restless sleepwalkers or rambunctious toddlers, using two cups on either side boosts staying power. 

However, too many cups could make the seat itself trickier to lift, which negatively impacts certain hack functions. To discover what works, test out numbers to fit the purpose and environment.


While discovered through a curious viral ad, placing a red cup beneath a toilet has evolved into an ingenious hack for various practical scenarios.

It leverages the visual power of color psychology and physics principles to creatively remind, notify, train, or protect bathroom users. 

Specific techniques like signaling toilet paper depletion to prompt replacements or waking reactive sleepwalkers demonstrate clever problem-solving.

Even just providing better public hygiene or potty-training toddlers show how simple daily tasks can be improved through purposeful enhancements. 

So next time you encounter this unconventional trick, take a closer look before judging. The madness has a method behind it.

While not necessary everywhere, within certain helpful contexts, that dash of red transforms a normal toilet into an intelligent communications tool. Just ensure proper usage and cleaning. 

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