Why haven't toilets changed?

As bathroom design glams out, white porcelain remains the toilet choice du jour.

By Tony at MSN Real Estate Aug 2, 2012 11:16AM

© Rob Melnychuk/Getty ImagesIf you've remodeled your bathroom recently or simply shopped for new fixtures, you've likely noticed that the nontraditional has become mainstream.


For instance, it's perfectly acceptable — and relatively inexpensive — to choose a sink that's a brightly colored vessel, a nearly flat trough or just some kind of a mounted squiggle. Showers don't need walls or lips — but do sometimes resemble a water-park time machine. Flooring? Could be anything. Even beer-bottle labels.


And yet in even the most modern bathrooms, the most used and often most important fixture looks the same. So how come we all still have white porcelain toilets?


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Gizmodo's Rachel Swaby posed the question in a post earlier this week. After consulting a product manager at fixture manufacturer Kohler, she reached a conclusion about why home toilets haven't changed.


They ain't really broken.

Swaby says porcelain's popularity can be attributed to three qualities:

  • It's functional: Flush toilets have reportedly been around since the 26th century B.C. Although they've changed a bit — from the siphon and tank innovations popularized by Thomas Crapper to the dual-flush, water-saving products out today — many of their mechanisms and shapes have remained the same for at least a century. But their precision still requires some maneuvering. Porcelain, mostly clay and water, can accommodate this — and provide a pretty covering for the stuff we don't want to see.
  • It's sanitary: Porcelain's glazed surface makes it easy to clean. And it's more resistant to liquid and bacteria than porous materials.
  • It's cheap: As Swaby notes, plastic is more than capable of emulating a toilet's curves, inside and out. But molding it, especially in large quantities, is more costly than shaping porcelain. "It's just too expensive to have a leading role," Swaby writes.

As for other materials: Carbon-fiber toilet bowls are available, and they're lightweight. A model from HeadHunter Inc. weighs just 10.9 pounds, compared with these Caroma toilets in the 80- to 100-pound range. You may find these in planes or boats, where fixture weight matters. But in a house? Well, your toilet is likely mounted to the floor or wall studs. You want something sturdy. Portability is a nonissue.


Stainless-steel bowls also are available, though they're not necessarily recommended for folks in cold climates or homeowners attempting anything but a "haute prison cell" look.

As for toilet colors other than white: We're told these exist, even outside of your grandma's house. Best of luck, however, finding a replacement soft-close seat in avocado.


— Tony Stasiek is a producer/editor at MSN Real Estate.


May 18, 2013 5:34AM
Why is it that the toilets in Europe (at least the ones I used in Barcelona, Spain) work so much better? The debris actually disappeared down the toilet with one flush and not two or three!!
I really miss those days of yore when toilets were made of oak, elm, hickory, cedar, etc.  Any type of wood was used back then.  Almost all of the toilets also had leaves on them or around them and a lot had a geat view for the user.  The leaves in almost any color also served as paper to finish the job.  Back then people were a lot more eco-conscious too as the toilets used no water to flush.  The leavings are after all biodegradable and actually helped the toilet to grow into a multi-user facility.   
Aug 2, 2012 1:28PM
Why have'nt tolits changed? cause it's the same old ****...HaHaHa!... LOL
Aug 2, 2012 1:25PM
Prison Cell? how about aboard Ship in the Navy?
Aug 2, 2012 1:24PM

Toliets are the same cause our BUTTS haven't changed, don't fix what is not broken. It'll caost the H3LL out of us consumers


Aug 2, 2012 1:22PM
The internal combustion engine that still powers our automobiles hasn't changed for more than a hundred years.  Why?  Oil companies.  Now, THAT'S a technological feature that needs updating!
Aug 2, 2012 1:16PM
It kind of surprises me that with humans' tendency to screw things up and desire to fix things that aren't broken, that we somehow haven't botched up something that works as well as the standard toilet (though we tried with early low-water versions that had to be flushed twice or more to get rid of anything).  As far as color, white is good.  You should have seen the turquoise blue toilet in a 50s-era house I bought years ago.  Just the color of the bathroom fixtures would have you driving the porcelain bus even if you weren't sick before entering the bathroom.
Aug 2, 2012 1:14PM

It works plain and simple . Why screw with it?


Aug 2, 2012 1:10PM
i wanna see the toilet from the space station, that would be worthy of the 2 minutes of my life that i'll never get back after reading this dribble.
Aug 2, 2012 1:05PM
..... yeah..... by now you would think we would have toilets that automatically wipe our butts for us.
Aug 2, 2012 12:58PM
I think **** happens. That's why...
Aug 2, 2012 12:57PM
freaking msn. I hate these videos that start automatically!
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