Are you flushing money down the toilet?

I've been thinking about toilets lately.

That is, ever since I learned about British author Rose George's new book, The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. It's all about the sewage system, and what happens to our excrement after we flush, and it disappears down the drain, and how this is all very important because 80% of the world's illnesses are caused by fecal matter. I guess I'll have to add this to my Christmas list.

Anyway, her book inspired me to do some research on toilets. Seems we're probably all losing some money every day, if our toilets aren't up to par. According to Plumbing Maintenance, the difference every year between a low-flush toilet and an older model is usually $100 on your water bill. So if you're looking to save a little money, and don't mind spending some extra time in the bathroom, here are some ideas:

1. Look for leaks. Leaking toilets (and faucets) account for 14% of all indoor water use, which adds up to 20 gallons of water per person a day. Not that a leak will cost you 20 gallons of water, but this is definitely a main resource of water that you don't need to be wasting. You can check for leaks by putting a dye tablet or teaspoon of food coloring in the tank. If the color appears in the bowl after 15 minutes, what's known as the flapper valve likely needs to be replaced.
2. Get a toilet dam. If your toilet was built before 1980, consider buying a toilet dam, which is a plastic barrier. It'll keep you from running out of water when you flush, but it'll also save at least a gallon of water a day. sells something called the Incredible Superbowl Toilet Dam which purportedly saves two to three gallons of water a day.

3. Get rid of the toilet paper and get a bidet. Boy, I know some people are going to think I've lost it; others will probably applaud this. Either way, I still have toilets in our home. But some people swear that we'd save money on water and toilet paper, if we just bought bidets, which for those who don't know, are low sinks, for lack of a better word, used to wash our, um, very private areas. You'll find them next to the toilet in many homes and businesses throughout most of the world, except North America. That said, there's an American company, BioBidet, that sells bidets that attach to toilets.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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