High-tech toilets: Making the smallest room truly your throne room

You mean to tell me your toilet doesn't shower and dry your nether regions? But does it at least remove your fart smells? Or light up your bathroom at night? No? Then perhaps it's time to treat yourself to one of a growing number of high-tech toilets. Modern toilets, like the Neorest WX prototype (pictured) by Toto, aim to offer more comfort. — dpa

BERLIN: We do our business in the smallest room – our most private business and a rather humbling one, yet we say we’re on the throne.

We can discharge pressing matters truly royally these days though, since the plain ceramic bowl has gone high-tech. Not only does it flush, it can have an automated lid, heated seat, air deodoriser, gentle water jet that washes your intimate area, and air dryer – just to name a few features on the market.

You naturally want your private sittings to be as comfortable as possible too. And they can be with some ergonomic tweaks.

After analysing weight distribution by the body while sitting, the Japanese sanitary ceramics manufacturer Toto, for example, designed a toilet seat that’s slightly elevated at the back.

“This provides an optimal sitting angle for the buttocks and hips, thereby relieving pressure on them,” says Yuko Hirotsu, managing director of Toto’s design department.

What about the stink you literally raise in the lavatory? Do you light a scented candle? Burn incense? Spray air freshener? Open the windows in winter? Or simply hope it will die down before your successor ascends the throne?

The Swiss multinational group Geberit solves the problem with its DuoFresh module. Installed in the toilet cistern, the “odour extraction unit” starts automatically as soon as you sit down, extracts air directly from the bowl and returns it to the room once it’s been “purified”.

Cleaning the toilet is a thankless chore. Modern toilet bowls make the job easier by being extremely smooth and non-porous so that little waste can stick to the surface. Toto takes this a step further: A fine mist is sprayed inside the toilet.

“This is done because it’s harder for waste to adhere to wet ceramic than dry ceramic,” explains Mikio Horimoto, managing director of the company’s development department, adding that the mist is released “when the user approaches or sits on the WC”.

Flush force is especially important. Toto uses Tornado Flush, whereby water propelled from two or three jets creates a “powerful whirlpool”. Geberit's Acanto WC boasts TurboFlush technology: Water flows laterally into the bowl and spirals around it, flushing “up to 10 times better than the standard requirement”.

Lateral flushing eliminates the need for a rim around the bowl, which conventional toilets have to direct downward flowing flush water around the bowl evenly. The out-of-sight, hard-to-reach areas under the rim easily collect waste particles, bacteria and limescale, however.

Modern, rimless toilets are therefore more hygienic and easier to clean. “You can largely do without toilet cleaner,” says Jens J. Wischmann, managing director of the German Sanitary Industry Association (VDS).

Speaking of cleaning, there are toilet seats that can be easily removed for this. The Bento Starck Box toilet by German bathroom furniture and ceramics maker Duravit, for example, uses built-in push buttons for seat reomoval. And Geberit's Acanto toilets have a seat with “quick-release” hinges.

Some toilet bowls are antimicrobial. Duravit touts its HygieneGlaze ceramic glaze, which it says inhibits 99.9% of bacteria growth, including diarrhoea-causing E. coli, within 24 hours. Swiss bathroom products maker Laufen says its Clean Coat Active surface finish, baked onto the ceramic, reliably kills bacteria and viruses.

Toto's new Washlet Neorest WX toilets electrolytically treat the flush water. “This results in slightly acidic water in order to disinfect the toilet bowl and kill germs,” remarks Horimoto.

"Hence the toilet ceramic stays clean longer. No chemicals are added and there's no environmental impact, as the treated water doesn't retain its effect for long and turns back into normal tap water."

We not only want our toilet to be clean – we want to be clean ourselves after using it. Bidet toilets have long been common in many cultures, mostly in Asia. A combination of toilet and bidet, they employ a vertical jet of water to wash your intimate area.

Smart bidet toilet options include a self-cleaning nozzle (or two) whose position you control, water jet with adjustable temperature and pressure, front/rear and massage washing, and warm-air dryer, reducing – or eliminating – the need for toilet paper. Preferred settings are often programmable.

Sanitary ware manufacturers have been trying in recent years to get more Europeans to warm to bidet toilets. "It's coming along slowly, but increasing a little each year," reports Wischmann.

The positive trend is due partly to altered design. Asian models are often bulky and packed with electronics. Some even have ambient lighting with numerous colour options, and play music and nature sounds such as birdsong or ocean waves – mercifully masking your own tooting when answering nature's call.

These features haven't caught on in Europe. "But the new models are indistinguishable from normal European toilets," Wischmann says. Duravit's SensoWash, Geberit's AquaClean Sela and Toto's Neorest WX, for instance, are understated and almost graceful.

The pleasant extras are tucked discreetly out of sight. In many models, the bidet nozzle and air dryer are retractable and hidden when not in use.

In the view of sanitary professional Wischmann, bidet toilets have several advantages, mainly cleanliness. Washing your intimate area is more hygienic than wiping it with paper, he says. They're also a boon to people with restricted mobility since they make going to the toilet easier, he adds.

The downside is that installation of a bidet toilet typically means having to revamp the lavatory, as the plumbing fixture requires a power connection. Once it's been established though, you've got more options, such as a built-in nightlight, heated seat and lid that opens automatically when you approach. – dpa

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