by Eileen McMorrow
One of the creature comforts that people embraced during the hundreds of days spent working from home during the pandemic is the privacy, comfort, and cleanliness afforded by their own home. Further, knowing your bathroom(s) are used by yourself and your immediate family was a source of security when people were afraid to leave home and were deeply concerned about sharing germs in a work, hospital, or school restroom. As a result, most made it a habit to visit the bathroom at home before leaving for a grocery store, errand, or appointment.
Between the familiarity of at-home facilities that might have needed an upgrade and the great toilet paper shortage, the term “bidet” was the 20th most-searched item on Amazon channels during the toilet paper rationing in 2020. Apparently, approximately 145 million Amazon Prime members searched the term “bidet,” and they found the TOTO brand. TOTO is the world’s largest plumbing manufacturer with more than $5.47 billion in annual sales and more than 50 million WASHLET® bidet seats sold worldwide as of Q4 2019.
Bidet seats are in use in every state, and the bidet toilet is being specified in bathrooms of private homes, condominiums, and apartments. Home renovation, especially of bathrooms, became a significant activity of Americans working from home. As the months passed, homeowners realized that working from home long-term would become normal even after the pandemic passed. As a result, an overlooked powder room became a critical focal point for daily home functioning. Upgrading the size of a bathroom and/or its plumbing fixtures included bidet toilet considerations.
Consumers who were already using an entry-level bidet seat, upgraded to WASHLETS that have more features, enhancing their user experience and contributing to wellness. The entry-level bidet seat moved to a secondary or kids’ bathroom, while the grown-ups invested in a bells and whistles bidet seat for their moments of respite and private time. For example, the TOTO WASHLET S550e and S500e models offer a high-tech electronic bidet seat featuring a remote control, adjustable temperature warm water cleansing, heated seat, dryer, deodorizer, and remote control as well. Further, the AIR-IN WONDERWAVE® spray has warm, air-rich water droplets to produce a more comfortable washing sensation and deliver a more thorough cleansing with less water consumption.
TOTO’s WASHLET S550e and S550e also feature its technologically advanced EWATER+®, system, which mists and cleans the bowl and wand with electrolyzed water (a powerful cleaning agent) after every use. They are fully automated, including remote control and a heated seat. In addition, the S550e offers Auto Open/Close, and both feature either the Contemporary Style or Classic Style Lid.
“In U.S. households, especially those with multigenerational families where young people are growing up with a grandparent or three-generations, the auto open-close seats are in demand,” says Bill Strang, president of Corporate Strategy, eCommerce & Customer Experience at TOTO. “The auto-open lid is a delightful aspect for any user. People respond positively when visiting a home where the lid opens as you approach,” adds Strang. “It translates well in hospitality environments if the auto-open is installed.”
Importantly, toilet lids have a function that is often overlooked. It always should be lowered to the seat before flushing. The lid prevents the potential for a plume of mist or non-sanitary water from escaping.
With the launch of WASHLET, TOTO established a completely new product category and ignited a revolution in personal cleansing.
“‘Life-changing’ is how most people describe the experience of using WASHLET for the first time,” said Hidemi Ishikawa, CEO, TOTO USA. “WASHLET reinvents the way people perform an important daily ritual, making them cleaner and more comfortable by cleansing with water. Once they discover the benefits of WASHLET, they do not want to live without this high-tech personal cleansing system. Whether they opt for an introductory WASHLET or a high-luxe NEOREST smart toilet, consumers are confident that they meet TOTO’s exacting quality standards, which are the highest in the industry.”
Nine months into the pandemic, in December 2020, TOTO responded to the demand by redesigning, renaming, and releasing its updated WASHLET C2 (formerly WASHLET C100) and WASHLET C5 (formerly WASHLET C200), adding many new features to its popular entry- and intermediate-level WASHLET bidet seat models.
“WASHLET C2 and C5 are the evolution of the C100 and C200, the two most popular products that we sell,” says Strang. “Most compelling is the thinner, seamless seat and the EWATER+ technology (electrolyzed water) for the wand. We know that viruses, such as MRSA, are becoming resistant. We want solutions to help avoid virus problems, and TOTO’s WASHLET wand automatically self-rinses with electrolyzed water inside and out before and after every use to help address that issue.”
On October 1, 2021, Wirecutter, the New York Times’ consumer products rating site, selected the TOTO WASHLET C5 as its number one pick in bidet seats, giving it a four-year run (including its former incarnation as the C200) in the no. 1 spot. The C2 WASHLET (formerly C100) is Wirecutter’s runner-up pick, holding that spot for four years.
Bringing people back to work is proving to have challenges, but providing upgraded and more sanitary work and restroom environments than they expected reflects well on the company or organization while making it more tolerable for employees.
A strong commercial user advantage is provided by TOTO’s WASHLET+® line of specially-designed toilet and WASHLET combinations that seamlessly connect, leaving no protruding supply connections (water or electrical). In addition, many models offer Clean Synergy, TOTO’s three cleaning technologies that work together:
Hospitality settings were among the first commercial environments to adapt to WASHLET bidet seats. While, for commercial installations, the challenge is two-fold: to attach the water line to the flush valve, and if the construction is an initial build-out, many local codes restrict use to open-front toilet seats, and these split seats do not have a lid 99% of the time.
Architects and facility planners tell their clients or employers that bidets are an amenity to improve the employee experience and overall hygiene for the whole facility. Installing a bidet toilet in a commercial setting costs less than a business dinner for two, and sales have increased during the pandemic. Toilet paper consumption is immediately reduced, providing cost-savings. The WASHLET C5, with the remote control offering a warm seat and rinse-dry-deodorize, is a hygiene benefit for employees, and it will not go unnoticed. If the “executive restroom” is the first place to install, then the WASHLET S550s and 500e offer the most luxury options. If the exec likes it, that decision-maker might be inclined to approve the entry-level WASHLET C2 and C5 bidets for multiple-stall employee bathrooms.
The condition of the employee restroom is an issue that works its way up and down the facility manager’s top ten list of complaints. A bidet toilet is a game-changer that will be unexpected and welcomed. The company’s budget-friendly WASHLET bidet seats, the entry-level WASHLET C2 and intermediate-level WASHLET C5 have a simple, clean-line design. TOTO reduced its warm water reservoir’s height by approximately 1.5-inches, giving them a streamlined appeal. TOTO also reduced the height differences and gaps in WASHLET C2 and C5’s fitting to the toilet bowl. TOTO’s goal is not merely to create well-designed WASHLET models but also to create beautiful toilet and WASHLET combinations.
In addition, TOTO enhanced the cleanliness of WASHLET C2 and WASHLET C5, both in appearance and ease of cleaning. Compared with earlier models, the company’s redesigned WASHLET bidet seat reduces unevenness and height differences fitting to the toilet bowl. Further, TOTO redesigned the wand’s housing beneath the seat, making its design simpler and easier to clean.
Of great interest for commercial users, TOTO added a seamless seat. Removing seams and grooves on the WASHLET seat makes it difficult for dirt or waste to accumulate and makes the seat easy to clean. In addition, one-touch removal and reattachment of WASHLET C2 and WASHLET C5’s seat from the toilet’s bowl, make it easy to clean dirt or dust that may accumulate in this hard-to-reach space between them. Their lid, too, is easily removed, making it easy to clean hard-to-reach places on WASHLET C2 and C5.
To the new WASHLET C2 and WASHLET C5, TOTO has added EWATER+ to automatically clean the wand inside and out, before and after each use. EWATER+ reduces visible and invisible waste’s ability to accumulate on or inside the wand, maintaining its hygienic condition. Even when WASHLET C2 and C5 are not being used, the wand periodically cleans itself automatically to ensure its constant state of hygienic readiness.
EWATER+ is produced by the electrolysis of chloride ions in tap water. It is entirely free of chemicals and cleaning agents and reduces the need for harsh chemicals to clean the wand. Over time EWATER+ returns to its original state of ordinary water, making it completely safe for the environment.
A boon to the busy maintenance staff, a clean bowl every time is almost guaranteed due to the PREMIST®. WASHLET C2 and WASHLET C5 spray the bowl’s interior with a fine mist of water to reduce waste’s ability to stick to its surface. Further, the seat, wand, and lid are made of a high-quality, stain-resistant material called CLEAN RESIN®, which repels dirt and waste and resists stains. They are easily cleaned by wiping with a soft cloth.
Long-term care facilities house residents who develop issues with self-care the longer they stay. When caregivers can guide a resident to a WASHLET instead of a traditional toilet, the person can take care of their toileting and peri care needs themselves, often only needing assistance to rise or exit the bathroom. According to TOTO’s Strang, the residents much prefer the independence and dignity offered by the WASHLET and so do the caregivers.
Healthcare providers often have difficulty finding people to fulfill the caregiver roles, and with reduced intimate contact, caregivers are more satisfied with their work. It is a win for retaining employees and the privacy and dignity of residents/patients, and their families.
For mobility-challenged or elderly adults who want to stay home as long as possible and family members who want to keep them at home, the WASHLET contributes to keeping them clean and living at home longer.
Post-partum, the bidet toilet provides the perineal care that all women crave rather than resort to a plastic spray bottle received from their physician. Consider it a unique baby shower gift because a bidet seat post-delivery can contribute to healing in a much more gracious manner.
In case you were wondering, there is a more extravagant level of bidet luxury than the aforementioned. At TOTO’s highest level of design and performance are the NEOREST NX® Smart Toilets with sophisticated elliptical silhouettes offering soft curves and smooth surfaces.
“It’s the Rolls Royce of toilets,” boasts Strang. “TOTO has clients who buy four at a time! It has everything, the very best of all the design. The NX has every single technology that TOTO has learned and invented in 30 years. It is the highest level from design aesthetic to functionality to cleaning technology, which mitigates and breaks down everything.”
Inside the NEOREST NX Smart Toilet, owners will discover the most innovative, advanced technologies. Like the NEOREST 750H and NEOREST AC before it, the new NEOREST NX 2 with Actilight and NX 1 with eWater+ are high-efficiency intelligent toilets with TOTO’s people-first innovations — integrated personal cleansing system with warm, aerated water to cleanse, warm air dryer, and heated seat; auto open/close and auto flush; in-bowl catalytic deodorizer; and energy- and water-saving features.
ACTILIGHT® technology is the primary difference in the NX models. Available on the NEOREST NX2, TOTO’s ACTILIGHT technology’s Clean Light activates its proprietary titanium dioxide and zirconium bowl glaze, generating extreme hydrophilic power and attracting a thin layer of water to the bowl’s surface. As a result, all visible and invisible waste is easily washed away after every use. Even microscopic particles and debris are removed.
The NEOREST NX’s seat has been completely redesigned and is exceptionally comfortable. This new ergonomic seat design was made possible because TOTO is the only plumbing manufacturer in the world to maintain a Universal Design Research Center. There, TOTO studies all aspects of how people interact with its plumbing products. For example, how people sit on toilet seats, the shape of toilet seats, the angles of which they are composed, and myriad designs that have been developed over time. TOTO’s data collection enabled it to create a new seat design that provides the most comfortable seated experience ever for NEOREST NX owners. The new seat is a smooth, comfortable curve more suited to the shape of the human body than a simple flat shape.