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Time to Upgrade Your Toilet?

If you’re still double-flushing or dealing with frequent clogs, your low-flow fixture might be due for replacement. Here’s why

Photo by Megan Chaffin

Any pre-Y2K toilet that’s not clearing in one flush is a likely candidate for retirement, says Pete DeMarco of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Those early low-flows from the ’90s employed narrow trapways (the passage from bowl to drain) in order to empty the bowl and still meet the national 1.6-gallons-per-flush (gpf) mandate instituted in 1994.

While the toilets used less water, the trapways were choke points, sparking consumer complaints. It wasn’t until about 2003, DeMarco says, that most makers had fully reengineered their fixtures—and widened the trapways—to achieve both efficient and effective flushing.

The march to maximize water savings hasn’t stopped. Thanks to the EPA’s WaterSense program, begun in 2006, you can buy toilets that use a mere 1.28 gpf (or less). These are now required in some states, including California and Georgia. For independent data on how well any toilet works, visit MaP. The site posts reports on today’s top-performing toilets, which can handle 600 grams or more of simulated waste in one go, as well as older models.

The next frontier, according to DeMarco, is to improve the bowl-cleaning ability of each flush. “It’s harder to quantify, but we are seeing better performance on that front.”

Thanks to: Pete DeMarco, board chair of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.