Don't shop by brand alone
Consumer Reports testers also found that not all toilets within a brand are created equal. Dismal solid-waste performance helped put Kohler’s $400 Devonshire at the bottom of our Ratings, even though four other Kohlers made our list of top picks. And while the $300 American Standard Champion and $240 American Standard Clean 2514.101, $300 at Lowe’s, cleaned up in our tests, several of their brand mates were left high and dry.
Pressure-assist or gravity-feed is yet another choice on your decision list. But the word “pressure” doesn’t guarantee more oomph with each flush: Only one pressure-assisted toilet, the Kohler Highline Classic ($425), made our recommended list. Some others didn’t dispatch our simulated solid waste as powerfully as the best gravity-feed models. And all proved relatively noisy, a factor in bathrooms that are close to sleeping areas.
Water flow. Some toilets can also reduce the likelihood of clogs farther down the drain line. Our latest evaluations include a drain-line carry test that measures how far the flushed water and simulated waste move in one, two, and three flushes. With some toilets, the water carried the waste to the end of a 75-foot pipe in just one flush. But others fell far short of that, even after multiple flushes. The farther the water and waste flow, the more likely it is to reach the typical sewer system without buildup—important if you’ve experienced drain-line clogs in your home.
A comfortable height. How high a toilet stands is another buying decision. More and more toilets—and nearly all in Consumer Reports’ latest tests—are what’s known as comfort height. At 17 to 19 inches off the floor, comfort-height toilets are some 2 to 4 inches taller than regular-height toilets and meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Except perhaps for small children, most people find them more comfortable.
One-piece vs. two. You may also want to consider a one-piece toilet, where the tank and bowl are molded seamlessly as a single unit, for its sleeker styling and easier cleaning. Apron-front models also hide the circuitous trap you’ll typically see below the tank. But you’ll pay a premium for these models without necessarily getting better performance. And think twice about toilets where the drain hole in the bowl is deep. Our testers found that the relatively small water spot that results is less able to resist stains and odors than the larger water spot that typically occurs with shallower drain holes. You can compare depths at the store with a tape measure; here, shallower tends to be better.