Toilet Buying Guide
When you’re in shopping mode for a new commode, remember that a large 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 delivering worry-free performance.
For many of us, our home toilets are receiving a lot more use than normal due to the pandemic. A toilet should be reliable, especially in a large household, and a good one should last a decade or longer without much maintenance. This buying guide will help you pick a high-performance model that’s right for your home.
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. We also measure how loud a toilet’s flushes are.
To test solid-waste removal, we dump marble-sized plastic beads, weighted sponges, and cylindrical-shaped water bags into the bowl and measure how well each flush handles the simulated waste.
We use a combination of methods to assess how well a toilet gets the entire bowl clean. First, we use a water-based red paint to create a solid rectangular shape above the waterline in the front bottom of a clean bowl. A picture is taken of the red rectangle, then the toilet is flushed two times. After the second flush a second picture is taken to record how much of the paint has been removed.
A second way we test to see how well a toilet cleans waste: We let the bowl fill up, then we draw a line using a water-soluble pen around the bowl about an inch under the rim. Next, we flush. We then measure how much pen markings are left. The better a toilet cleans, the fewer markings and paint are left. We repeat the pen test three times and calculate the average to arrive at a score.
To gauge soil and odor potential, we measure the length and width as well as how deep the water is in the bowl. The deeper and wider the water, the better solid waste odors will be trapped by the water.
We also look at how well a toilet moves waste from bowl to sewer and whether there’s enough force to make sure the waste doesn’t get stuck, especially if waste travels a long way to the sewer. In our noise tests, we measure with a decibel meter how loud a toilet is during flushing.
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 one of two basic types: gravity-feed and pressure-assisted. Gravity-feed toilets dominate the market, but pressure-assisted models are worth a look.
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.
Cons: Lower-priced models might not be able to properly displace waste.
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 the simulated solid waste in our tests with few clogs. If you have little kids who like to stuff the toilet with toilet paper, these can be a lifesaver.
Cons: These toilets are noisy; the loudest ones emit an emphatic whoosh. They can also be expensive. They generally don’t do as well as our top-rated gravity models for drainline carry (how well waste moves through to the septic system or municipal sewer), and none make it into our top 10 rated toilets.
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.