Viewpoint: Automatic flushing toilets prove to be crappy technology

By Brittney Horner

They lurk in airports, amusement parks, concert venues and shopping malls. They reside in the Tidwell Bible Building, the Ferrell Center, In-n-Out restaurants and Buc-ee’s convenient stores. They frighten children and frustrate mothers. They are uncontrollable and worst of all — a person has no choice but to use them.

I am talking about automatic toilets.

As far back as I can remember I have had a fear of these devilish devices. Automatic toilets are a poor invention for many reasons. They have a mind of their own, are loud, disturbing and arguably unsanitary. I have heard countless people say the toilet never seems to do what they want it do. Either the toilet flushes while a person is still sitting or it does not flush even after the person is ready to leave the stall.

One Twitter sympathizer, @Lizzie_Horn, tweeted on Sept. 19, “Automatic toilets are truly the most unnecessary and inconvenient technological advancement I can think of.” Many people share this opinion. In fact, the majority of tweets about automatic toilets are negative.

According to the website,, in 1906 William Sloan invented the Flushometer, which allowed for pressurized water to fill the bowl without the need for gravity to push water from a raised tank. Sloan’s invention paved the way for modern plumbing.

Now, companies such as American Standard utilize the technology of pressurized water and add to it by removing manual handles, replacing it with infrared sensors.

An article by Nick Schulz in Slate Magazine discussed the inefficiencies of the automatic flush. He said despite better options, the number of automatic toilets in commercial sales continues to rise.

“The auto-flush toilet violates two basic rules of technology adoption,” he wrote. “Never replace a technology with an inferior technology; and never confiscate power from your users. Still, hands-free technology is flushing the competition.”

Not to be too graphic, but males do not always have to sit, whereas females are more often splashed by a premature flush.

Also, women often take their children into the restroom with them during potty training and are forced to tame the hysteria brought on by the swooshing monster. Children are a common demographic to have issues with automatic toilets because their small size and fidgety behavior makes it hard for the sensor to function correctly.

I realize the inventor probably had a good intention of a more sanitary bathroom experience, but how is being splashed with toilet water more sanitary than manually flushing with a hand that will be immediately washed?

Personally, I kick the handle with the bottom of my foot anyway. To me, the most sanitary option is a foot pedal, not an automatic flush.

Some argue automatic toilets conserve water, but I disagree.

The automatic toilet can misread body movement and flush multiple times. If water conservation is the issue, the best option is a dual-flush toilet with two separate buttons for various water flow. Lula Janes, a restaurant on Elm Street, has this type of loo, and I commend their choice.

For those who can relate to my disdain of this invention, there are some options when faced with the evil red blinking eye. Sticky-notes are one way to block the sensor, but they can fall unexpectedly.

In an article by Tina Kelley, published by the New York Times, one father designed a “Flush-Stopper.” He has sold more than 100,000 of the sensor-blocking devices.

So, I am not alone. Many people want control over when, and how often, their toilet flushes.

If this column can accomplish anything for Baylor University in particular, I hope that the contractors of the new stadium will forgo automatic toilets. Instead, I hope they choose the more reliable and comfortable standard flush toilets or even invest in foot pedals.

Brittney Horner is a junior journalism major from Salinas, Calif. She is a reporter for the Lariat.