Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Toilet Tips & Tech"

By Walter Jowers

OCTOBER 6, 1997:  The toilets, they are a-changing. In 1992, the federal government declared that every residential toilet made or sold in this country had to use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush.

When the feds passed this law, they failed to take a few things into account. Sure, they probably heard from the toilet manufacturers, who told them that the 1.6-gallon flush toilets were ready to go. The new designs had to pass tests that called for 100 three-quarter-inch plastic spheres, or 2,500 tiny plastic granules, to disappear in one flush.

But did the tests include people who use half a roll of tissue per visit, or women flushing feminine hygiene products, or toddlers who want to watch a handful of action figures disappear down a whirlpool? I doubt it. And that's a shame. Because when our leaders get into the toilet-regulating business, they ought to plan for the stuff that really goes on in America.

What's going on these days is a whole lot of stopped-up commodes. And that means using a plunger. In a recent issue of Fine Homebuilding magazine, Terry Love, a plumber in Redmond Wash., explained the nearly lost art of plunging. "Put the plunger in with water in the bowl, and after a series of short, quick strokes, pull up until everything sucks down." I suggest that you cut this paragraph out and stick it on the back of your commode, because it won't be coming out on video.

Another thing the feds didn't take into account: A whole lot of houses have cast-iron drain plumbing, which gets rough and rusty on the inside. Things hang up in there, especially when they're riding along on a measly 1.6 gallons of propellant. If you're obsessed with saving water, you can try to schedule your high-water-use activities just after your flushes. Wash a load of laundry or dishes, or take a long shower, and the extra water will help keep the pipes clean.

Or, if you're a little more laid-back about your water use, you could adopt my own personal strategy, which is flush as you go. That's about all the details I'm willing spell out, but I'll add this one hint: One flush for every four squares of tissue is just about right.

When your trusty old 3.5- or 5- or 7-gallon flusher finally quits on you, you have two reasonable shopping options:

1. Go underground. I have seen, in the garages and outbuildings of bold plumbers, stacks of new, in-the-box American Standard 3.5-gallon commodes, smuggled in from Canada. I admire the plumbers who brought 'em in, so if I need a new commode, I plan to buy from these noble resistance fighters. Cost: $150 to $250

2. Go cutting-edge. You can join the 5 percent of Americans who have power-flushing toilets. These hot-rod models force water into a pressure tank, which, upon flushing, literally shoots the water through the commode. These things have the added bonus of scaring the bejesus out of people on or near the commode, what with all the sound and fury of rushing water and air. Put one in just before a family reunion, and plant a video camera. Cost: $200 to $300.

Two more tips for commode shoppers:

1. Buy a white one. Colored commodes cost about twice as much for the same exact unit in white. While I'm thinking about it, somebody explain to me: Why in the world would a person view a commode as a decorating opportunity? And who could live with such a person?

2. Buy a simple one. Little-known fact: Expensive, low-profile toilets don't flush as well as basic, hundred-dollar two-piece models. With the cheaper units, the height of the water in the tank adds to the flushing capability.

Finally, I should mention the man-hating Kohler Peacekeeper commode, which will flush only when the seat is lowered. Now, I'm not in favor of girls and women falling into commodes, but I disagree with the notion that the default position for a commode seat is down. I say vigilance is key to survival, and that everybody should keep their senses honed by looking before they sit on something. My favorite training method: Put the seat and the lid down. That gives you the moral high ground, and it teaches people to look.

Visit Walter's Web site at http://www.nashscene.com>.

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