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The listing for this San Francisco home for sale notes the Toto toilets, which have been called "the Sub-Zero of the bathroom."

The listing for this San Francisco home for sale notes the Toto toilets, which have been called “the Sub-Zero of the toilet world.”

Flush and fill. Flush and fill. Not so long ago, that’s all a toilet was expected to do. Not so anymore.

These days, a growing number of consumers are looking for toilets that are both high design and high tech. Beyond flushing, the hottest commodes come with motion-sensor lids, air-purifying systems, heated seats, built-in speakers and touch-screen controls that allow users to preset their personal cleansing preferences.

Many of the most advanced receptacles come from Japan, where manufacturers Inax and Toto are based. High-tech toilets have been popular in East Asia since the early 1980s but only began making a splash in the United States within the past decade.

Think these lavish loos are only for the rich and famous? Think again. Toto alone sold more than 30 million high-tech toilets from 1980 to 2011. In recent years, Toto and a handful of other companies, including BioBidet, Coco and Kohler, have launched aggressive marketing campaigns to promote their state-of-the-art stools. Most of these companies offer high-end stand-alone toilets and bidets as well as special seats that can add a touch of technology to any boring bowl.

Toto’s Washlet B100, for example, fits most of the company’s elongated toilets. With the touch of a button, a nozzle extends from under the seat for warm-water cleansing. The nozzle, which cleans itself before and after every use, can be set to move back-and-forth for optimum cleansing. The contoured seat is heated to provide maximum comfort.

Cost

The high-tech seats and toilets are more expensive than the flush-and-done models; you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1,500 for extra potty pampering. It’s an add-on that more folks are beginning to see as an essential.

David Krakoff, senior vice president of Toto’s Americas Sales Division, says even during the recent economic downturn, his company saw growth in the tech toilet arena.

“It’s not necessarily that expensive,” he said. “It’s something special you can do in your house, and it doesn’t break the bank but it does make you feel really good about your project. It’s the kind of thing you’ll show your friends – which you can’t say about a run-of-the-mill toilet.”

A recent New York Times article  noted that real estate ads have long mentioned the brand names of kitchen appliances but now, more and more ads are name-dropping toilet brands.

Leonard Steinberg, managing director of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, told the newspaper that the Toto brand had “become the Sub-Zero of the toilet world.”

Benefits

John Kang first discovered high-tech toilets a few years ago, while in Korea. He was so moved by the wonderful wash rooms that he gave up his job as a stock broker to become vice president at Coco Bidets.

“We as Americans are supposed to have the best technology and the best hygiene in the world,” he told The Associated Press in 2007. “But the dirtiest part of our body is not getting cleaned properly. Think of it this way: If you got mud on your arm, you’re not (going to) clean it with just a paper towel. You’re going to use water.”

Greyson Bergson-Monaghan knows exactly what Kang is talking about. The Tacoma, WA boy’s tastes are more discriminating than those of theaverage fifth-grader. Case in point: He asked his parents for a Toto Washlet for his 11th birthday.

“It uses less paper, and it’s way more comfortable than sitting on a stone-cold seat,” explained Bergson-Monaghan. “My parents have one in their bathroom and my sister always runs down there to use it, but I kind of think kids deserve excellent treatment, too.”

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About the Author

Mary was a newspaper writer/editor for 13 years and worked as spokesperson for a Fortune 500 Company before becoming a freelance writer. She has authored more than two dozen books for young readers and writes for a handful of regional home and garden magazines.

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