Toilet bowl reality check

LinelleMarch 19, 2014

I'm in the early stages of planning a redo of my hall bath. I plan to get a new toilet. My current one is 15 years old and I guess it's considered lower flush. Everything goes down pretty well and I only have to use bowl cleaner and brush maybe monthly to clean the ring at the water line and to freshen.

I'm reading about low-flush toilets, Toto mainly, and even watched a Youtube of the flushing action. It's kinda hard to illustrate using the real stuff going into the toilets. We all know we're talking poop. Looks like not a lot of water gets used and I'm wondering how in the world it all gets swept away with one flush.

What confuses (and troubles) me is folks on GW with Totos keep talking about using their brushes. What are we talking about here? Every time someone poops?

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I am in the same boat here. I have 16 year old Kohler Wellworth toilets when the 1.6 designs first came out and were really bad. Low water design has improved. But my Kohler toilets just keep clogging so I need to buy new ones that have improved flush capabilities.

My take on the current situation. The low flush designs get the solids down by a swoosh type design. The old designs were swirling, less forceful with more water to rinse away streaks. Designs like Toto's double cyclone help clean the streaks, but nothing like compared to the old 3 gal toilets. So I really don't know how much water reduction there is for residental toilets if they require another flush to rinse the bowl out. The hassle factor is increased if the bowls require cleaning on a daily basis. And apparently, normal diets still end up streaking these new toilet designs.

So I will be ordering new Toto toilets just to eliminate the number of clogs, but will be dealing with streaks. I did have a wild thought of finding an old toilet and putting bricks in the tank like the old days!

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 12:34

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 12:20PM
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In 1999 my city gave away free low-flush toilets, including installation. That's what I have now: The brand is Universal Rundle and it's 1.6 gpf. They aren't beauty queens but neither one has ever clogged. No clogs ever! I did have to have the tank guts replaced a few years ago because they had a tendency to run, but that's all fixed.

I just figured out that "streaks" is a euphemism for solids left behind on the sides of the bowl. I have no intention of getting a brush out to scrub poop stuck on the porcelain nor will I leave it sitting there. I will flush that sucker until it's gone. Kinda defeats low-flow.

Since we've already gotten a little graphic here, how do all the brush people clean their brushes afterwards?

I wonder if I could just keep my current toilet and replace the seat and handle?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 12:40PM
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Good point linelle - now one has to clean the toilet plus the toilet brush!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 1:15PM
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Anna, I know. This is a daily occurrence, happens like clockwork. :) And when guests are over. I know I would be mortified if I caused "streaking" in my host's toilet.

With my 1.6 gpf, we've always recommended the mid-session flush, rather than trying to send everything, including paper, down in one fell swoop. Perhaps that's why there have never been any clogs. Also, Kirkland toilet paper FTW!!!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 1:23PM
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Yes, I love Kirkpland paper and plastic products.

I don't have a family or DH but right now I have 4 62 - 75# adult Belgian shepherds, 4 50# 8 mo youngsters and 4 7 week pups. I use the toilet for their cleanup. I am really thinking about finding an old 3 gallon toilet and putting a couple of bricks in it. It takes a huge number of flushes to take care of their excrement. I'm going through 3 40# bags of dog food per week.

I am looking at craigslist now - I found an old Kohler toilet from the 70's and some toilets from the 50's. I'll put this toilet in my MB which has a toilet closet and put a new toilet in the second bath which is used by guests. But I need to research the availability of parts or if you can totally replace the insides with new.

But I may end up installing a regular 1.6 Toto Drake. I clean the whole bathroom anyway after I take care of the dogs. I know that I feel like kennel help right now, but if it was a human family, I sure would not want to have to clean the toilet on a semi or daily basis.

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 13:52

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 1:45PM
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Anna, I also live on my own, but with two cats whose waste is confined to their litter boxes. Sounds like you are really busy with your pooches. Photo please!

I have a very small master bath and a hall bath, which is more convenient to use when I'm home. I use each toilet interchangeably. Sorry, TMI.

The brick thing. Is that for your own effort to conserve water or do the flush police make unannounced visits?

I kinda like the idea of a two-button system, since the mini-flush is going to happen far more frequently.

Cleaning toilets every 2-4 weeks (depending on need) is no big deal. On a daily basis is totally unacceptable. I'm also reading about people who have Totos (model varies) who have no streaking problems.

Is aim a big factor?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 2:05PM
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From my understanding, aim is not the issue. it is a combination of the way the water flows from the underside of the rim of the bowel and the way the water goes out of the toilet and pulls the solid out with it. The solid may actually rub or smear more against the sides of the bowl with the new designs and thus leave marks. Plus there is less water sitting in the bowel and less to wash the bowl out behind the solid. So it is a function of these new low flush designs that have to meet the government water restriction rules.

Putting one or two bricks in the toilet tank to displace the water was what we did in the late 70's and early 80's to conserve water in the 3 gal toilets. If I were to sell my house then I would have to make sure the toilets were maximum 1.6 gal because of the year it was built.

I am like you, I use the closest bathroom, so both bathrooms get equal share. I am short and really prefer a regular height round front toilet. I should probably install that in my MBR and install a comfort height elongated one in my second bath for guests.

Here is an ad on my local craigslist - toilets for $25. I'm going to check them out. I need to research restoring and maintaining a vintage toilet.

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 15:38

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 2:21PM
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I'm the non-eco toilet rebel of the bunch - I have a 130yr old house and there is no way I'm getting a 1.2 or 1.6gal toilet. These pipes were designed for 5gal flushes.

My 1925 bathroom has the original low wall tank toilet. Probably uses 5-7gals. My powder room is reusing the 1980 toilet a previous homeowner installed. It's at least a 3gal flush. And I just hunted down a 1949 Standard toilet for the basement bathroom we're doing now. Also probably in the 5gal range - I haven't hooked it up yet. All the toilets have large water spots and seldom streak. To be honest, if I had to I'd install a new 1.6 to make an inspector happy then switch it back when all the approvals were finished.

For toilet brushes - I use those Clorox disposable brushes - it's a disk with cleanser on it - one time use and toss. No icky brush hanging around.

So yes, you can reuse your toilet if you like it!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 2:47PM
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What do you think about my installing an older toilet. What brand do I need to shop for. What year and model. What do I need to check for when I inspect it. Will I be able to find or modify new parts. Thx.

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 15:39

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 3:02PM
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Some toilets definitely are easier to find parts for then others, but really most toilets aren't that hard to fix. If you can, google the models. There are some super cool looking toilets out there that are next to imposible to find parts for! Case makes some (those little cool Kidney tank one pieces). I know Crane made lots of good ones. So did most of the major brands back then. I was actually hunting for a 50's era Crane Drexel when I found the 1949 Standard which has very good art deco features and matches the 1939 Standard sink I found for $5!

I think a lot of it depends on what you want - the older toilets that have survived are often colored ones, so if you want white, you have to hunt harder for certain models. If you don't have a special model in mind or age - if you just want a "big flush" anything before about 1990 (maybe a little earlier) will work - the dates are usually stamped on the inside of the toilet lids or tanks. Check in house salvage yards, if there's a ReStore nearby those often have lots of choices, or even ask plumbers if they have some!

First thing to check obviously is are there any cracks! Not everyone is careful when they remove them. My 1949 base actually must have been dropped on the corner when they put it on the floor at the Restore. Luckily all the pieces were there and it's only a cosmetic part so I'm just gluing it back on. It only cost me $12.50 so if I end up not liking it, I'll hunt for another. ;-)

Also, I think it's a good idea to replace all the gaskets (they only cost a few dollars) - the ones between the tank & base and inside the tank. I had the 80s toilet from the 1950s Bathroom From Hell out of service for about 6 months while we were building the Slightly Imperfect Powder Room, and in that time all the gaskets dried out and it leaked when we reinstalled it (It took 3 trips to Home Depot that day to fix it!).

Google vintage toilet plumbing supplies - there's a huge one - I think it's "Plumber's Supply" they had just about every part imaginable for every model under the sun. I might be shopping with them for parts for the Standard if we don't just use the usual replacement Fluidmasters. OEM really doesn't cost that much more.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 4:52PM
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I have a new Toto Vespin 11, so double cyclone action and Sanagloss finish. Absolutely no problems with it yet, no streaking, staining or residue left behind. I haven't even bought a toilet brush yet for this BR, so that's how clean everything is!

I only plan on using Method cleaner in this BR, nothing toxic and nothing to risk damaging any of the new surfaces/finishes!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:05PM
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Five or six years ago we installed 2 new Caroma toilets. I think it was this one

We'd been to Australia where they are really common because that's where they're made. We loved the half/whole flush buttons on the top and the low water use. Because of the way the inside is built, an adult user poops right over the outlet. Streaking is not an issue, although it might be an issue with a small child, not sure. If someone has diarrhea, that can cause a clean-up, but that may be the case regardless of which toilet. It also has a slow-close lid! At the time we didn't know what "comfort height" meant, but now I wouldn't want to go back to the lower height. Wish I'd had "comfort height" when I had knee surgery!

Here is a link that might be useful: Caroma toilets

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:31PM
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So my 1.6 gpf is still in the ballpark? My house was built in 1991 and I got the toilet in 1999.

Dumb question: If I keep my old toilet (everything else is being replaced), I assume I can get a new one later on without the floor tile being impacted?

I suspect costs for the entire bathroom will exceed my ideal budget and, while I'm willing to go over for some items, I want to identify areas that I can do at a later time.

I do not want to scrub my toilet after every BM, even if I can throw the brush away. What do I tell guests? Oh, if you leave "streaks" don't forget to use the brush.

What's funny is that for just about any other item in the house, you can test it out before you buy. :O

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:36PM
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Thanks Hunzi!

what should I look for as far as the condition of the porcelain on the inside of the bowel, besides obvious stains that won't come out?

I just basically want a big flush, but if I could find something retro that would be great. Here in Houston, TX there is not a lot of old stuff and it doesn't seem to be valued. I'm going to start looking though.

I can very easily go for a colored toilet - I like color - have a colorful painted house - and I'm replacing sinks and bathtubs too. Just not yellow or Harvest or Aztec gold or pink!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 6:50PM
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I don't have a family or DH but right now I have 4 62 - 75# adult Belgian shepherds, 4 50# 8 mo youngsters and 4 7 week pups. I use the toilet for their cleanup.

Do you take the dog waste from your yard and put it down the toilet? Do you happen to be on a septic system?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 7:43PM
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@Anna, be sure to check your home's rough-in and that of any used toilet you are considering. 12" is standard now, but there was also 10" and 14" (and who knows what other measurements in old installations).

If your rehab is done with permits, note that the inspector may not allow you to install an older toilet with high number of gallons per flush. My American Standard Cadet model from the 50's which I will be replacing is 5 GPF from what I've read. In the Chicago area, 1.6 GPF is required; toilets that work on less are optional, but we have a Great Lake from which to draw water from. I don't know about other areas of the country.

Also be careful on the seat. I believe there were some odd-ball designs over the years and availability might be a problem. For example, the Case Kidney style toilet which hunzi mentioned is a very nice one-piece that dates to the late 20's and early 30's but an exact fit seat is no longer available. Worse yet, for some models, the ballcock is no longer available.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:59PM
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raehelen: "I have a new Toto Vespin 11, so double cyclone action and Sanagloss finish. Absolutely no problems with it yet, no streaking, staining or residue left behind. I haven't even bought a toilet brush yet for this BR, so that's how clean everything is! I only plan on using Method cleaner in this BR, nothing toxic and nothing to risk damaging any of the new surfaces/finishes!"

That mirrors our experience with our Vespin II, raehelen. We have experienced NO increased incidence of "tracks" since replacing a 3.5 gpf toilet with a 1.28 gpf Vespin II.

We have used mild and non-abrasive -- but very effective -- Ecover (brand) toilet bowl cleaner in the three years that we have owned our Vespin II. (We had been using it before, in the 3.5 gpf toilet, also, because it was so effective as a cleaner.)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 9:18PM
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I was very concerned about bowl rinse and streaking. We have some medical issues here. I ended up with a Toto Vespin and so far no problems! I made sure I got a double cyclone model, and compared the size of the water spots too. If you hold the handle down during the flush, you get more rinse water and longer flush, to a degree. We also got Sanagloss.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 9:22PM
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While we're at it, what actually is "comfort height"? And round or elongated? Other than the shape, what's the difference?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 12:17AM
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Linelle - elongated toilets are 1.5 to 2 inches longer than round toilets. They have more of an elliptical shape. They were originally designed for commercial use and have become popular for residential use now. Men and most women prefer the shape. ADA or handicap height toilets - and toilets that are higher than standard, but not quite handicap - have become popular for residential. They have different names per manufacturer - comfort, universal and right height.

I want a regular height round toilet so that limits me to the Toto Drake.

I will be reducing the number of dogs that I have in a couple of months. Believe me, having this many high drive working malinois has been a lot of work. I am in a municipal water/waste district. My breeder friends who have large kennels on acreage usually have a separate septic tank just for the dogs with a drop opening. I plan to get down to 4 dogs.

I would be satisfied with a 70's era toilet, even in bone or almond. And I will install it myself.

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Thu, Mar 20, 14 at 0:59

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 12:39AM
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Ha, Anna edited/added to her post while I was composing this reply, so won't repeat what she just said!

I WILL repeat an anecdote that I wrote on another post about my recent visit home though. We now have all three toilets at comfort height which is usually 2" higher than 'regular', and with an elongated bowl. At my Mother's house, I went to sit on toilet, and I think I actually pulled a muscle, cuz as I went down my body flinched in panic as I thought I had missed the toilet! I guess over the years I've had comfort height I have developed a muscle memory and my body knows where the seat 'should be'. I obviously don't use other toilets that often, but it was a huge eye-opener to how low some toilets can be. I stayed at my sister's, and honestly her toilet and vanity looked like it belonged in a kindergarten class. Which is surprising as her three boys must all be close to 6 feet tall! They recently renovated, but didn't change out vanity or toilet.

When I mentioned to my Mom that I was caught off-guard by the lower toilet, she said she really wishes now that when she built her home (7 years ago), that she'd installed comfort height. She never thought of it, and as it is in a +55 community I am surprised that the builder hadn't suggested it or that it wasn't the norm. (This is a high end gated community with custom homes).

As I am scheduled for knee surgery next week I am really glad that all my toilets ARE comfort height!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 12:12PM
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We have two American Standard champion toilets both installed within the the last 3 years. Both are excellent and I believe the commercial that they could flush 24 golf balls at once. Rarely do we have any residue left in the bowl after a flush. When it does happen the next flush usually takes care of it. Occasionally if I see any residue I toss in a denture cleaner tablet and leave it. Again this is very rare and the residue is very minor.

Before these toilets we plunged constantly on some no name toilet from the 80's.

JMHO but toilet brushes are gross. I only use disposable clorox toilet sponges.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 12:29PM
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Didn't read every word of this thread, but thought I would add that I have had a Kohler Memoirs toilet (low flow, comfort height) for two years. Its been fine. I would never have anything but a comfort height toilet again. It occasionally needs a double flush to get rid of skid marks, but 90 percent of the time it does a good job. If the double flush doesn't solve the problem, I grab a tissue, clean it and leave the tissue in the toilet.

The cost of water around here keeps going up. I now pay more each month for what I paid once every three months not so long ago. At least water is abundant in my area, but in CA, AZ and others -- not so much! I also like that you don't have to listen to the tank filling for such a long time.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 2:04PM
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Thanks raehelen. I will most probably replace the toilet in my second bathroom with an elongated comfort height for my guests.

What happened to you at your mom's house was similar to someone pulling a chair out from under you. Not fun.

Unfortunately, I am 4'10" with short legs for my torso. I tried sitting on the toilets on display the other month at Lowes. The group of folks around me stopped and started laughing. For an elongated bowl I have to sit and scoot back past my knee bend in order to center myself over the toilet. And then I have to scoot forward in order to stand up. And they told me I looked like a little kid on the comfort height toilets. So I will stick with the regular round toilet in my MBR since I'm single. If I were to sell my house then I would look at changing it out. So I am not the norm.

I remember reading on this forum that one of the members has a house that was formerly owned by a jockey and was slowing changing things out. That is the kind of house that I need. Even my kitchen counter is a little too high for me. I stand on a stool and use my BBQ tongs to get the clothes out of the washing machine. And I like the old fashion stuff, I bought a new Speed Queen that is similar to the old Amana to replace my 27 year old Maytag. I cut the legs down on my kitchen table and chairs. When I have guests over for dinner we use my dining room table. Most everything in life doesn't fit me.

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Thu, Mar 20, 14 at 15:20

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 2:18PM
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Well Anna, you are petite indeed. My mom was 5'0", my daughter's 5'1" so I'm a giant in my family at 5'4".

raehelen, I know that awful feeling of thinking you're falling and how muscles can seize up catching yourself.

dedtired, who names a toilet "Memoirs"? Ah yes, I remember it well, that time at 2 in the morning.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 2:27PM
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