Seth's Rant for September 1st, 2002

Crappy Crappers

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There's something I've been meaning to get out of my system for a while now: residential toilets are designed by idiots.

From Popes to paupers, we all have one thing in common: we have to go. The only real question is where. This basic fact of humanity really makes me wonder how it is then that the typical residential toilet seems to have been designed by someone who has never actually used one. Who are these mysterious toilet designers and why are they such blithering idiots? Do they crap in the woods? Do they think toilets are just some abstract form of water art?

I realize that most people don't like to talk about this sort of thing, but that's just the attitude that is allowing the toilet industry to persist in this excretory madness. Given how much time we all must spend using these modern torture chambers, I think it's time to stand up on a few key toilet design issues:

The Splash Effect
To quote a character on the 70's TV Show "Maude", When water falls on water, it makes a sound that all can hear; but when it lands on porcelin, it falls silent to the ear. Urinals work great: you piss on the porcelin, there's no noise, no splashing, no mess. Just a nice clean, quiet piss. So why is it that many residential toilets have no exposed porcelin in the bowl? Some have nice sloping backs or fronts in the bowl, perfect for a straight shot, so I know it's possible to design a splash free bowl. But many just have a vast expanse of water with verticle sides that you can't possibly hit without standing on your knees or risking a catastrophic aiming error. Women don't even get that choice.

Not Enough Hole on the Bowl
I'm not an especially big guy, so why must I cram my business end onto a hole so small that it makes me feel like I'm choosing between having my wang or my ass hanging over the edge? When sit, I want to blow and be done with it. I do not want to have worry about which way what is going to go where and how much of a smear it might leave on the back side. Are a few inches more room really so much to ask?

Designed to Clog
Flushing: it's the most fundemental advancement in excretory science since the squat. But did you know that most toilet regulations (yes, there are toilet regulations) don't actually require toilets to be able to flush human waste? The standard inspection test is to throw some number of handfulls of toilet paper in and see if it goes down. That's all well and good for nice soft, round, squishy balls of paper. But try launching a brown submarine and you get instant clog.

The cause is readily apparent if you look at the side of the toilet near the back of the bowl where you can see the outline of the plumbing. Four times out of five on a newer residential toilet you will see kinks, deliberately manufactured blockages. For years the only reason I could think of for this was that toilet designers are sadistic bastards with chronic diarhea who are jealous of the rest of us. Recently, though, an architect friend explained that the purpose of all those clog inducing curves is to make the flushing quieter. Ask anyone within 100 yards how quiet it is when the damn thing clogs up for the fourth time in a week.

Low Flow, My Arse
Reducing resource usage is a great idea... but it's only more efficient if it actually works. A toilet that uses 25% less water per flush but has to be flushed four times to clear the bowl is not saving water. Enough said.

It's well worth noting that commercial toilets don't have any of these problems. They are big, comfortable, easy to use, and flush like jet engines. So why are the residential styles so messed up? There's a recent Best Buy commercial which shows a guy going into a hardware store, dropping his pants, and "trying out" a toilet. It's supposed to be funny, but therein lies the problem. People are embarrassed by their toilets and their usage thereof. They go to the store and pick something that sounds good: "quiet flush", "low flow", "low profile", but by the time they find out what all that means, it's not like they can take it back.

So, here is my

Toilet Buying Guide

I'll be refining this as I go about replacing my own household commodes. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list (see the links below for more tips), just some guidelines to address the issues above.

Solid Construction
Most toilets seem to be well made, but you still want to make sure you go with a name brand. The only thing that sucks worse than having a toilet collapse underneath you, is to have it collapse while nobody is around and flood your home. (Yes, I've seen it happen; fortunately, I hadn't yet gotten in my car to go to work and I went back to investigate that strange *crack* sound I had just heard.) Several of the sites below also mention making sure that the porcelin is glazed all the way down the pipe, to ensure a smooth flow.

Big Hole
At least fourteen (14) inches front to back when the seat is down. Preferably more. If that seems like a lot to you ladies (most toilets seem to be about ten), just remember that we guys sometimes need some extra margin.

Room to Aim
You want a nice sloping back with at least 3 to 4 inches of visible porcelin above the water line. Ladies may enjoy this feature at the front of the bowl as well. You'll have to view at the proper angle in the store to make sure the shape is right. Watch out for backs that slope too much or are not set sufficiently behind the seat: that's smear bait. Also watch out for rims that hang out over the back, blocking the aim point for taller guys.

Look at the side of the toilet make sure there are no more curves than necessary in the piping. Also look for a nice big opening with lot's of room in front of it. Avoid models with a sharp upward turn just inside the opening. If it says "quiet flush", move on.

Beware the Low Flow
I'm not saying you should avoid low-flow altogether. I've seen some low-flow designs that work fine, especially when they are not quiet flush. But this is one of those areas where a test drive would really help. If you don't have experience with a particular model, better to go with the model you will have to flush less often. Or, to quote my dad, I would suggest a heavy duty industrial one designed to clear your sinuses through your ass if you flush while sitting.

I have heard of toilets with dual flush: a double lever that can send down either a lot or a little water, depending on what you are trying push down. That would seem ideal, and I'll see if I can find such a beast.

Perhaps if we all demand better toilets, we can finally break the hold of those weirdos who insist on torturing our butts on a daily basis.

Here are a few references which vary between useful and funny:

This rant solely reflects the opinion of the author, probably while he was half asleep, drunk, or otherwise incapacitated. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of his employer, his friends, or possibly the author in a more conscious state. Hate mail will be prosecuted. Constructive criticism may be posted or ignored. Have a nice day.

Seth B. Noble - Rant - - September 1, 2002