Toilet: a luxury or an indispensible?

How much would you pay for a toilet? If you think about toilets for more than about six seconds, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that, while a toilet is an indispensible fixture in an American home – in fact, you can’t get a Certificate of Occupancy without one – it’s usually the opposite of a “luxury item.” Aside from maybe the sewer connection, the lowly toilet clearly has the worst job in the house.

And yet … there are those folks who will gladly pay as much as $10,000 for a toilet. Not just any toilet, mind you, but a Toto washlet – arguably the Rolls Royce of toilets. What makes the Toto washlet so attractive? Well… it changes the whole experience of using the toilet.

No one questions the ingenuity of Japanese engineering, so it’s so surprise that a Toto washlet comes to us from the Land of the Rising Sun. A washlet is far more than your all-access pass to the sewer. It’s certainly much more than an aesthetic marvel, although it does look beautiful.

If you’ve ever paid attention during the Olympics, you know that every culture has its own take on going to the bathroom. In some cases, it’s a minor shift from what you might be accustomed to. In other cases, the differences are mind blowing. Now, Toto makes a lot of conventional toilets, but the washlet is anything but conventional. From a functional perspective, the Toto washlet is where East meets West.

If you’ve ever visited Europe, you’ve seen a bidet. We don’t do bidets in the US. The people who do use them swear by them, but for the most part, you won’t find a bidet here. Then there’s the washlet. The washlet combines a toilet with a bidet, and adds some serious luxury to the package. Heated toilet seats with adjustable temperature controls. Seats that self-raise and lower. UV light to kill germs. Remote controls. Front and rear wash with adjustable direction and power. Air drying. Automatic deodorizing. 2-person memory settings. A night light. Touchpad operation. Patented glazing to resist soiling, and tinted to match the unit for a decorative touch.

You really don’t need toilet paper.

The mind boggles.

The washlet can actually be purchased separately as a kit upgrade for a standard toilet from any maker, but some washlet kits are designed exclusively for use with Toto toilets. The upgrade kits vary in price, depending upon the fixture features and size. You can also buy a “basic” Toto fixture and washlet upgrade for about $2,500 give or take a bit, again depending upon the model and features you choose.

It’s an understatement to say that the experience of a Toto toilet renders other toilets pedestrian. In fact, many Toto aficionados say that standard toilets are just plain crude.

Toto has gone to great lengths to turn America on to its toilets, but it’s been an uphill battle so far. For many Americans, conversion starts with a trip to Japan or another Asian country, where Toto toilets are standard. Toto will be opening an educational gallery in Manhattan this spring, in the hope that more Americans will see the wisdom in changing their bathroom habits.

If you would like more information about Toto toilets, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911.

Photo Credit: Toto

Best Way To Clean Your Toilet? Read This!

No one likes cleaning the toilet. Let’s face it; it’s an unpleasant job. The in-tank toilet cleaning products might seem very attractive, especially if you’re looking for a way to save time and avoid having to clean the toilet. Boston homeowners should consider this when selecting toilet-cleaning products: not all toilet cleaners are created equal, and what saves time might end up costing you more money in toilet repairs and wasted water.

Most toilets use a flapper mechanism to flush material into the waste pipe. Tank based toilet cleaners, which include very harsh chemicals, tend to deteriorate the flapper valve of a toilet, reducing its life expectancy by as much as 75%. A leaking flapper valve will increase the amount of water being consumed by the fixture and will reduce or eliminate any water-saving the toilet design might otherwise offer.

Toilet flapper valves are made of rubber, which cannot withstand the chemicals used in in-tank cleaning products. If you don’t mind replacing the flapper valve every few years, these products may save you a few minutes, but without regular maintenance on the flapper valve, you’ll increase your water consumption and end up spending more on water over the life of the fixture. If you’ve paid more for a water-saving toilet design, you’ll also increase the amount of time it takes to recover the cost of your investment.

The biggest offenders among tank-based cleaners are the slow-release, drop-in tablets that have become so popular. Chemical-related flapper valve failure is not a recent discovery. Toilet manufacturers have known for at least 20 years that cleaning chemicals that are dispensed from the tank will significantly reduce the life expectancy of a flapper valve.

Valve manufacturers responded by making flapper valves that are more durable and better able to resist the damage caused by tank-based cleaning chemicals. That would be good news for consumers, if the companies that make tank-based cleaning products hadn’t also improved their products! Even with improved flapper valve materials, testing revealed that none of the newer materials could withstand a particular type of tank-based toilet bowl cleaning tablet (Vanish).

Consumers also may contribute to increased water usage when they attempt to correct a leaking flapper valve. Replacement flapper valves don’t always come from the manufacturer, which means that the replacement parts may not provide the same water-saving performance that OEM parts do. The results of using an incorrect replacement flapper valve may be somewhat surprising. Using the wrong valve may correct the leaking problem, but it may also double or in some cases nearly triple the water consumption per flush of a low-flow fixture!

The lessons here are two-fold. If you have a water-saving toilet (one that uses 1.6 gallons per flush or less), and it has a flapper valve, consider the use of tank dispensed toilet bowl cleaners carefully, as they have been shown in some cases, to degrade the durability of the flapper valve significantly. Second, if you have a low-flow toilet and you want to replace the flapper valve, choose your replacement carefully! If you can, purchase an OEM flapper valve that’s made specifically for your toilet model. Doing so will help preserve the water-saving quality of the toilet – which may have been the reason you chose your particular toilet in the first place!

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