American Toilets: An Information Dump for Brits

(YouTube)

Scottish actress Bethany Woodruff stars in the Poo-Pourri commercial. (YouTube)

These days, when a Brit in the U.S. says “loo” no one bats an eyelid although Americans might not be so au fait with bog, khazi or lavvy. Brits are familiar with Americanisms like can and john, although the charmingly named comfort station might cause a wry smile. It’s not just the names that are different when it comes to toilets however. When Americans say toilet, they are referring to the actual object; for a Brit it can also mean the room in which the toilet is situated. Saying someone is stuck in the loo conjures up a whole new visual in the U.S.

Since low-flush toilets became mandatory here in 1994, most bathrooms now house a plunger as well as a toilet. Loos that used to boast up to seven gallons per flush are now limited to 1.6 gallons and are the bane of homeowners’ lives. Gravity cannot do with less than two gallons, what it did with triple the amount and thus we have much backing up, flooding and well, it’s not pretty. Ironically, although they were meant to conserve water, they often require two, three and four flushes to ahem, do the job. When visiting someone’s house in the U.S., do yourself a solid and make sure there’s a plunger around before assuming the position.

Low-flushers have also triggered the return of single-ply toilet paper, since the softer, cushier stuff needs a bucket of water to send it down the S bend. Single-ply toilet paper? Surely a giant step backwards? And, ironically, less water has given rise to pressure-assisted flush toilets (often called high performance toilets), usually requiring horsepower in the form of electricity. They are also a lot noisier. This one has the added distinction of being called the Purist Hatbox!

Such was the dissatisfaction with these new, no-flush low-flush toilets that a Black Market in regular toilets began. Those fortunate enough to live near the Canadian border found a steady stream of desperate home-owners, ready to risk the fines associated with smuggling contraband cans south of the border.

Despite conservation awareness here, you don’t see many dual-flush toilets, although they are available even at stores like Home Depot. They’re the ones with two buttons (or a two button actuator, don’t you know) giving you a choice of flushes; one for number ones and the other for number twos, or solid waste, as it’s known in the industry. Apparently buttons on the top of the tank confuse some people, so Kohler kindly offers “a two-toned trip lever located on the side of the tank, just like a traditional toilet, so flushing is intuitive.” Who knew it was intuitive? Half the time, in public loos, it’s a tiny black button on the wall, on the top or just to the side, which is barely visible let alone intuitive.

Although I haven’t seen many dual flushers around in the U.S. the market is ready to go, as it were, and copy writers are having a field day. Toto, the company that “leaves nothing to chance when it comes to design” gives us the Neorest 550, which may look like it’s about to hatch but “is a truly remarkable combination of ecology and luxury.” All for a mere $3,000 plus, by the way. American Standard goes one better with this video, demonstrating how its H2Option takes care of golf balls, chicken nuggets, hot dogs and 2lbs of cat litter. (Don’t try this at home.)

The award however, surely goes to Kohler, for its brilliantly named two-piece, dual flusher – the Persuade.

Presumably no more sitting around for twenty minutes?

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