Toilet Buying Guide
Bowled Over

When you’re in shopping mode for a new commode, remember that a high price tag doesn’t guarantee better performance. In our tests of single- and dual-flush toilets, the top overall scorers were priced about midway in the group. The best toilets also save water while still delivering worry-free performance.

This is one plumbing fixture you depend on for reliability, especially in a large household—and it 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 you.

Game of Thrones

Flushing Out 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 deployed a measured mix of baby wipes, sponges, plastic balls, and water-filled latex sleeves to see whether a toilet would clog. We also gauged 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 U.S. Department of Energy requirement limits new toilets to 1.6 gallons per flush. All the toilets we tested met that standard, and the majority of the tested models met 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 Size 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-in. and 14-in. models are also available. "Comfort height" toilets, which sit about 17 to 19 inches high, or about two or three 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 assist can be a worthy consideration.

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- 3 1/2, even 4-inch wide flush valve delivered more thrust in our tests than did those with a 2- to 2 1/2-inch valve. You can 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 worked 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-assist units typically cost as much, while lower-priced models may 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: The pressure-assisted toilets dispatched our simulated solid waste with few clogs.

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

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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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