Self-Cleaning Toilets Are Here. What Does That Mean For You?

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

In any survey of most-disliked household tasks, cleaning toilets is high on the list, for obvious reasons. You may know how to clean a toilet properly, and you may enjoy the end result of a less-than-enjoyable toilet-cleaning sesh. But what if you could take cleaning the toilet off your list of to-dos for good?

How Do They Work?

Although the self-cleaning toilet concept isn’t brand new, prices are dropping and they are starting to pop up in more regular homes. American Standard recently came out with a self-cleaning toilet called ActiClean that reasonable for most budgets. The toilet offers “self-cleaning” features, both through a cleaner-based mechanism that’s activated with the push of button, and through its design. The liquid cleaner is contained in a cartridge that sits in the top of the toilet tank lid. It swirls through the toilet bowl in either a “Quick Clean” or a “Deep Clean” cycle, which differ by their one-minute or ten-minute bowl-soaking times. If you use each cycle once per week, the cartridge should last nine weeks. Batteries also need to be changed.

The toilet’s design also promises to keep your toilet clean. The “Clean Curve Rim” eliminates the “trapping of dirt from the rim cavity.” Further, as American Standard exclaims, “This toilet has NO pesky crevices that make it difficult to clean!” The lid also detaches for “easy cleaning.”

For comparison purposes, Toto’s version of the self-cleaning toilet uses an integrated UV light, with mixes with the bowl’s ceramic glaze to break down dirt and grime in the bowl, then rinses it clean with ewater+ — or Electrolyzed Water, “reducing the need for harsh cleaning chemicals.” Kohler’s Veil Intelligent toilet comes close to self-cleaning, also using UV light, but it only extends to the stainless steel cleansing wand (the bidet feature) and doesn’t work on the bowl itself.


An ActiClean self-cleaning toilet is currently $349 at Lowe’s and $395 at Home Depot. This is considerably lower than the price (a whopping $608) listed on American Standard’s site, so shopping around is worth your time. Cartridges for the ActiClean cost $9.98, and as mentioned above, need to be replaced about every two months.

Toto’s Neorest model, with Actilight, is decidedly higher-end and its list price is about $10,000. Kohler’s Veil Intelligent toilet retails on Amazon right now for $3,375.

Should You Buy One?

80% of the reviewers on Lowes would recommend the new American Standard model, and 60% on Amazon gave it 5 stars, noting that cleaning has never been easier.

We have had the toilet for 2 months and it has remained spotless. I have not had to clean it yet. We are a family of five. This toilet gets a lot of use on our main floor. I love that if we are visited by an unexpected guest, I know the toilet bowl looks clean. I was a bit skeptical at first, thinking I would still have to clean it every once in awhile. So far… the self cleaner has taken care of everything. I’m trying to convince my husband to get one for the upstairs bathrooms too. – Lowes reviewer Momof3Boys on December 6, 2016

We just had this toilet installed and it works very well, 1.28 gallons per flush, quick and quiet. The bonus feature, though, is the Acticlean cleaning system. It has two buttons, one for a light clean, and one for a heavy duty clean. It has a cartridge with the cleaning liquid that installs in the lid and 4 AA batteries to operate it (both included). I was amazed at how well it cleans, even with the light cleaning cycle (lasts 1 minutes, deep clean is 10 minutes). Very fresh smell after the cleaning is complete. Really, really, love this toilet. Breath of fresh air! – Amazon reviewer ET on March 18, 2017

Others aren’t so sure:

As far as I am concerned, this is greatest idea that turns out to be a complete waste of money. I would’ve much rather just bought a $100 cheaper toilet without this feature. It basically does a somewhat larger flush of water mixed with cleaning solution, swirls it while it comes into the bowl for 10 seconds, and then sits in the bowl for 1 or 10 minutes depending on the cleaning cycle you choose before being flushed down. That is hardly “self-cleaning.” It doesn’t swish the water around hard for a minute straight or anything like that. I might as well just pour cleaning solution into the bowl and it would be just as good if not better. – Lowes reviewer FirstNewToilet on September 7, 2016

Multiple reviewers note that their toilets run longer than usual, or won’t stop running at all, which is definitely something to be aware of:

We installed this toilet last month and the cleaning cycles do not work properly. We did everything in the AS booklet, but nothing helped. We don’t know if the cleaning cycle works properly since after each cycle we have to raise the lid for the water to stop running. Don’t know if it’s supposed to continually run during the cycles or if it is supposed to sit at times. – Lowes reviewer Traveler on January 24, 2017

I can’t give this toilet more than one star. We bought one a few months back and, initially, it was great! Best flushing toilet we’ve ever had and the self-cleaning is fantastic. Fast forward 3 months. Now, the thing won’t stop running. Almost every flush requires a handle jiggle or it will just run incessantly. We can’t use the self-clean because it requires that the toilet be able to flush a couple of times. – Amazon reviewer Scott Lowe on August 24, 2017

And, now, here’s my opinion: When someone comes out with a self-cleaning toilet that cleans the underside of the seat, the top of the seat, the back of the lid, the horizontal surface behind the lid, and the stand where mis-aimed urine pools (sorry for that, but boy mom here), they’ll have my attention. I feel like only someone who has never actually cleaned a toilet would fall for self-cleaning toilet because, honestly, cleaning the toilet bowl itself is usually not the worst of it.

What do you think?