I grew up in an era that introduced the low-flush toilet to the United States. This change fully came about in 1994 which happened to coincide with a complete bathroom remodel in my parent’s home. Being decently ecologically minded and faced with no options, we bought one of these new toilets and quickly realized that the proper name was “double flush” as the system was so inadequate that you had to flush it twice. It makes sense given that all they did with these early models was halve the amount of water the toilet used without designing the toilet in a different manner and thus, it still needed two flushes to do the same job. Apparently the designs have improved greatly in the last 20 years, but at my mother’s home, there is still this worthless, early low-flush in the new bathroom and then there’s the old bathroom with the old toilet from the mid-20th century that not only still works, but does a better job than the new toilet.
Other countries, such as those in Europe went another route with this. Having dealt with human waste forever via many a plague and other general ugliness caused by lack of sanitation, they went for a dual flush toilet. Designed better from the start they generally have two buttons: one for a big flush and one for a small flush. There’s not much to understand as to which applies which thing you do. It works quite well generally and given that there are over 200 languages spoken in Europe, it’s not even necessary to label the buttons.
Of course, there are times when people get a big schmancy with the buttons. The photo on the top is from a restaurant probably in Spain, although I honestly can’t remember as it’s pretty generic but you can easily see which is which. Below is an example of a what happens when design runs afoul of common sense.
I saw this in a new wine/cooking/bartending education space in Istanbul. I really didn’t know which button was for what and felt like John Spartan in Demolition Man with the three seashells. I want to assume that number two is the top one given that it has the bigger ring around it, but that would also seem like the button people would press more often and thus it could be number one as well. I didn’t have long enough there to understand fully which was which though and I had to just realize that the system isn’t infallible although it does work well when clear.
I’ve no idea as to why these types of toilets aren’t more widely available in the US and at one point I even wanted to go search one out to find that there was one model at the Home Depot which cost 2.5x what a normal toilet did and then there was a special order one that cost even more. My dream someday is of course to fully have my own home and then go toilet shopping given that short of the toilet in the house I lived at in Berkeley which was from 1926 and could quite possible suck you in if you weren’t careful, I’ve found most modern toilets lacking, but I do enjoy the numbers.