Toilet Color Coding

If it’s clear, leave it here. If it’s brown, send it down.

Toilets are amazingly complex for such simple objects. In the end, so to speak, a toilet is simply a bucket of water you pour down a pipe but high-tech engineers with fancy titles have been tinkering with the design since Thomas Crapper owned the world’s first bath, toilet and sink showroom, in King’s Road. In fact, my alma mater built a five-story flushing facility quite appropriately on a Hudson River dock.

Head may express the force needed to lift a column of water those five stories but the head (or heads) on the other side of that dock is a ship’s toilet. The name derives from sailing ships in which the toilet area for the regular sailors was placed at the head or bow of the ship.

I’m not convinced my grandmother coined that phrase, but it was her watchword.

As far as I know, Nana never had to carry water in a bucket to flush an indoor toilet so I don’t know why she always saved water. My father grew up in a railroad station where his father, my grandfather, was station master. They had a sink and a bathtub inside but no toilet; they used the “private” side of the two-holer privy at the end of the station house lawn. The public side was on the platform side of the fence.

Necessary and Sufficient. The Colonial Williamsburg Journal tells us, “If something is faintly not nice, humans retreat into a fog of euphemism that merely hints at meaning, as if the words themselves were at fault. Consider the privy, which in the eighteenth century was called the necessary house or, more simply, the necessary. This little structure — of brick or wood, painted or unpainted, of vernacular or high-style design — was also known as a bog, boghouse, boggard, or bog-shop; a temple, a convenience, or temple of convenience; a little house, house of office, or close stool; a privy or a garde-robe, terms that descend from the Middle Ages. Or a jakes, a sixteenth-century term. Williamsburg’s St. George Tucker once defined a jakes as a garden temple.”

Toilets are by far the main source of water use in the home, the EPA notes, accounting for nearly 30% of an average home’s indoor water consumption.

Replacing all of our older, inefficient toilets might save nearly 2 billion gallons per day across the country or some 11 gallons per toilet in your home every day, dear reader. Not in mine, though.

I can save my 11 gallons just by not flushing twice.

There’s a minor blockage in the waste line from one bathroom here. The shower drains fine. The bathroom sink is superb. A toilet flush sometimes backs up in the shower. I’ve snaked and roto-rooted the pipes. I’ve sent a camera down. I think there is a root intrusion under the concrete slab but we can’t find it. My friend Chester, a plumber in real life, suggested a new toilet because they use less water so there wouldn’t be as much to back up.

We’re not allowed to install necessary houses.

The “effective flush volume” of a high efficiency toilet shall not exceed 1.28 gallons. A single flush, tank-type gravity toilet uses up to five gallons to clear the bowl.

toiletOne manufacturer writes, “High Efficiency Toilets should be able to flush using at least 20% less water than is mandated by law and should not need to be flushed more than once to do their job. They should require minimal cleaning with environmentally unfriendly detergents.”

I agree.

If a toilet is supposedly highly virtuous, flushing twice to clear the contents isn’t exactly efficient. The Victorians who hung the tank from the ceiling had the right idea. More head means more power to clear the bowl, even with reduced water.

Chester is wrong, by the way. Sending less water per flush just means the solids don’t move well past the blockage.

I should hang the tank from the ceiling. Of course, water might geyser like Old Faithful out of the shower floor drain.

Nana was right. Cutting out a couple of flushes saves the world, too.

One thought on “Toilet Color Coding

  1. In Prague, my grandfather had the only double-decker two-seat outdoor toilet in town. It was a fad that never caught on.

    — George

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