Smart toilets are the butt of all smarthome jokes, but they may be the solution to hygienic, environmental, and accessibility issues. In fact, smart toilets may be more sensible than the smart bulbs or connected doorbells that we obsess over.
First, What Is a Smart Toilet?
Toilets are very simple. They have a tank and a bowl. When you flush the toilet, water from the tank enters the bowl, and gravity forces the contents to disappear down a pipe. That’s all there is to it.
Because toilets are so simple, just about anything that goes beyond the function of dumping water into a bowl can be called a “smart toilet.” So for the sake of this article, we’re going to say that smart toilets must have some of the following features:
- Robust Built-In Bidets: All smart toilets have a built-in bidet (butt shower). These bidets often come with temperature and pressure controls, and some even have butt dryers, so you never need to use a towel.
- Automated Systems: Smart toilets tend to feature a little bit of automation. Some open up or flush on their own, while others are self-cleaning, self-deodorizing, or overflow-protected.
- Funny Features: You’ve probably heard that smart toilets have cheek-warming toilet seats, night lights, and built-in speakers. You’re right.
Notice how we didn’t mention smartphones. There are plenty of IoT smart toilets in the world today, but most smart toilets rely on a control panel, not an app (or a smart assistant). This is mainly because you have to sit on a toilet to use it, and there’s no reason to over-complicate things with Wi-Fi connectivity or remote controls.
Now you know what a smart toilet is, but what makes them so special? Why would anyone want a magical bidet or a warming seat? How is a smart toilet more sensible than a smart bulb?
They Make Hygiene Easy for Everybody
Unlike other smarthome products, smart toilets serve as more than just luxury items. They have the potential to improve your hygiene, and most of that potential revolves around the technically robust bidets that come with smart toilets.
Bidets are basically showers for your butt. They clean your butt better than toilet paper can, and they don’t cause wiping-related issues like itchy butt and hemorrhoids. Bidets are also more environmentally friendly and cheaper than toilet paper or baby wipes, and unlike baby wipes, bidets don’t smell like a preschool.
But why do these smart toilets have such robust bidets? Why do they have adjustable water pressure, temperature controls, and blow dryers? Well if you’re going to be hygienic, you might as well make it enjoyable. That’s how we approach our other hygiene problems—it’s easy to adjust the temperature in our shower, after all.
Bidets are also great for accessibility. It’s easier to spray your butt than it is to wipe your butt, especially if you’re elderly or physically disabled. The “luxury” features that you see in smart toilets, like butt blow-drying, can help people maintain their independence.
Most “Luxury” Smart Toilet Features Exist for a Reason
Okay, but smart toilets are more than just bidets. Do people really need warming toilet seats, self-cleaning bowls, or musical toilets?
Oddly enough, the answer is yes. Japan, the world-leader in toilet-tech, is responsible for ding-dong-dumping smart toilets on our doorstep. As it turns out, most smart toilet features extend from the specific bathroom needs of Japanese society.
Japan has the world’s largest elderly population. About 33% of the Japanese population is above the age of 60. You can probably tell where this is going. Self-opening toilet seats, self-cleaning bowls, and other “unnecessary” toilet features exist to aid Japan’s aging population.
Then there’s the issue of labor. An aging population leads to a reduced workforce. Automated toilets with self-cleaning, deodorizing, and overflow-protection features can reduce the need for janitorial labor, which takes some strain off of Japanese businesses.
We’re not going to theorize why every last smart toilet feature exists we’re just making the point that they exist for a reason. While a warming seat may not be useful to you, it could be helpful to someone who doesn’t have central heating in their apartment. And while you might love the idea of a toilet that plays music to cover up the sound of your, um, bathroom noises, another person may prefer to just turn on the faucet instead.
They’re More Efficient Than Regular Toilets (Sometimes)
TOTO, a Japanese toilet company, is the pioneer of smart toilets. The company’s innovation started in the 80s—that’s when it figured out how to integrate bidets inside of toilets. In the 90s, TOTO invented toilets that are resistant to ring stains. Now, the company sells toilets that only use a gallon of water or less per flush. That about half a gallon less than most HE toilets.
Okay, half a gallon isn’t much of a difference. In the US, you only pay about a penny for each gallon of toilet water that you consume (consume ≠ ingest). But these things add up over time. Alongside reduced water usage, smart toilets sometimes have built-in leak sensors and overflow protection, which can help prevent nasty and expensive accidents.
And we can’t forget toilet paper. Each American uses about 30 rolls of toilet paper each year, and the stuff isn’t that great for the environment, your wallet, or your pipes. Smart toilets, with their robust bidets, could reduce or eliminate your toilet paper usage.
It should be mentioned that smart toilets do use up some electricity to power lights, speakers, and motors. Plus, about 18% of your electric bill goes to water heating, and the hours you spend using your smart toilet’s heated bidet will only contribute to that bill.
Where Do You Buy a Smart Toilet?
Smart toilets make more sense than smart bulbs, smart plugs, and smart displays. They’re not just luxury items. They actually make hygiene fun, exciting, and easier.
Yes, you’re a grown adult, and you don’t need to have “fun” while cleaning your butt. The thing is, we live in a time where Forbes publishes articles about whether or not you should wash your legs. We need to make some serious hygienic advances, and we may as well start from the bottom. Instead of dropping hundreds on decadent doorbells, we need to pinch our pennies, tighten our gut, and buy a luscious loo.
You can buy a smart toilet from just about any major retailer. Amazon sells smart toilets, Home Depot sells smart toilets, and toilet manufacturers like TOTO have their own websites. We suggest looking for a smart toilet that has basic, reliable features that shouldn’t need much servicing (more motors equals more problems). Also, it may be wise to avoid Wi-Fi-connected toilets, simply because its app support could be discontinued at any time.
Oh, there’s also a cheaper, easier option. Before smart toilets became their own thing, TOTO (the Japanese toilet company) had a lot of success selling something called a WASHLET. This is the precursor to smart toilets, and it has many of the features that you’d expect from a smart toilet (warming seat, adjustable bidet, deodorizing mist, etc.).
You can still buy a WASHLET, and there are some similar products on the market, like the Bio Bidet BB-600 and the Bio Bidet BB-2000. These devices aren’t as robust as smart toilets, but they’re a lot more luxurious than your current toilet seat (or the basic bidets that you can attach to your toilet seat).