Water-efficient toilets are becoming the standard
If you're in the market for a new toilet, experts say that flush performance and water consumption -- the amount of water used during a flush -- should be the most important considerations. Most new toilets use 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf). However, there are even more water-efficient models available called "low-flow" toilets that use 1.28 gpf or less. Low-flow toilets are also often referred to as High Efficiency Toilets, abbreviated as HET. These toilets qualify for WaterSense certification and may be eligible for a rebate from your local water provider. You can check to see if your provider offers rebates for WaterSense toilets at the EPA website. Rebates are sometimes substantial -- up to $100 or so -- and, in some cases, could cover the cost of your new toilet. WaterSense-certified toilets are required in California and Texas, and the penalties for flouting the law can be severe.
Dual-flush toilets have one button for an effective 1.6-gallon flush for solid waste and a second button for liquid waste that typically uses .9 gpf, although that can vary from .8 gpf to 1.1 gpf and still be considered "water saving" The combination of the lower and higher flushes averages out to the HET requirement of 1.28 gpf. On the downside, some water-efficient toilets have been shown to have weaker flushing power, which can be an issue for homeowners with sensitive plumbing or who end up with "leftovers" in their toilet bowl that may require a second flush, thus negating the water-saving feature.
That makes the issue of whether a toilet can do its job in a single flush a crucial factor in choosing a toilet. Manufacturers are responding by developing proprietary systems that help add power to the normal gravity flush, thus helping with single-flush bowl cleaning. Maximum Performance (MaP), an independent testing organization, assesses hundreds of toilets using a paste made of soybean and rice to simulate human waste. Each toilet must pass at least four out of five separate flush tests using the soybean paste and wads of toilet paper. The minimum standard is 250 grams of solid waste, which is average for an adult, and toilets are tested up to 1,000 grams. Manufacturers voluntarily submit products for testing and pay a fee, and MaP scores have become a gold standard for evaluating flush performance.
Of course, you can't forget about aesthetics either. While most toilets are still either white or beige, some come in several neutral shades, plus an occasional black toilet (usually with a higher price tag). Toilet designs can vary from the standard, curved design to skirted designs that are easier to clean. You can also opt for a wall hung toilet for a very modern vibe that also make cleaning the bathroom floor easier; and corner toilets are available for small spaces.
Bidets are similar to toilets, but you use them after you use the toilet to more thoroughly clean your private parts. Bidets are quite popular in some areas in Europe, but are less common in the U.S., though popularity is on the upswing here. While we don't name a best freestanding bidet, we do offer some recommendations for toilet seats that have bidet faucets and can be installed on standard toilets, as well as bidet attachments that can be installed on most types of toilets and toilet seats. Both are very affordable options for trying out a bidet, without actually purchasing or installing a dedicated bidet, something that can be pricey and require remodeling if you're not putting it in a new structure.
Toilets also come in one- or two-piece designs. Two-piece toilets are by far the most common. They have a separate tank and bowl; you install the bowl first, then bolt the tank to the bowl. A one-piece toilet integrates the tank and bowl. These are easier to clean, and many owners prefer the way they look in a bathroom, but they're also heavier and can be more difficult to install. They also cost more than two-piece toilets.
What toilets don't usually come with is a toilet seat. The majority of the toilets in this report don't come with a seat. Those that do are often panned for the cheapness of the included seat. The advantage to buying a toilet without a seat is that you can choose the type of seat you prefer, whether that be plastic, wood, heated, or padded.
How we found the best toilets
In addition to reviewing the results of each toilet's MaP test, we evaluate the results of professional tests of toilets conducted by editors of ConsumerReports.org, as well as recommendations by plumber Terry Love, who runs a popular website devoted to plumbing supplies. Even more importantly, we evaluated the input of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of customers who have actually bought and used those recommended toilets to see how they performed in real world use. We used all of that information to find and recommend the best toilets for any bathroom or lifestyle.
Best Standard Toilets
The best toilets offer one-flush bowl cleaning
When it comes to choosing a toilet, few can argue that the top priority is completely cleaning the bowl with a single flush. No one wants to have to deal with "leftover" waste either by having to flush again, or get out the toilet brush. Standard toilets, which use 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf), get the best reviews for bowl-cleaning performance. However they do not meet the High Efficiency Toilet (HET) standards that are required by law in California and Texas. If water efficiency is a priority for you, or you live in one of those two states, see our discussions of dual-flush toilets and low-flow toilets elsewhere in this report.
Toto is a well-respected name in the toilet manufacturing world, and few toilets get the raves of the Toto Drake CST744S (Est. $245 and up). Like most standard toilets, the Drake is rated at 1.6 gpf, but gets excellent marks for bowl-cleaning performance thanks to Toto's powerful G-Max flushing system. That power is achieved with an extra-wide, 3-inch flush valve and a 2.125-inch trapway for maximum solid waste removal with every flush.
The CST744SG-01 earns a MaP score of 1,000, the highest possible from that independent tester. That means it removes 1,000 grams of solid waste or more with a single flush. In another professional test, the Toto Drake earns a rating of Excellent both for removing solid waste and for complete bowl cleaning. Owners agree, saying this toilet leaves no mess behind. Toto's optional SanaGloss finish, an antimicrobial coating that glazes the interior of the bowl, cuts cleaning time in half, owners say. However, it does add about $60 to the price of the toilet. In spite of its flushing power, professional testing shows that the CST744SG flushes quietly, and users largely agree that there are no noise issues with the Toto Drake.
Another option at about the same price point, the Toto Drake CST743S (Est. $250 and up) has a round, rather than elongated bowl, something that some people prefer. It's also about a half-inch taller than the CST744SG-01, 15 inches compared to 14.5. Although neither model is ADA-compliant, the CST743S may be more comfortable for families of taller stature. It also uses Toto's G-Max flushing system, and also has the SanaGloss option to protect the bowl's interior.
One other note about Toto's SanaGloss coating: While owner reviews indicate that this antimicrobial coating is wildly popular, Toto toilets with SanaGloss come only in white. Without SanaGloss there are five total color options, including black.
The Kohler K-3754-0 Kelston Comfort Height (Est. $235 and up) features a 16.5-inch bowl height that is not only more comfortable for taller users, but is also ADA-compliant when installed per the applicable guidelines. Beyond that, the Kelston gets Excellent scores for solid waste removal in one professional test, although only score a Very Good for noise and bowl cleaning. Still, owners say this toilet is stylish and performs very well in cleaning the bowl with one flush. It has an elongated bowl and comes in seven different colors.
One-piece toilets tend to be pricier than two-piece toilets, they're also heavier and might be more difficult to install. However, they're very popular because of their sleek looks and because they have fewer nooks and crannies, which makes them easier to clean. The American Standard Fairfield One-Piece Toilet (Est. $270 and up) earns raves from owners for its sleek, modern looks, as well as for how easy it is to clean. It has an elongated bowl and, unlike most toilets, includes a seat, although a few say the seat seems cheap. The 15.5-inch bowl height is not ADA compliant.