Self-Cleaning Toilets | Pros, Cons & Everything Explained
It sounds like a dream come true. No more scrubbing toilets! Just push a button, and the toilet does the work. But do self-cleaning toilets really work like that and are they any good?
In this post, I’ll explain what a self-cleaning toilet actually is, how it works, talk through its pros and cons as well as answer some popular questions about the topic.
Let’s get into it!
What Is A Self-Cleaning Toilet?
A self-cleaning toilet is a piece of sanitaryware designed to help keep itself clean and disinfected, by cleaning itself every time you flush the toilet. They can reduce the amount of stains accumulating in the bowl, making it easier to maintain a clean and hygienic toilet without you needing to get the rubber gloves and scrubber out as often.
A self-cleaning toilet takes the automatic flush function found in many public restrooms to the next level.
For most models, when you activate the cleaning function by pressing a button or just flushing, it dispenses a set amount of cleaning solution into the bowl. An extra flush ensures that the cleaner is removed from the bowl, leaving a gleaming white toilet for the next guest.
It takes longer for stains, grime and rings to appear, and it helps to keep the smell down in busy bathrooms.
How Do Self-Cleaning Toilets Work?
There are varying designs and ways in which self-cleaning toilets operate. However, most will have all or some of the following features:
When you start the cleaning cycle by flushing or pressing a button, a cleaning solution and water are jetted into the bowl at an angle that ensures every centimetre gets a good swish and swirl. Depending on the model, the toilet may have the blue solution sit for a few minutes before running a clear flush cycle that rinses it all down.
In some models, batteries operate the cleaning solution dispenser. It measures out the precise amount needed for a quick clean and runs a timer for the soak cycle. Your cleaner is installed at the top of the cistern in the toilet tank as either a dry chemical puck or a click-in liquid dispenser.
The toilet bowl has been re-engineered to speed up the swirl of the water for better scrubbing. Also, the porcelain receives a microscopic antimicrobial treatment that makes it harder for stuff to stick to the bowl.
Some models may have slightly higher water pressure during the flush. This higher water pressure helps eliminate any waste that might stick to the porcelain bowl in regular toilets.
Some models (Toto) may even include integrated UV light technology. The UV light mixes with the bowl’s ceramic glaze to break down dirt and grime in the bowl. It then rinses it clean with electrolyzed water, reducing the need for harsh cleaning chemicals.
What the self-cleaning toilet does not do is magically wash the toilet seat or the rim where everything splashes. It cannot rinse the outside of the toilet or the floor. Finally, manufacturers like Kohler only say that it keeps the toilet cleaner longer. You are still expected to get out the brush, gloves, and sponge for a good thorough clean.
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Advantages of Self-Cleaning Toilets
- Keeps the Bowl Gleaming in a Busy Bathroom: If you have a large family or entertain friends every weekend, the self-cleaning toilet helps you save time maintaining your bathroom.
- Reduces Odours: The cleaning solution eradicates smelly bits that can get stuck in a standard toilet, which keeps your bathroom fresh between deep cleans.
- Reduces Your Daily Chores: You won’t need to use the toilet brush or get the bleach out every day or even once a week. Those are minutes you get back.
- Looks and Operates Just Like a Traditional Toilet: The self-cleaning toilet has all the same usual parts found on a regular toilet and works at the push of a button. Your guests and kids will not get confused and accidentally make a mess.
- Use Less Water: As self-cleaning toilets are relatively new to the bathroom market, their newer designs and constructions typically mean they use less water than a standard toilet.
Disadvantages of Self-Cleaning Toilets
- It Doesn’t Clean Everything: Anyone who cleans the toilet for the whole family knows that stuff gets stuck in more places than the bowl. This design doesn’t help with the really nasty part of scrubbing the loo.
- Users Complain of Leaks and Constant Running: As a fairly new design, early users are encountering toilets that constantly run cleaning cycles, leak, and run through batteries and cartridges.
- Difficult to Find Replacement Parts: Since these are not popular products yet, you can’t find parts for the self-cleaning mechanism at the corner shop. You will need to call in a technician or source parts online.
- Expensive Cleaning Cartridges: Most cleaning cartridges are designed to fit only that make of self-cleaning toilet. You will pay more for the products since there are no generic options available.
How Much Do Self-Cleaning Toilets Cost?
The Kohler ContinuousClean toilets are sold starting at about £300 to £500, depending on the design you purchase. These use a solid puck cleaning cartridge.
American Standard ActiClean runs at around £400. You will have to buy their liquid-filled cleaning cartridge every 60 days.
TruClean toilets include some smart toilet technology and are on the market for around £800. However, they do not list an additional cleaning solution, so you just get an auto-flush function.
If you want to go the whole hog, look for a Toto Neorest 750H sold for around £10,000.
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How Do You Install a Self-Cleaning Toilet?
The self-cleaning toilets designed for use in residential properties are installed just like a traditional toilet.
It uses the same waste pipe connection and most do not need an electrical connection (some smart toilet versions may need an electrical connection). Expect to pay your plumber £100 to £200 to get the job done. It will take two to four hours, depending on how difficult it is to remove the old toilet.
If you are pretty good with DIY projects, you and a chum could do this yourselves. You will need a wax seal, floor bolts, spanners, and a little muscle. Expect to get a little wet, the waste pipe will smell, and you may need a skip for the old toilet.
How Often Do You Need to Change the Cleaning Cartridge for Self-Cleaning Toilets?
Each brand of self-cleaning toilet usually uses its own cleaning solution or cartridge. Most of these cartridges or tablets will last about two-six months. Some are liquids sold in a proprietary dispenser. Others are solid pucks that dissolve over time. Expect to spend between £5 to £10 for each cartridge.
Some models also use a set of batteries to operate the cleaning solution dispenser. If you purchase rechargeable batteries, you will save in the long run but will have to change the batteries more often.
Is a Self-Cleaning Toilet the Same as a Smart Toilet?
Smart toilets generally include every possible luxury upgrade available for toilets. A self-cleaning toilet only does one trick. It will either use a bit of cleaning solution with every flush or run a cleaning cycle when you press a button.
A smart toilet employs sensors to detect when somebody is using the toilet, automatically deploys the bidet wand, includes a heated seat, automatic open and close lid and can even feature a light so you can find your way in the dark. Yes, they often have a hands-free cleaning cycle, too.
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Do You Still have to Clean a Self-Cleaning Toilet?
While a self-cleaning toilet will keep the bowl cleaner and stain-free longer than a traditional toilet, its self-cleaning abilities only extend to the inside of the bowl. You will still need to clean the seat, the rim, the section at the back that gets all the gross, and the exterior porcelain.
Also, you may want to run the brush around the inside of the bowl every so often just to make sure you got it all.
There you have it! Everything you need to know about self-cleaning toilets.
A great way to maintain a clean and hygienic toilet with minimal effort. Self-cleaning toilets can be a great addition for any homeowners or busy households.
However, they will cost more than a standard toilet and you’ll need to keep up with replacing the cleaning cartridge. And as helpful as they are, they’ll never completely clean everything, if you know what I mean.
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Michael is a KBB designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom installations for over eight years now, and before that, he was an electrician and part of a KBB fitting team. He created The Bathroom Blueprint in early 2020.