Toilet Buying Guide

When you’re in shopping mode for a new commode, remember that a big price tag doesn’t guarantee better performance. In our tests of single- and dual-flush toilets, the ones with the top Overall Scores were midpriced models. The best toilets also save water while still delivering worry-free performance.

How We Test Toilets
To develop our toilet ratings, Consumer Reports’ test engineers put the fixtures through a battery of tests involving waste removal, bowl cleaning, and drain-line clogs. To test solid-waste removal, we dump marble-sized plastic beads, weighted sponges, and filled water bags into the bowl and measure how well each flush handles the simulated waste.

A toilet’s bowl-cleaning abilities are tested by painting a line along the inside of the bowl and judging how much of the paint remains after flushing. Finally, we observe how well a toilet pushes waste through the drain line once flushed. That matters if your waste line travels a long way to the sewer.

A toilet should be reliable, especially in a large household, and a good one should last a decade or more without much maintenance. Use our buying guide to help you pick a high-performance model that’s right for your home.

Game of Thrones

Flushing Out the Best Performance
Our tests revealed key differences in flushing ability, even across models of the same brand. To simulate a bathroom’s worst nightmare, we deploy a measured mix of baby wipes, sponges, plastic balls, and water-filled latex sleeves to see whether a toilet will clog. We also gauge how well the flush cleans the toilet bowl and moves waste down the drain line. Top performers leave the bowl pristine and carry waste far down your drain pipe, reducing the likelihood of clogs.

Water-Saving Technology
More water flushed sometimes (but not always) means more complete flushing. But toilets flush away about 30 percent of all residential water in U.S. homes, so it’s not surprising that water conservation has become a serious concern. A 1995 Department of Energy requirement limits new toilets to 1.6 gallons per flush. All the toilets in our tests meet that standard, and the majority of the tested models meet the stiffer California standard, which limits toilets sold in that state to 1.28 gallons per flush. The high-efficiency models that satisfy the California standard carry a WaterSense label.

Get the Right-Sized Toilet for Your Space
Narrow your shopping options by making sure the new toilet matches the existing toilet’s “rough-in” measurement—the distance from the wall to the center of the toilet flange (the hold-down bolts). A measurement of 12 inches is standard, but 10-inch and 14-inch models are also available. “Comfort height” toilets, which sit about 17 to 19 inches high, or about 2 or 3 inches higher than usual, have become the most common choice. The added height makes getting on and off easier.

Toilets by Type

While there are many features to consider when buying a toilet, including height, bowl shape, color, style, and flushing technology, most toilets fall into two basic types: gravity-feed and pressure-assisted. Gravity-feed toilets dominate the market, but pressure-assisted models are worth a look.

Illustration of how the inside of a gravity-feed toilet works.

Gravity-Feed Toilets

As their name implies, these toilets have a flush valve that relies on gravity. Water drops from the tank into the bowl to move waste down the drain. They can work with as little as 10 pounds per square inch of household water pressure. Models with a beefy 3-, 3½-, or even 4-inch-wide flush valve deliver more thrust in our tests than those with a 2- to 2½-inch valve. Ask to see the manufacturer’s specifications for the flush valve.

Pros: Gravity-feed toilets flush more quietly than pressure-assisted models. Many we tested work every bit as well as the best pressure-assisted models, and with far less fanfare—an advantage in close quarters.

Cons: Models that perform comparably to pressure-assisted units typically cost as much, while lower-priced models might not be able to properly displace waste.

Toilets Ratings
Illustration of the inside mechanisms of a pressure-assisted toilet.

Pressure-Assisted Toilets

As water compresses air within the sealed tank, it creates pressure that thrusts waste forcefully down the waste line. A pressure-assisted toilet is an especially good choice for large families, but it does have a noisier flush.

Before buying, be sure that your home has at least 25 pounds per square inch of water pressure, the minimum required for a pressure-assisted toilet to work properly. You can check with a $10 gauge that connects to an outdoor spigot.

Pros: Pressure-assisted toilets dispatch our simulated solid waste with few clogs.

Cons: These toilets are noisy; the loudest ones emit an emphatic whoosh. They can also be expensive.

Toilets Ratings

A Royal Flush of Features

Once you decide on the basic design you want to install, there are some important toilet features to consider before you buy.

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