The Water Closet: Yay or Nay?

published Oct 17, 2014
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(Image credit: Bridget Pizzo)

When I was little my mother would take me to the parade of homes in Lafayette, Louisiana. It was one of my favorite events of the year. The houses I loved the most were the big ones — as different from our modest 70s ranch as could be imagined. And the rooms I loved the most in those houses were the bathrooms. They were the epitome of early 90s luxury: whirlpool tubs, carpet, ten-foot-long vanities, and of course, the tiny little room for the toilet.

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My tastes have changed a bit since then, and certain characteristics of those 90s bathrooms have fallen out of favor — like the truly gargantuan size and, thank goodness, the carpet. But the tiny toilet room (aka the water closet) has been strangely persistent, which to me is a bit of a mystery. Why would you want a huge house, with a huge bathroom, where you have to squeeze yourself into a tiny little space to do your business?

I wonder if the popularity of the water closet has to do with our general germophobia. We’ve probably all heard the story about the giant clouds of aerosolized poo that are allegedly produced whenever you flush. It’s a very unpleasant mental picture, but is it reason enough to sequester your toilet?

Scientists agree that yes, germs can escape from the toilet post-flush, but have yet to make a conclusion as to whether this could actually make you sick. Mythbusters did a show about this where they kept a collection of toothbrushes in a bathroom for a month, in varying proximity to the toilet. They also had, as controls, two toothbrushes that were kept in an office, far away from any bathroom. At the end of the month, they had the toothbrushes analyzed by a lab. The result? Every single one of the toothbrushes, including the controls, contained traces of microscopic fecal matter. The disturbing conclusion was that “there’s indeed fecal matter on toothbrushes — and also everywhere else.” Sadly, having the toilet in a separate room won’t protect your toothbrush from being ickified, because the world is an icky place.

But maybe it’s a smell thing? Those of you who share bathrooms will have to weigh in on this — does having the toilet in a separate tiny room cut down on odors, or just contain them? It’s also occurred to me that maybe the water closet is an aethetic choice — that some people are offended by the very sight of the porcelain throne and would prefer that the more glamorous bathroom functions, like showering and bathing, not have to share space with it. This is, I suppose, the reason that Barbie bathrooms never have a toilet. Poor Barbie.

What do you think? Is a water closet an essential part of your dream bathroom? Or a head-scratching relic of a past era?