Who Needs an $8700 Toilet That Talks To Your Phone?

You do. Duravit is showing where toilets are going.

Sensowash toilet


One can imagine the comments already. What's green about an $8700 toilet? What's sustainable about phoning in your flush? Why is this on Treehugger? Good questions all.

Bathroom in Appin Scotland
Bathroom in Appin Scotland.  Lloyd Alter

In many ways, the toilet hasn't changed much since the days of this 120-year-old bathroom in Scotland. The seat is too high; our bodies were designed to squat. It uses drinking water to wash away what could be valuable resources.

It Cleans Your Bottom

Sensowash spraying
Sensowash spraying. Duravit 

But in other ways, the Duravit SensoWash Starck F has many features that we have talked about on Treehugger over the years and embodies many of the trends in toilet design that we have discussed before. Designed by Philippe Starck, it has a bidet seat – or as Duravit calls it, a "shower toilet" – that is integrated into a flat lid that is easy to clean and is certainly more attractive than the ones we have shown before, most notably my $1200 toilet seat.

Bidet seats or shower toilets are far healthier than using toilet paper; they actually clean your bottom. Back in 1966, in "The Bathroom Book," Alexander Kira quoted a British study that found that 44% of men had stained underwear, and concludes that “we are primarily concerned with the appearance of cleanliness... What we cannot see or directly experience or what others cannot readily see, we ignore.” 

Tim Schoeder, CEO of Duravit North America, says "We believe that nothing is as thorough, as hygienic, as natural and as refreshing as cleansing with water." I agree.

Surprisingly, it also saves water, trees, and in the long run, money. I wrote earlier: "the average American family spends $300 on toilet paper every year, their portion of the 3 million tons of the stuff that is made every year from 54 million trees using 473 billion gallons of water and 17.3 terawatts of electricity."

It's Wall Hung

Sensowash in bathroom
Sensowash.  Duravit

Most toilets in Europe have the toilet mechanism buried in the wall, with the toilet hung off the wall. It makes a lot of sense; it takes up less space, but most importantly, it is much easier to keep clean. The SensoWash here is even easier; flat surfaces, stainless steel wand, removable seat, everything is designed to be accessible for cleaning. If you read the comments on my post about installing one of these, North Americans seem to be really afraid of the maintenance; "Burying an expensive plumbing mechanical system behind a wall, especially if it's tiled, just seems too risky." Others think they are too expensive; "They cost 5 times the normal amount to install." But real estate is expensive too, and building the toilet into the wall gives you about 6 more inches of floor space. (That's why I did it.)

It's Rimless

I am a bit obsessed with toilets and my exasperated wife says "fine, if you want the fancy toilet then you can clean it," so I am well aware of the problems of cleaning under the rim of a conventional toilet. When I first saw rimless toilets last year in Portugal I thought that this is how every toilet should be designed; readers informed me that in fact, most new toilets in Europe are. The Geberit representative explained that "the flow of water is controlled just before it reaches the ceramic pan. A so-called flush guide sends the water stream along both sides to the exact area where it is needed for a clean and thorough flush – and only there." Instead, we put up with gunk stuck under the rim that is very hard to clean; every toilet should be like this.

Maybe the Trickle Down Theory Applies to Toilets

Sensowash section
Sensowash section.  Duravit

There are many other features. It has the HygieneGlaze that we have discussed earlier, which "kills 90% of bacteria after six hours after contact and 99.999% of bacteria are effectively killed after 24 hours. In addition, HygieneGlaze 2.0, as a material, inhibits the bacterial growth more effectively than conventional ceramic glazing." It has a self-raising lid and seat along with a night light inside, which is evidently "great for kids at night." It has a catalytic air filter, and of course, a heated seat. (This is a very nice feature on a cold night.) I am not sure about controlling it with a phone, but they also have a more conventional remote control.

No, you don't have to spend $8700 for a Philippe Starck SensoWash, they have cheaper models, including one-piece toilets that sit on the floor. You can buy bidet attachments for toilets for $49.

But it does have all the features that I believe make a healthier toilet: the bidet for a cleaner bottom, simple sleek rimless design for a cleaner bathroom. Perhaps some of these features will trickle down to every toilet.

Some day we may show the perfect Treehugger-correct toilet, where you squat over a composter. But until then, this will have to do.