A bathroom equipped with an array of accessories is much more than a functional space within the home. It’s where we clean, refresh ourselves, and prepare to face the world outside. Finding the right products to make it into an inviting and useful space can be a confusing endeavor due to the sheer number of options out there. The right ones can energize a bathroom and turn time spent there from routine to enjoyable. In our guide, we hope to provide some factors to guide you in the right direction.
Towels are all about practicality and style. They serve a purpose, yet provide color and finesse to a bathroom. With every towel claiming to outshine the competition in terms of absorbency and softness, even considering the options available can be a headache inducing experience.
A quick look around the towel section of a home store delivers very much the same results. Then you start looking at fabrics and start to ponder what differentiates Egyptian cotton from normal cotton. The matter is further confused by acronyms like GSM. This begs the question of how on earth are you expected to make an informed decision.
Here are a few considerations that should make the task a little more manageable, helping you see past the often dishonest marketing push and find a long lasting and plush towel.
Let’s start with the basics and discuss size. The topic of size is, in theory, self evident, but is often confusing due to the range of dimensions for sale. Before researching the subject, we were confused about the exact use of some of the sizes available. Does someone really need such a small towel and what for? Here is a list of all the towel sizes you will ever need and their exact purpose.
A bath towel is the good old trusted body towel used to dry ourselves after a shower. Exact measurements vary from 27 inches by 52 to 58 inches.
Similar to the bath towel, a bath sheet is simply a larger version designed to be wrapped around the body so you can dry off as you walk around the house or perform your usual post-shower routine. Measurements are 35 inches by 60 to 70 inches.
You guessed it, a hand towel is used to dry hands. They measure 16 inches by 28 to 30 inches.
Slightly smaller than a hand towel, the fingertip towel is also used to dry hands after washing them. Fingertip towels are often used as a decorative feature in hotels and taken out of the airing cupboard when guests are staying.
Usually placed on the floor next to the shower or bath, a tub mat provides a towel to step on post-clean. Tub mats are thick, absorbent, and should dry off quickly. Measurements are 22 inches by 34 inches, though size can vary greatly to fit all bathroom sizes.
A washcloth is a small towel, or flannel that is used to wash your face, hands, or body in the shower or at the bathroom sink. They are 13 inches by 13 inches.
Not generally for the bathroom, we’ve listed it here to cover all sizes. Used at the seaside or local swimming pool, a beach towel is larger than a normal bath towel to allow more surface to lie on when it is spread out in the sand or on a sun lounger. It is also generally thinner so that outdoor elements such as sand don’t cling to the fabric so readily. Standard measurements are 30 inches by 60 inches.
Though not strictly designed for use in the bathroom, we will mention the sports towel to clear up any potential confusion. Slightly smaller than a standard bath towel, the sport towel is used to absorb excess sweat and water during physical exertion. Measurements are 20 inches by 40 inches.
That’s pretty much the breadth of the matter, except if you consider the uncommon larger sizes found in hotels and spas for that added novelty factor. For many people, a bath towel or bath sheet, hand towel, and tub mat are all you will ever really need for a functional bathroom. Otherwise, look out for sets or collections, which include one of each towel sizes (bath towel/sheet, hand towel, washcloth, etc.).
Towel Fabrics: Cotton, Cotton Blend, and Alternative Fibers
Next up is the equally confusing topic of towel fabrics. For years towels have been made exclusively with cotton or a blend of different cottons. Recently, the world of towels has been thrown upside down by the introduction of alternatives derived from plants other than cotton. Below is a breakdown of the most common towel fabrics.
The run of the mill option, standard cotton is grown all over the world and is ideally suited to towels due to its natural absorbency and textural softness.
This variety is the notorious cotton of choice for towels. Grown exclusively on the banks of the Nile River, Egyptian cotton is known for its strength and the length of the fibers, as well as its ability to absorb moisture and the fact that it is a voluptuous strain of cotton that is extremely silk-like, plush and comfortable on the skin. Egyptian cotton has a very long lifespan if cared for correctly.
As with its Egyptian counterpart, Turkish cotton is farmed near the Aegean sea in Turkey. It is set apart by a natural shine and thicker fibers as well as its durable properties and softness. The thickness tends to provide a warmer feel on the skin, but requires more time to dry off. Towels made with Turkish cotton tend to be very absorbent and they fluff up after being washed.
Pima, or American pima cotton is derived from exactly the same plant as Egyptian cotton hybridized with another species called American upland cotton. It is cultivated exclusively in the United States of America. The properties are similar to Egyptian cotton with long fibers, robustness and plushness.
The cream of the crop of Pima Cotton, Supima cotton is a collection of the finest harvests of cotton grown in the United States of America.
Microcotton is the trademarked brand name of a manufacturing process that involves creating towels with long double looped piles. The cotton used is grown in India and is highly absorbent (almost twice as much as other cottons). The results are a texture that feels akin to suede, yet remains relatively light in weight and is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
This variety of cotton is characterized by the use of non genetically modified plants that aren’t treated with chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers, promoting natural biodiversity in the bio-system in which the cotton is grown. Harvesting methods are also designed to have a minimal impact on the environment. Organic cotton is, therefore, an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional types of cotton used to make towels. The quality of the cotton is identical to non-organic cotton.
Cotton and Polyester Blend
Very popular in gyms, cotton and polyester blend is extremely durable, but lacks somewhat in moisture absorbency.
Bamboo and Cotton Blend
An alternative to the classic pure cotton option is the bamboo and cotton blend. Using the natural antibacterial properties of the viscose from bamboo shoots, this blend is absorbent and has a silky quality when in contact with skin.
Modal and Cotton Blend
A semi-synthetic fiber, also known as rayon, modal is created by synthesizing and spinning cellulose from beech trees in a fiber. When blended with cotton, the result is a robust blend with plenty of softness and stretchability.
A blend of polyester and polyamide fibers, microfiber is a artificial synthetic. It dries incredibly quickly compared to cotton, at the expense of softness.
Weight determines how absorbent a towel is. This is measured as GSM, or grams per square meter. In other words, GSM is simply a marker of how much cotton was used to manufacture a towel. The more cotton content, the denser and heavier a towel is. It couldn’t be any simpler. GSM ranges from around 300 to about 900 grams per square meter. A higher rating equates to a more absorbent towel, and higher price, while a lower value means a less absorbent towel, and a much lower price.
Most everyday towels fall within the 400 to 600 GSM range, while higher values going up to 900 are of the very dense variety usually found in spas and hotels. Anything lower than 400 and you are in kitchen towel territory, not really suited for use in the bathroom.
Most people naturally want to get the highest GSM rating available for obvious reasons. The only issue is that with more weight comes a longer drying time. You therefore have to strike a balance between a luxurious, thick towel and how fast it rids itself of moisture because nothing is quite as unappealing as a wet towel.
Once you’ve established what kind of cotton you want, it is also worth considering how that cotton is manufactured into yarn. Yarn construction has a say in the characteristics of a towel, notably sensory qualities like whether you want a fluffy or thin towel.
To remove irregular and small sized fibers as well as unwanted dregs, the cotton is combed before being spun. The result is that only the longest strands of cotton remain to create a uniform yarn that is both robust and plush. Long-term, this helps ward off piling when the yarn is woven into a towel.
This process involves taking all length fibers and twisting them into a smooth, finer yarn. The end product is a very soft yarn, more so than combed cotton yarn, and feels silk-like.
Hygro or Hollow Cotton
Hydro or Hollow cotton is spun to leave an empty core in the yarn, which ensures air is allowed to circulate within the yarn more easily. Towels made using this yarn dry quickly as a consequence, yet retain a plushness that rivals other traditional construction techniques. Hygrocotton is a trademarked name and represents the brand name of this specific manufacturing process. Aerocotton is another brand that offers a similar yarn construction.
This technique is used to create longer, more exposed loops when the yarn is woven. To allow for this, the cotton is twisted, very much like ring spun cotton, but only enough to ensure it holds together. This process can only be used with cotton varieties that have strong and long fibers. There are low or zero twist strands available that produce even longer loops. The resulting towels have more exposed fibers for added plushness and great absorbency, without being too bulky. This allows air to circulate inside the yarn for faster drying.
Texture and Pile Construction
Once yarn is made, the towel can be woven into a finished product. The technique employed to do so has an impact on the texture of the towel. There are two main pile construction techniques, which we cover below.
Sometimes referred to as terry cloth, looped pile involves creating loops during the weaving process. The size of the loops dictate the characteristics of a towel pile. Longer loops create a fluffy quick drying towel that is in fact wicking away the water instead of absorbing it. Shorter loops on the other hand absorb water and add more density to the pile’s feel.
Foregoing the looping process completely, velour pile has fibers that instead jut straight out. The result is lower absorbent capabilities, but a softer, velvet-like texture when touched. Patterned towels are more often than note made with a velour pile due to the non-looped fibers being far more receptive to the printing process.
Finally, it is also worth mentioning two-ply piles that use twice the yarn to weave a towel. As you can imagine, the result is much heavier and denser, with greater absorbency. Simply note that two-ply takes a while to dry so isn’t suited if you take multiple showers a day or live in an area with a predominantly humid climate. Two-ply is, however, more durable that single ply and generally lasts longer.
We also recommend checking out washing and use tests that are great at providing a reliable opinion on the quality of a manufacturer’s towel range, notably in terms of texture and pile.
You can find any color you could possibly want. The issue is narrowing it down. Color is great to add some vibrancy to a bathroom by complementing the color of the paint, tiles or shower curtain. We recommend solid block colored towels for most situations because of their versatility, though flashier colors can pop out so make sure this is the effect you are going for before committing. Patterned towels tend to fade quicker, but add some life to a monotonously colored bathroom. If in doubt, go classic and get all white towels. When clean and freshly dried, nothing quite beats their appeal.
Towels with embroidered features are all the rage these days and it is possible to find some with all kinds of inscriptions. You can even get custom made versions with the names of the people in your family for example. Borders woven with lurex, a special yarn that reflects light, can add a flourish to the towel. Other borders incorporate patterns and textures for added intricacies and allure. Finally, you can get sculpted towels, where a mix of long and short loops are worked into the pile to create a varied texture across the breadth of the towels surface.
We also want to mention jacquard, which is a method that incorporates patterns into the fabric during the weaving process. The results can be rather complex patterns that are resistant to washes and repeated use.
If you are set on having patterns, but don’t want to run the risk of fading, then we recommend yarn-dyed towels. These towels are unique in that the yarn is dyed prior to the weaving process. This means the created pattern is far more durable.
Factors To Consider When Shopping For Towels
If the above information can feel overwhelming, you can always face the music and get shopping. Here are three factors to consider that should land you with a decent set of towels.
This is largely dependent on your personal circumstances and where in the world you live. In general, remember that higher GSM and thickness means a more absorbent towel. An Egyptian cotton towel with a looped pile and twist construction provides the ultimate in absorbency.
By investing in towels you expect a product that will last some time and the best measure to guarantee this is durability. A low price is often enticing and an inexpensive towel may last a decent amount of time, but you invariably find that it sheds or loses its absorbency rapidly. Spend a little more and opt for a durable cotton and save money in the long run.
When considering softness, remember the points above and don’t be fooled by the apparent softness of inexpensive towels. Manufacturers actually apply a chemical finish to towels that make them seem softer than they truly are. After a wash, the towels lose their initial plushness. Whenever a certain product claims to be the softest, it is natural to question this assertion, but when it comes to Egyptian cotton there really is no argument. The higher price is worth it for the guaranteed long-term softness.
Finding the right towel is no more complicated than finding a happy balance of absorption, durability and softness so remember to use these measures.
For many the idea of a towel warmer in their home seems like an unwarranted luxury that cannot be justified. In reality, the cost is surprisingly inexpensive and becomes more appealing as you consider the benefits of having a towel warmer.
Naturally, as the name suggests, a towel warmer is firstly designed to warm towels, providing a warm, relaxing towel to wrap around your body. This is particularly satisfying in the colder winter months. If this was the only benefit, then we would understand most people’s reticence, but it doesn’t stop here. You can also use it to dry other types of fabrics such as clothing, particularly if you’ve been caught in an unexpected downpour or want to quickly dry your favorite pair of jeans. You can even dry a bathing suit after a visit to your local pool.
Secondly, the heat source means towels dry faster than if they were left to dry on a standard rack. In turn, this means less moisture remains inside the bathroom reducing the potential for mildew and general humidity. This creates a more sanitary environment and helps regulate mold and unpleasant smells. We all know that a used, soggy towel radiates a truly unpleasant smell if left unattended in the steam-infused environment of a post-shower bathroom.
Furthermore, towel warmers radiate heat and, therefore, help regulate the temperature within the bathroom, negating the need for a bathroom heater and helping along the work of bathroom extractor fans. This saves valuable floor space in the bathroom and because towel warmers are stylish devices designed to integrate perfectly into bathroom decor, they add aesthetic value.
Finally, by limiting the time a towel stays wet, a towel warmer also helps extend the lifespan of your favourite bath towel or washcloth. An added benefit if you have invested a decent amount into a set of Egyptian cotton towels.
Now that we understand the benefits, we are going to cover how you go about choosing a towel warmer fit for purpose.
Basic Operation and Technology
Unlike many other products, the underlying functional technology of towel warmers can be broken down into two categories; hydronic and electric. Both heating processes are efficient and reliable, with some differences in terms of installation and heating speed.
Electric Towel Warmers
As you have probably gathered from the name, electric towel warmers use electricity to produce the heat that keeps towels warm and dry. The wattage required is extremely low, in the range of a hundred watts or so, and is akin to running a couple of household lamps making them very energy efficient units.
Technically speaking, an electric towel warmer is a self-contained device that doesn’t need connecting to the water mains like its hydronic counterpart does. This makes installation significantly easier than hydronic warmers as there is no need to tamper with the bathroom plumbing system for it to work. If you opt for a freestanding model, you also get a degree of portability that can be useful.
An electric model can contain mineral oil, or a mix of water and a heat transporting substance designed for convective heat transfer like glycol. It can also be completely liquid-free. Both types use an electric heating element that runs throughout the bars. In the case of liquid versions, the element heats the oil, which then navigates around the frame to warm towels. As for dry versions, you will usually find a resistance wire that runs throughout the frame.
Electric towel warmers require one of two power options; plug-in or hardwire. Plug-in versions are simply plugged into an electrical socket like you would any other household appliance. While hard-wired versions need to be incorporated in your home electrical system, often necessitating a certified professional or well versed DIY connoisseur.
Electric versions do have some downsides though, chiefly that they take longer to warm up than hydronic warmers. Often the liquid is at a temperature similar to that of the room so needs some time to reach a level that is sufficient to efficaciously dry towels. Dry versions need time for the element to generate enough heat to very much the same end. Another issue is that, in general, electric warmers don’t produce as much heat as hydronic warmers meaning they have less of an impact on the temperature of a room and towels can take slightly longer to dry.
Hydronic Towel Warmers
Employing a concept very similar to that of a radiator, hydronic towel warmers use the hot water produced by a home’s heating system to generate heat to dry towels. They achieve this by siphoning water from the existing plumbing system in the bathroom. As a consequence, they don’t draw any extra power, unlike the electric option, making them the most energy efficient choice between the two types. They also provide much more heat than electric warmers and reach ideal temperatures much quicker.
The hot water running through the warmer is obtained either by plugging straight into the hot water pipes, or alternatively by taking in cold water that is then heated by an in-built heating tube system within the warmer itself. Once the water is hot, it is pumped throughout the length of the frame to ensure the whole surface is warm for maximum towel drying efficiency.
This system can be both a blessing and curse depending on the placement of the water pipes in your bathroom. If they are in the correct place, you may need to reroute them adding to installation costs. Basic installation, regardless of where the pipes are, nevertheless requires a professional plumber.
Another concern is that hydronic versions tend to be more expensive, but then again this is the price you pay for more heat and better efficiency.
Types of Towel Warmers
Now that we have an understanding of how towel warmers work, we can consider the different types, particularly in terms of their positioning within the bathroom. We have four main categories, which are wall mounted, floor mounted, freestanding, and hinge mounted. No options is functionally better than the other and choosing one simply comes down to the layout of the room and the space available to you. Existing plumbing may also come into play if you choose a hydronic model and electrical plug socket placement if you opt for an electric.
Wall mounted warmers are, as I’m sure you have deducted, fixed to the wall. There are ideal if space is limited and can serve a double purpose as a warmer and towel rack to save even more space. Wall mounted types are available for both electric and hydronic units. Installation can sometimes be complicated if you need to break through tiles to fix it on to the wall.
Floor mounted warmers are connected to the floor of the room. They can be purchased as both electric and hydronic units. They are better suited when plumbing is only available in a certain part of the room and the wall is already in use. Installation can be hindered by tiled floors or underfloor heating systems.
The main benefit of a freestanding warmer is portability. The unit can easily be moved to different parts of the room or even the house, making it versatile and flexible. This type is only available as an electric unit for obvious reasons and you generally only need a standard plug socket for it to function, so no hard wiring or disruptive plumbing work.
A relatively modern offering, a hinge mounted warmer is placed under the pins of door hinges so that it stays in place. This is, of course, a space saving option for those that do not have space for a freestanding unit, but it does require the right plug socket positioning to be viable.
Size, Bars, and Heating Surface
Sizes vary greatly depending on your needs and there is a towel warmer to fit any space, it is simply a case of finding it. If space isn’t an issue, the choice comes down to how much rack space do you need to comfortably service the inhabitants of your home. For a large family, definitely opt for a larger rack, while single occupants should have more than enough room with a smaller version. A good measure for size is how many towels you plan to hang simultaneously. Figure this out, then buy accordingly.
Size also has an effect on heating capacity, specifically in terms of the heating surface. A larger heated surface will dry and warm a towel quicker. If convenience is a prime concern, you may want to opt for a slightly larger warmer than required to ensure you always have a warm towel as your disposal. In addition, a large hydronic unit will contribute to heating the room itself so if this is part the reasons why you want a warmer then go down the route of the more sizable options.
The space between the bars is also worth considering. More space means larger towels can be hung, but the heat will be limited to the points at which the towel is in contact with the bars. This creates uneven heat distribution. Bars that are close together provide a more uniform heat distribution by sourcing heat to a larger surface area. This coupled with proximity of the bars also ensures the towels dry quicker.
Most towel warmers have an on/off switch which activates or turns off the heating element. Certain free standing models simply need plugging in to turn on. Towel warmers are designed to run continuously to maximize efficiency and it is safe to do so. Having to reheat from cold takes more power than having maintain a constant temperature. Constant use is, therefore, recommended by manufacturers. This also means towels are always warm and ready for an impromptu shower or bath.
Timers are useful if you want the warmer to turn on at specific times of the day such as in the morning and evening. Timers are often in-built into the unit or you purchase them separately.
A thermostat allows you to set the temperature of the heat radiated. This is ideal if you have children and want to avoid the frame being too hot to touch or want the towels to be a specific warmth.
Automatic Shut Off
More a safety feature than one of convenience, certain models have an automatic shut off feature. It activates once the warmer gets too hot to avoid damage to the unit and to those who may inadvertently touch it.
When it comes to styles, there are many options on the market ranging from standard ladder-like designs to more exotic shapes and hip copper piping frames. The choice comes down to personal preference and what complements your bathroom’s existing style.
Some models use the traditional chrome finish, while others opt for more adventurous finishes such as bronze, nickel and copper.
Shelved units are also very popular because they provide nooks for multiple towels. This allows them to be displayed folded, ready for use. Spiral style warmers are specifically designed for this purpose with space between each turn in the spiral to house a towel.
With a basic understanding of the knowledge detailed above you should be equipped enough to make an informed decision. We hope that considering and shopping for a towel warmer won’t seem like such an outlandish and difficult task.
Starting off the day with a shower is ingrained in most of our daily routines, but too many settle for a rather mundane experience characterized by a functional, but all too underwhelming flow. One of the easiest ways to spice up shower time without going for a full-blown, and often expensive, full remodel is to simply replace the shower head.
It is surprising how much of an effect such a simple change can have and also how inexpensive it can be. For most of us the need for a dual spray rainfall shower with a filter unit is beyond comprehension and we are more than satiated with a steady flow that works well. If you fall into the latter category, you are in luck because the market is rife with functional, yet feature-full options. Here are a few factors to consider when shopping around for a brand new shower head.
Types of Shower Heads
The basics of shower head design rely mainly on how it is mounted. Below, we cover the most popular options.
Fixed Wall Mounted Shower Head
Otherwise known as a standard shower head, a fixed wall mounted shower head is permanently affixed to the wall of the shower, regardless of whether it is a dedicated cubicle or above a traditional bath. Though the nozzle can often be tilted for the desired spray angle, the head cannot be removed and there is no hose, the water coming directly through the head from piping behind the wall. It is by far the most common type of shower head and the easiest to install by simply unscrewing the old one and screwing on the replacement head.
Designs range from straightforward, no nonsense models with a couple of adjustments to more feature-laden options that turn time in the shower into an experience. Wall mounted shower heads tend to be the most inexpensive on the market
Handheld Shower Head
A handheld shower head is similar to a fixed wall mounted version except that it can be removed from the mounted bracket and can be handheld. This allows you to use the head for a variety of uses, which include focusing the water to rinse hair or wash out the shower. A flexible hose is fixed between the head and the mount to allow for this mobility. A handheld head is also ideally suited for families and particularly younger children as well as people with limited mobility who use shower chairs for example.
Top Mounted Shower Head
A top mounted shower head, or a rain shower, is identical to a wall mounted head except that it is fixed to the ceiling above the shower (flush mounted) or to an extension that runs above the shower to create the same ‘from above’ effect. This means the water falls straight down over a wider area like gentle rain drops rather than at an angle to create a different, ostensibly more sensual shower experience. The idea is to spread out the water pressure as it falls on the body for a smoother feeling shower.
As you can imagine, setting up a top mounted shower head is more complex than a standard wall mount so keep this in mind when choosing. In addition, they are usually omni-directional meaning the spray cannot be targeted and due to their height are more complicated to clean. They are, however, ideal for small spaces where vertical height is limited and because the water falls down vertically, there is less chance of it accumulating on the walls of the shower, decreasing the potential for mildew to form and develop.
Sliding Bar Shower Head
A sliding bar shower head is basically a wall mounted unit with a vertical bar on which the head is fixed. The bar allows the head to be moved up and down. This means users of varying heights and with different preferences can use the same shower seamlessly. In addition, the head can be moved to target specific parts of the body. You can get a sliding bar with either a fixed or handheld head. This type is perfectly suited to families with members of all ages; each can adjust the head to have an ideal shower experience.
Shower Panel System
Not strictly a shower head, but an option that falls within the shower category is the shower panel system. The idea is to replicate the experience of a spa visit or jacuzzi via a panel with multiple shower spigots or sprays that are directed along the length of the user’s body.
They are generally setup in rows positioned vertically on opposing sides of the shower. The water from the sprays interlock to create an enveloping effect. The sprays are usually located at the same level as the shoulders, legs and midriff. A panel is generally paired with a traditional shower head or rain shower head for a complete experience.
As you can imagine, panels cost more than other types of heads, but the benefit is that you can choose exactly where the sprays are positioned based on your body’s dimensions and your personal preference. Furthermore, you can decide the pressure level of each spigot. They are also costly to install and require quite significant work to the shower and surrounding plumbing network when being fitted. This means they work best if you are completely remodelling the bathroom or are installed by certified plumbers with experience.
Note as well that due to more water being needed to function, panels usually incur higher energy costs and may require a new water heating system if your existing system doesn’t have the requisite capacity.
Water Efficiency, Flow, and Pressure
Showering is very much a water based affair and factors like flow and pressure have an impact on the experience. The most common complaint is that a shower doesn’t produce enough water pressure, requiring a longer shower and repeated rinses to get soap and shampoo to drain off.
The issue is further compounded by the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency set a maximum rate of flow of 2.5 gallons per minute, or gpm. Consequently, no shower head on the market today offers a gpm higher than this threshold. If you have normal water pressure, this is more than enough for a relaxing, comfortable shower. For those with homes with naturally low water pressure this may seem like an issue, but fortunately there are solutions.
In an effort to respect the gsm limit as well as provide a satisfying clean, shower head manufacturers have come up with an array of clever technological solutions to mimic the feel of higher water pressure and curb the problem. These solutions use less water as well doing their part do conserve precious water resources. There is even a voluntary initiative called WaterSense whereby adhering manufacturers agree to limit flow to less than 2 gallons per minute. These heads are called low flow heads.
They use pressure-compensating techniques that jet the water out with more force such as injecting air into the water flow to create a sensation of pressure, quick pulse streams to create the feeling of higher pressure, or multiple small streams on the head. These in fact uses less water, saving homeowners money on water bills and heating the water. This is particularly pertinent given that most family homes use upwards of 500 gallons per day and a pressure-mitigating shower head can save upwards of 2500 gallons per year.
Another way to ensure good pressure is to stay clear of large and rain shower heads, and opt instead for smaller, standard sized heads with one of the technologies mentioned above.
Spray and Patterns
Not everyone likes the same spray pattern and finding a shower head that functions in line with your personal preference is an important step in finding the right one for you. In general, we can break down shower heads into two categories when it comes to spray patterns: one setting and multiple settings.
As the name suggests, one setting shower heads offer only a single pattern that cannot be adjusted or changed. This is generally the design found in inexpensive models. They may suit a majority of users, but for those who want more options, we have shower heads with multiple settings, though you do pay more for the pleasure.
These range from settings mimicking rain, drenching, and mist, to those following patterns like pulses, trickles, massages, and sharp targeted jets. Of course, these can range in intensity from strong to rejuvenating, to gentle as well as surface area from concentrated, narrowed streams to streams covering wider sprays. You may also want to consider how easily the settings can be changed, notably when hands are covered in shampoo. The settings are normally altered by twisting the border above the nozzle or via a purpose switch. Look for gripped units to counter the issue.
You can also consider size which has an impact on the properties of the spray, though remember the section about water pressure and how larger heads provide less flow.
As you can imagine large heads with a great deal of settings incur a commensurate price so only splash out if you have the budget as the price tag can rise considerably rather quickly.
Finish is more about look and feel than functionality. As always cosmetic considerations are a matter that is subjective and comes down to what you deem appropriate for your bathroom style. Options come in a variety of materials including a selection of metals like bronze, brass, nickel, and copper. Plastic finishes are often chrome covered to create a hygienic look.
With these extra features we delve well beyond the realm of the functional and these include lighting options for added brightness and LED temperature indicators. You can also get chromatherapy lights similar to those found in upmarket spa settings whereby certain combinations of colors and intensities are supposed to provide therapeutic, stress relieving and generally relaxing benefits.
There are also shower heads with inbuilt water filtration systems that work to cut the amount of chlorine, sediment, odor carrying particles and other debris that water carries naturally. This feature is particularly relevant if your skin is very sensitive or you have very young children and want to limit contact with such substances.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about shower heads to make an informed decision. Simply ensure you are aware of what it is you want before purchasing and the task should be greatly simplified. Remember to not get too carried away with features and options. At the very basic level, a shower needs to clean well and have decent pressure, but not much else to be adequately satisfying.
Almost as important to the morning routine as the shower is the hair dryer. For many it is an indispensable tool to dry their hair to make it presentable for the day ahead. To many a hair dryer has one simple function, which is to dry hair. In reality, the plethora of different models on the market cater for all types of hair and their specific requirements. As with any overload of choice, finding the right fit can be a testing experience. We’ve compiled a list of the most important factors to consider when trying to find that elusive best hair dryer.
A hair dryer can be broken down into two basic components; a miniature motorized fan and a heating element, which combined turn an electric current into convective heat. The heat a hair dryer produces is created by the heating element inside the unit, usually in the form of a coated, or non coated, wire coil.
Simultaneously, a small electric motor turns a fan at a high-speed. The fan pushes the ambient cold air down towards the heating element. When the air passes through the coil, the heat warms it up by a process called forced convection. To power the element and the motor, electricity is required. In steps wattage, which determines how powerful the motor is and the temperature the heating element can produce. By extension, wattage determines how hot and strong the gust of air is propelled out of the dyer.
A high wattage value produces more heat and air, but with this comes the risk of exposing your hair to potentially damaging heat levels. More power doesn’t necessarily mean a more efficient dryer. A low wattage value will produce less heat and offer a weaker stream of air, meaning drying your hair will take longer and you will spend twice the time, essentially damaging hair all the same.
Wattage values range from around 1800 watts for entry-level models to over 3000 watts for professional-style equivalents. The trick is to find a balanced wattage level that suits your hairstyle, dries efficiently, but does not hurt the hair. We also recommend models with temperature dials, which allow you to set the desired temperature for the air. For lighter, thin hair lower wattages will work beautifully. As we increase in hair thickness and curlyness, more power is required.
Most manufacturers provide a clear note of a unit’s wattage as well as indications as to the hair type their perform best on. Look out for these when shopping around.
The weight of a hair dryer is worth considering in your buying equation. A heavy unit that causes strain to your arm will make drying your hair unnecessarily tedious. Fortunately, most modern consumer units weight less than two pounds and are, therefore, extremely manoeuvrable.
You may, however, want to opt for light weight models, notably if you tire easily, or have long hair that requires contortionist inspired hand movements to get to awkward positions. These usually weight less than a pound so most people should be able to bear this kind of weight long enough to completely dry hair. In essence, the longer it takes to dry your hair, the lighter the dryer you should go for.
Types of Hair Dryer Technology
Known as the standard, good old type of hair dryer, a non ionic unit uses the traditional method of heating air to induce quicker evaporation of water molecules on the hair. Commonly, non ionic hair dryers are equipped with nichrome heating elements insulated with mica. Nichrome is ideal for the purpose at hand because it conducts electricity very poorly, meaning the heating element is able to reach high temperature from the electricity flowing through it. In addition, it is non-oxidant at higher temperatures so it doesn’t rust.
Ionic hair dryers are designed to disperse water rather than through heat induced evaporation. Technically speaking, ionic dryers pulse negatively charged ions that then interact and neutralize the positively charged ions in the water and hair. The result is that the water molecules are drawn away from one another and scattered, allowing them to be sealed within the hair. The remaining water molecules evaporate much quicker due to this dispersion, which means hair dries quicker. Furthermore, by neutralizing the positive ions, static electricity in the hair is reduced meaning it attracts less airborne debris like dust as you go about your day.
Ionic dryers also work well at lower temperatures, making them more economical and less likely to cause lasting damage to your hair. In addition, the dispersion of the water means the moisture can embed itself in the hair and avoid a frizzing effect. Hair looks for more sleek, shiny, and refined as a consequence.
We therefore highly recommend ionic dryers for those with thicker and frizzy hair as they will benefit most. If you are looking for volume or have thin hair, then stay clear of ionic dryers as they will limit texture and flatten the hair.
Heating Element Coating
Coating of the heating element with different materials can produce better drying efficiency.
You can commonly find ceramic coated heating elements. The heat produced is considered much more uniform, less harsh, and more balanced because of ceramic’s natural heat conducting properties. Manufacturers argue that this limits over drying certain parts of the head and reduces the potential of overheating the hair dryer, a potential fire hazard. This is because the temperature is consistent and less erratic. Ceramic is considered ionic.
Porcelain and Titanium
Porcelain and titanium are also popular options for keeping heat output steady and even. Porcelain acts in very much the same way as ceramic. Titanium tends to be hotter and produces a very speedy drying experience. It is also marginally less weighty than porcelain and ceramic.
As the name suggests, tourmaline hair dryers incorporate tourmaline, a semi-precious crystalline silicate mineral known for its ion producing properties. It is often paired with a ceramic and titanium coating for maximum efficiency. As above, the ion distribution is neutral so hair cuticles tend to flatten out creating a non-frizz shine. The ions also trap moisture inside the hair creating a unique polished look to the hair. Tourmaline does add considerably to the price of the dryer and is reserved for higher end models.
Tourmaline models are also found with integrated infrared technology, which allows energy to infiltrate into the hair, allowing water to dry from inside the hair strand to the outside rather than the traditional other way around. Infrared is supposedly much kinder to hair given that very high temperatures from the blower aren’t required.
Whenever fans are involved, noise comes with the territory, but it is entirely possible to get reasonably quiet dryers. We recommend keeping an eye out for alternate current motors as they tend to be quieter.
There are two main types of attachments: diffusers and concentrators, and they behave very much in accordance with their namesakes. They are usually attached to the nozzle of the hair dryer and are interchangeable.
The purpose of a diffuser is to direct the gust of air from a hair dryer onto a wider and broader surface area. It allows the hair to look for voluminous and gives it an added bounciness. Diffusers are particularly beneficial for curls as it ensures the hair doesn’t become unkempt and frizzed up.
Concentrators perform the opposite function of a diffusers by targeting the hot air directly towards the zone you want to dry. They are ideal for smoothing hair, straightening and generally providing a cleaner look.
Common Safety Features
Though hair dryers must adhere to strict safety regulations, it is worth knowing what you can expect to find included.
Insulation is a crucial part of any hair dryer and appears as a heat shield of insulating material located around the heating element and motor. Without insulation, the dryer would be too hot to handle, even at normal functional temperatures.
Next, we have automatic shut off features that ensure temperatures don’t reach so high as to be able to burn your hair or head. An in-built heat sensor, thermal fuse, or even bimetallic strips service this purpose and ensure units don’t overheat.
Finally, we have grills that cover each extremity of a dryer to ensure that foreign debris such as dust, lint, and more importantly, fingers do not enter the unit. Dust and the like can cause the motor to clog and break down so grills play a vital filtering function. Remember to clear off any build up regularly. Some grills are even removable to facilitate cleaning.
There are a number of extra features that ship with certain models. One of the most useful is a cold hair button, which blows cold air to get hair to set in a particular shape or style.
You can also find hair dryers with air filters that make sure the air being heated isn’t ful of dust. This lengthens the lifespan of the unit and ensures you freshly cleaned hair remains free of any unwanted debris.
Though found on most models, adjustable heat controls can vary in terms of their functionality. Many models offer one or two simple modes, while pricier alternatives offer an array of settings. Adjustable heat is also useful to limit the heat to ward off the potential for damaged hair.
Now that we have covered the more technical aspects of hair dryers, here is a quick set of recommendations for different types of hair.
For straight hair, aim for a dryer with ionic capabilities to ensure hair does not frizz and retains a nice sheen as well as moisture. In addition, a concentrator may prove useful for particular areas that need added attention.
As for curls, opt for a diffuser attachment and an ionic unit to keep curls bouncy and full of their natural shine.
For thick hair, we recommend a unit with high wattage and adjustable heat to ensure it is powerful enough to dry relatively quickly.
Definitely opt for an ionic hair dryer if you have thinner hair, this will give it body and more presence. A low heat is also recommended.
There is really only one option for damaged hair and that is a tourmaline coated dryer. It will provide much needed moisture and allow it to penetrate deeply to add a polished look.
Fashion statement or laziness, whatever motivates you to sport a beard, some care and love is required to keep it looking its best. Much like hair and a trip to the barbers, a beard can change styles throughout the year and adopt a lighter, smoother shape for the summer, or thicker, mountain man style mutton chops for the colder months.
Any bearded man worthy of the name must own a good beard trimmer, but when consulting the options out there, the selection can be more dumbfounding than a treasure chest of facial possibilities. We’ve listed below the main factors to consider when shopping for the best beard trimmer to suit your needs.
Types of Beard Trimmers
Before we delve into details, the most defining factor that differentiates beard trimmers is whether it is corded or cordless.
Corded trimmers require a plug socket in proximity to the sink to function. Like any other corded home appliance, the power is drawn through the cord. Not having to worry about battery life running out is one of the main advantages, though the cable can prove cumbersome for some as it can get in the way and be hard to manoeuvre when trimming awkward parts of the face. Of course, it needs a source of electricity so isn’t ideal if you are away on a trip or want to trim in the garden for some reason. Corded trimmers are generally more powerful than cordless models thanks to a better inbuilt motor.
Cordless beard trimmers run on a rechargeable battery and offer portability and manoeuvrability, especially when trimming around the jaw bone. The battery life does need to be managed because there is nothing worse than losing power when you’ve only trimmed half of your beard. In addition, cordless trimmers tend to offer less cutting power than corded versions.
We recommend checking the run time and recharge time before purchasing. Most models can run uninterrupted anywhere from 60 minutes upwards. Look out for lithium-ion batteries as these tend to be the most reliable. Many cordless models do ship with a cord for charging and the trimmer can often still be used while the battery is charging up. This is a good fail safe feature to have in case the juice runs out unexpectedly mid-trim.
Styling Guards and Length Settings
This is probably the most crucial factor when selecting a beard trimmer because this is essentially what sets a beard trimmer apart from a standard shaver. Length determines the style of the beard and can give you that wanted look and allow control over what is being trimmed down. Flexibility is key because it is often easier to remove more, as opposed to cutting too short and realizing you’ve trimmed off a bit too much.
Via the use of a zoom wheel, a trimmer can be adjusted to shave at specific length. In general, the range is somewhere between 0.5 mm and 10 mm, and anywhere in between. If you are going for well-kept stubble, look for smaller settings to ensure a close trim. If a full sculpted beard is your thing, ensure the trimmer offers a suitable length setting to accommodate this. Versatility is your best option because you don’t know how your tastes may alter later down the night. We recommend trimmers with a wide range of settings.
Styling guards or snap on combs also have an effect on length settings. They work to guide the hair towards the blades to offer a more polished cut. They vary in length and as always look for sizes that suit your needs.
Certain models also have a precision trimming mode that provides a closer shave for detailing. Lengths in this setting usual fall below 0.5 mm and work well with edges, perfecting your mustache or beard line on the cheek.
If you want more options, check out models that have different attachable heads like detailers and even nose/ear trimmers.
Cleaning and Ease of Use
Keeping a trimmer clean is extremely crucial to not only extend its longevity, but also ensuring your beard stay hygienic and free of bacteria. A beard faces the elements head on all day, as well as comes into contact with food and pollution. Once you’ve meticulously cleaned a beard, the last thing you want is for it to be tainted by a dirty trimmer. We recommend models that are easy to clean, either by being run underwater or that come with cleaning equipment such as a purpose designed brush.
Though not necessarily attractive to all, it is possible to find trimmers with integrated vacuum systems that essentially suck up hairs as they are cut to create a cleaner experience. We’ve all struggled with cleaning the sink of every last hair after a serious trim and these models make the task a whole lot easier. Do keep in mind that vacuum trimmers don’t pick up all the hairs so expect some mess, but far less than without one.
A carrying case or storage pouch is useful for storage and travel though not a deal breaker. We recommend models with storage options for those who are serious about keeping their trimmer in check and well maintained.
Dry and Wet Use
Our early morning routines vary greatly with some preferring to trim before showering, while others opt for a shave upon hopping out the shower. Beard trimmers are designed to function either on dry or wet facial hair, or even both. Ensure you buy a model that conforms to your personal preference. A dry hair trimmer will truly struggle if you attempt to use it on a humid beard.
Blade options range from self-cleaning and self-sharpening to skin friendly blades. Investigate these if you have notably sensitive skin or a wary of the blade going blunt too quickly.
LED lights indicating power on, charging, and full battery are convenient. Look out also for accessories like beard combs if you want extra options other than a trim.
Oral Care / Toothbrushes
Dental hygiene is one of the most important parts of personal care. Unfortunately, many people don’t know the correct brushing etiquette to ensure their teeth stay clean and healthy. As such, the use of a normal toothbrush may not be sufficient to guarantee good dental hygiene. Luckily, we live in the age of the electric toothbrush, a convenient device designed specifically to provide a thorough and complete teeth cleaning experience. We’ve researched the subject a length and here are the most important factors to consider when choosing an electric toothbrush.
Types of Movement
The movement of the brush determines what type of clean the toothbrush provides, making it a crucial feature to consider. Here’s an overview of the most common types of movement. Remember that the more complex the movement, the more expensive the toothbrush tends to be. Simple movements can be just as effective as more complicated ones subject to them being well designed and from a reputable manufacturer.
In line with the name, this movement type follows a circular pattern with the bristles rotating round and round. This is the most basic type of electric toothbrush, but that isn’t to say it isn’t effective. You can find brushes where the entire circular head rotates or individual, carefully positioned groups of bristles turn in unison with one another.
Borrowing the concept of a rotating brush, then adding a twist by rotating in one way, then switching back in the other direction. This creates a back and forth cleaning motion, which is ideal for removing plaque buildup on teeth. The head is circular in shape like a rotating brush.
Similar to rotating-oscillating brushes, except that groups of bristles rotate independently of one another, often in alternate directions to clean off indented plaque. The head is generally round in shape.
This type of movement is usually paired with another, such as rotating, and the head pulsates towards the tooth then back to add a variety of pressure to dislodge build ups.
Side to Side
Toothbrushes equipped with side to side movement adopt a very fast horizontal back and forth vibration pattern.
Using specific frequencies and speeds, sonic toothbrushes vibrate to remove plaque build ups. The frequencies are apparently ideal for dislodging build ups. They are also designed to encourage inter-dental cleaning by allowing toothpaste to flow through gaps between the teeth with more ease.
Two, instead of one, heads are attached to the toothbrush. Each of the heads performs a different movement. These normally include rotations and a horizontal back and forth motion.
Bristles and Brush Heads
Next, consider the hardness of the bristles; soft, medium and hard. Most dentist recommend using soft bristles to ensure enamel isn’t worn off the teeth and to avoid damage through excessive pressure when brushing, but in essence it comes down to personal preference.
There are all manner of bristle setups and designs, each intended to perform a specific function. Some are more suited to a whitening action by polishing the teeth, others with flossing in mind are better equipped to clean in between teeth.
Also, consider whether you want angled bristles. They can be effective is reaching certain parts of the mouth, notably the back and in between teeth. In addition, rounded bristle tops are considered better for your teeth so look out for these.
As for the brush heads, note that some toothbrushes allow the heads to be replaced while on others they are fixed, requiring you to purchase a completely new toothbrush. Non-replaceable tend to be more inexpensive, but then you do end up replacing the unit far more often. For replaceable units, we recommend buying brush heads in bulk to keep costs down. Remember to replace brush heads every three months or when the bristles are frayed. This added expense is the only real downside to the electric toothbrush.
Head sizes vary to cater for different mouth sizes. A small child will struggle with a larger head meaning some teeth won’t be cleaned of plaque, causing long-term issues. Conversely, a small head might not be sufficient for those with large teeth. Ensure you buy a size commensurate to your own personal needs and that it fits comfortably inside your mouth.
Battery Options and Charge
Firstly, there are two ways to power an electric toothbrush. The first is via batteries. These models are the least expensive and small in size, yet they require regular battery replacement, which can add extra costs that quickly rack up. The second is rechargeable batteries, which can be charged via a provided stand or with a charging cord that fits right into a normal plug socket. Obviously, these don’t require regular battery replacement so cost less over the long-term, but they are, however, more expensive in terms of price tag for the toothbrush itself.
Convenience is of course a factor to consider so if you are often on the road and won’t necessarily have a plug socket at hand, then a battery operated unit might be more viable. Rechargeable toothbrushes do, however, tend to last longer and provide more power when cleaning.
Battery life is also an important consideration. Lengths vary considerably from model to model ranging from a few days to a month with a normal twice daily usage cycle. If you are prone to forget charging it, then a long battery life may be more beneficial. If you are eager to ensure the battery is always fully charged, opt for a model that ships with a stand and simply place it back after each use.
There is a huge selection of extra features for electric toothbrushes and there is truly something for everyone. Here are the most common options available on the market today.
Timers are a great way to ensure you are brushing for long enough. Usually built into the handle they range from two minutes, the average recommend brushing time, to 30 seconds, signalling to you that it is time to switch to another part of your mouth for a complete clean. The timer usually emits a sound or a flashing light. Certain high end models have a stand-alone timer with a visible, digital clock countdown. Though not imperative, timers can indeed be useful, particularly for children or easily distracted brushers.
Brushing modes offer different movement patterns catered to specific needs and teeth conditions. You can often find modes such as normal every clean, sensitive for children and those with sensitive teeth, whitening, deep clean, polish, massage, and gum care.
Cleaning teeth is all about doing so effectively without causing more harm than good. For this reason, many electric toothbrushes ship with pressure sensors that warn the user if they are applying too much pressure, which could potentially cause long-term damage if left unchecked. A pressure sensor is particularly useful if you have sensitive gums. The warning usually comes in the form of a sound, flashing light or vibration. Many models also have an automatic feature that will ease the movement of the brush when too much pressure is applied to avoid damage.
Handles and Grips
Comfortable is important so look out for electric toothbrushes with grips, notably soft gel grips that absorb some of the vibrations for a more pleasant handling experience.
Usually limited to the more expensive models, position detection is an inbuilt feature, which analyses what parts of the mouth have been cleaned and lets you know when every tooth has been properly brushed.
App connectivity is one the most recent additions to electric toothbrushes. Via Bluetooth connectivity, the toothbrushes interacts with a smartphone and a dedicated app to provide analysis of your brushing sessions, then provides feedback and advice.
Though we may be loath to admit it, we do spend a considerable amount of time sitting on the toilet relieving the call of nature. If we add up the time spent during a lifetime, we are talking days and it is baffling that so little attention is generally thrown the way of the toilet.
For most people, buying a toilet involves quick trip down to the local home store, one quick glance, and a hasty purchase. In reality, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing that elusive best toilet. Below, we cover the most relevant points and provide some insight on the options available on today’s market.
Types of Toilets
The large majority of toilets fall within two categories; gravity fed toilets and pressure assisted toilets. They are different in terms of how water is pushed down the bowl to clear away waste.
Gravity Fed Toilets
Using the natural force of gravity, this type of toilet simply lets the water from the tank glide down the inner bowl to dislodge and evacuate water. They are economical, both in terms of water and cost, and they deliver a decent amount of thrust that should suit most homes. They are generally much quieter as well so you won’t wake up any family members in the middle of the night.
Pressure Assisted Toilets
Usually equipped with an inner tank within the normal ceramic tank, this type of toilet uses water pressure to amass and compress air within the tank to push the water at high velocities down the edges of the inner bowl to flush away waste. They tend to be more powerful than gravity fed toilets and are less likely to clog, though they are much noisier as a consequence. In addition, they tend to use more water and cost more. Also, note that you need to have sufficiently high water pressure within your home for it to work in the first place, usually around twenty five pounds per square inch or so.
Regardless of these two types, most manufacturers assign a flush power value to each model so look for higher ratings if you foresee any problems, notably if the house is inhabited by numerous people who regularly use the facilities.
Toilet Construction Options
Refer to the name and you get a complete understanding of what a one-piece toilet is: a toilet constructed from one and the same piece of vitreous china. The tank and the bowl are basically incorporated into one, meaning there is no joining seam between these two parts.
The main benefit of a one piece toilet is that they are easier to clean due to a reduced number of awkwardly positioned nooks and crannies, notably at the junction between the bowl and tank. In addition, they are generally smaller making them ideal for small bathrooms or other situations where a tight fit is required. Visually, they provide a cleaner, streamlined cosmetic appeal that tends to meld better with the decor of a bathroom.
Accepted at the most popular and widely seen type of toilet, the two-piece toilet is generally the most inexpensive option available. The tank and bowl are two separate pieces that are fitted together to make a complete toilet, making installation a tad more tedious than one-piece equivalents. The tank is suspended via fixtures on the wall then rests on the bowl and is held in place with purpose bolts.
The standout benefit of two-piece toilets is the low price and the wide availability of parts in case of malfunction. It is worth noting that most two-piece toilets don’t ship with a seat. This may seem like an oddity, but we assure this point is all too real. Don’t forget to get a seat if you go down the two-piece road or you are in for an uncomfortable experience.
Wall Hung Toilets
Arguably the most visually appealing type of toilet, a wall hung toilet incorporates a hidden tank (in the wall) with only the bowl visible. The unit itself is mounted to the wall, negating the need for floor fixtures and a base.
As you can imagine, cleaning is greatly simplified, but remember that due to the need for a wall drain and reinforced masonry to support the weight, installing a wall hung toilet can be an arduous and costly task. The units are generally very sleek looking with rounded edges. Wall hung toilets also sit within the higher price bracket when it comes to toilets, but conversely they are better suited to users with limited mobility.
Though this type of toilet doesn’t have an official marker, we have called them smart toilets because they offer features over and above those of the traditional models. These features include tankless models, an array of cleaning options (sprays, temperature adjustable hot water, oscillating jets, etc.) that can replace the use of toilet paper, automatic flushing, seats that are heated, and control panels. You will understand that these models are much more expensive than the types listed above, but they truly transform time on the toilet into an experience in itself.
There’s nothing worse than buying a brand spanking new toilet only to find it doesn’t fit your bathroom or existing fixtures and plumbing. Measuring up is the single most important pre-purchase action you can take and we can not stress how important it is. Here are the main measures to determine before going further and an overview of the current standards covering most toilets out there.
The first measurement required is called the rough-in, which is essentially the space between the wall and the middle of the under toilet fixtures/bolts (known as flange), or main evacuation drain, that hold the unit to the floor. Measure the distance between these two points and find a toilet that fits by scrutinizing official documentation or the list breaking down the features.
If you are replacing an existing toilet, measure up while the old unit is still fixed in place for a more exact measurement. If you are remodelling a bathroom or fitting a newly built room then this distance isn’t so important as you can fit the pipe to the rough-in of the toilet rather than the other way around.
The standard measure is 12 inches, though you can get toilets ranging from 10 inches to 14 inches. These are generally found in older setups and are rarer in newer homes, though they are still manufactured for smaller spaces.
Speaking of a smaller bathroom, it may require that you measure the width of the toilet so that it isn’t obstructed by two walls at 90 degrees.
This only applies to wall-hung models. Measure the space in the inner wall that will house the tank. It is usually delimited by stud partitions. Measurements range from 2 inches by 6 inches to 2 inches by 4 inches. Of course, ensure you buy a tank and toilet that fit your specific numbers.
Also consider whether you want an insulated tank or not. They do add cost, but prevent condensation on the outer panels of the tank, particularly in hotter, more humidity-prone places. They usually fit into all three types of constructions.
Seat height is down to personal preference. Some find a higher seat more comfortable notably when mounting and dismounting, while others are more accustomed to the standard 15 inches or so height. The standard size works for most people and is also ideally suited for the more diminutive among us as well as children.
For those with mobility issues, you can find approved sizes that are ideal for easy manoeuvrability. These range from 16 inches to 19 inches, or the common height of a dining room or desk chair.
As for wall-hung toilets, heights vary significantly depending on where you look with heights as extreme as 27 inches and upwards. It really does come down to what works in your home.
In terms of the practicalities of measurements, determine the distance from the floor to the top of the bowl’s rim. Remember that the seat adds another inch, more or less, so factor this in if you are looking for a specific comfortable height.
Two Types of Bowl Shape
There are two types of bowl shape; elongated and round-front, or simply round. They differ in shape as well as size. There is no better type, it is purely subjective, though round-front is the legacy type that has been around since toilets first became part of standard home furnishings.
Elongated bowls measure 18 ⅝ inches or more lengthwise and have an oval shape, which is designed to be more comfortable for users. Compared to round-front bowls, elongated bowls offer an additional two inches in length. In theory this makes for more convenience and more aiming space per se.
We even have compact elongated toilets, which have a similar base size as round-front bowls for space saving in smaller bathrooms.
The classic toilet shape, round-front bowls measure up to a maximum of 16 ¾ inches in length for a more compact look and feel. Due to the reduced size, they are the most inexpensive option and fit well in confined spaces.
Types of Flushing Mechanisms
Beyond being responsible for pushing waste water down the drain, flushing mechanisms also have an impact on water efficiency as well as convenience.
The standard one button flusher that offers similar flushing power at every use. If you are looking at a wide variety of options, you are more likely to find a model that suits you with a single-flush. In terms of efficiency, the problem with single-flush is that the same amount of water is used regardless of the type and amount of waste being dealt with. Gallons of water per flush (gpf) range anywhere from 1.0 gpf to 1.6 gpf depending on the unit. 1.6 is the maximum allowed by law in most countries so represents the upper limit for how much water can be released in one flush.
Instead of one button, dual-flush systems have two; one for lighter use such as liquids and the normal complete flush that empties the tank for solids. The lighter flush usually has a gpf of 0.6, while the full one ranges within normal parameters for a full flush. The idea is to save water by adapting the flush to the waste produced.
Here we are talking about the actual handle that triggers the flushing mechanism. Some are levers, while others are buttons. The actual design is down to personal choice.
These range from side mounted to top mounted handles, which are most commonly dual flush equipped. Wall-hung handles are usually found mounted into the wall and come in the form of flat buttons, normally dual flush. There are also hands-free handles, which are designed with convenience and hygiene in mind. Via a touchless sensor that normally only requires a hand to be placed or waved above, the system flushes. Finally, on higher end smart toilets, it is possible to find automatic flushing mechanisms that trigger when the user dismounts.
Water Saving Toilets
If you are environmentally conscious, and face it we all should be by now, then we recommend opting for a water saving toilet that has a gpf of less than the standard 1.6. Water from the toilet accounts for up to a ⅓ of all household waste water so any action to reduce this is worthwhile.
The trapway is the snaking pipe shaped like the letter S that runs the water from the bowl to the drain, then down into the sewer. There are three types of trapways that provide cosmetic rather than functional value.
In these models, the trapway is visible on the main body of the toilet. They are generally more difficult to clean due to the many crevices created by the protruding S shape. With no panels, the bolts are exposed, but can be covered with caps for aesthetic purposes.
The toilet is fitted with smooth ceramic on the sides where the trapway is. This makes for easier cleaning and a sleeker, concealed look. The bolts are of a low-profile design.
The sides of the toilet are covered with panels that completely hide the trapways and the inner piping. The surface is flush and uniform with the rest of the toilet for a very clean look and can be cleaned very easily. The bolts are hidden.
Designs vary from more traditional styles to ultra modern cuts that are clean and complement the existing design of a bathroom. We recommend checking out bathroom collections particularly if you are remodelling the whole bathroom. They allow you to fit the whole room with a uniform style. The number of options is expansive and you can definitely find something that suits your plans.
The same applies for color, with a huge array of colors on offer. We do, however, warn against going too crazy and opting for a cherry red toilet since non-white units tend to put off many people. This is relevant if you plan to resell your home in the future. In addition, the classic white is timeless and won’t age.
For those unsavory moments when the trusted toilet gets clogged, nothing is quite as deflating as a shoddy toilet plunger that does little to get things flowing properly again. Though not our favorite product by any stretch of the imagination, it is an invaluable tool in any bathroom and it is worth taking the time to find the best plunger within your budget. Here are a number of factors that should shed some light on the best buying practices and make the process that much simpler for you.
Types of Toilet Plungers
Here we have the run of the mill plunger. The one that comes to mind when we think of the archetypal plunger, adorned with a red rubber base. Usually composed of a wooden handle or in more modern models a metallic equivalent, these are better suited to other drains like the bath than the toilet. This is part due to their design, which favors flatter points of contact. The suction cup needs to sit flat on a drain to work efficiently. These are by far the most inexpensive option and are multifunctional so remain useful as an all-round tool for clogs.
Next up, we have the flange plunge. The suction cup is made up of two sections; the first is smaller than the section above and plunges straight into the water in the toilet bowl. The second section is larger and creates a seal further up. This combination means flange plungers reach rather deep into the toilet. Suction is the name of the game when it comes to plungers so by guaranteeing an air tight seal, the flange plunger performs particularly well on clogged toilets.
Finally, we have the accordion plunger. The base is similar to that found on a flange plunger, but with an extended and ribbed rubber section above, which is extremely flexible. The added ‘push’ created by the accordion or bellow-like feature means you get a far more powerful suction effect making the accordion plunger perfect for particularly embedded clogs. The suction isn’t quite as perfect as a flange plunger, but the sheer force produced wholly compensates for this fact. In addition, the extra stretch - that can often reach up to the bend in the toilet - is extremely useful for dislodging deep set clogs.
Automatic Toilet Plunger
As far as toilet plunger technology goes, automatic toilet plungers are top of the line. They inject compressed CO2 at a high velocity into the toilet shaft to dislodge a clog. The CO2 is sourced from a CO2 canister that fits inside the handle of the plunger. A small suction cup designed to dive deep into the toilet shaft creates a vacuum for maximum effect. Operation is straightforward and requires a push of a button to work. As you can guess, automatic toilet plungers are the most expensive option on the market, though their no effort approach probably warrants the higher price.
When shopping for a toilet plunger, materials are an important consideration, especially given that plungers natural environment is wet and often bacteria infested. Look out for rust proof and mold resistant models to ensure operation doesn’t cause rapid degradation.
Wood is often the material of choice for the handle, though stainless steel and aluminum are increasingly popular for the stylish look they provide and their ability to meld into the decor of the bathroom far more conspicuously than wood. Plastic is also increasingly popular due to the low production cost and the fact it is easily cleaned, though be wary as it tends to scratch toilets bowl far more easily than other materials.
As for the suction cut, there is really only one viable option for a perfect vacuum, and that is rubber.
There aren’t too many extra features available for plungers. Among them, the most useful are concealers, canisters, and caddies, which serve a cosmetic purpose rather than an operational one. Designs vary, but the idea is to provide a sleek, hygienic, and hidden resting place for when a plunger isn’t in use.
Very often, these include a base to avoid direct contact with the floor and thus limit the transfer of toilet bacteria to surfaces that are frequently used. Ventilation holes or slots are also worthwhile to allow the plunger to dry properly. Mildew and bacteria thrive in wet conditions so this is a priority in our estimation. We particularly like models than conceal the plunger via closing lids that retract when the handle is pulled up, and close when it is put back onto the base.
You can even get two in one versions that include a toilet brush as well as a plunger. Materials vary from plastic to stainless steel and you can easily find an option to fit all bathroom decors. More basic models are sometimes equipped with hooks at the end of the handle so they can be stowed away in a tool cupboard or similar storage area.
Finally, there are options for the handle design from gripped models, to T-shaped options and those with protective shields so water doesn’t come into contact with the hands when in use.
That covers toilet plunger considerations. Of course, it isn’t possible to try out a plunger per se unless you buy it outright and take it home. This makes it hard to rate how good a plunger will be from perusing its features alone. We therefore recommend consulting customer reviews and buying one, seeing how it performs, and purchasing a replacement if it doesn’t live up to your standards. The cost is minimal making this a viable testing process.
Shaving is a brutal experience for your skin; you are essentially running a sharp blade in close proximity and scrapping it along the surface. For daily shavers, this can take a toll on your skin and it is important to take necessary steps to ensure your skin is well looked after. Using aftershave is, therefore, crucial. Here are the main factors to keep in mind when choosing an aftershave
There are three different types of aftershave that are distinguished by their consistencies. Here is a closer look at what each type offers.
Generally containing a very small trace amount of alcohol or none at all, aftershave balms are designed to soothe, limit irritation, soften, and moisturize the skin post-shave. They have a cream like appearance and are suited to those with sensitive skin. Balms are also referred to as moisturizing lotions.
Similar to balm in spirit, aftershave gels are shower gel like products with very little alcohol content. They work to cool down the skin after the irritation caused by shaving and provide a refreshed feel.
Also known as splashes or even lotions, tonics have been around for hundreds of years and have a liquid consistency similar to water. Think of old Westerns where rugged cowboys dash their faces with strong liquid and cower with momentary pain. At their most basic level, tonics are alcohol and act accordingly by removing dirt accumulated during shaving from the pores; they are antiseptic and antibacterial. They also work to close pores to create a sharper looking skin. Purists and those from places that have higher general temperatures tend to favor tonics.
Aftershaves are all about finding novel ways to help the skin recover from the shaving process. With this in mind, manufacturers include active ingredients in each recipe, which act to ensure the skin is exposed to beneficial substances as long as possible.
Toner is none other than the antiseptic component of aftershave. It works to clean the pores and shrink them for a sleek, shaved look. Made primarily of alcohol, toner also dries out the skin by laying a protective film. These include rose oil distillate and witch hazel for example.
Humectants are designed to allow other ingredients such as toners and moisturizers to reach deeper into the pores and to act longer, while also simultaneously reducing loss of moisture in the skin. Tea tree oil is generally used as a humectant.
Hydrosols are essential oils in distilled steam form. They appear in aftershaves because they are antibacterial and work to re-balance the pH of the skin post-shave as well as counter other products that are either too acidic or too alkaline. Calendula is popular, as well as jojoba oil for example.
As you can establish from the name, moisturizers ensure moisture leaves the skin much less rapidly by stunting the speed of evaporation to create a soft, soothed feel. Products used usually include aloe vera among other natural ingredients.
Skin Types and How to Choose
The easiest way to find the right aftershave for you is to consider your skin type. Different features work better with certain skin types than others.
Stick with balms and try to find no alcohol products. The skin will benefit from the moisturizing effects and not be subjected to harsh ingredients such as those found in toners.
Oily skin is better suited to gels because the pores aren’t closed or stripped of oils reducing natural compensatory action by the skin.
Similar to those with dry skin, opt for balms with little to no alcohol content to limit bad reactions. High moisture content is also recommended as sensitive skin is better equipped to deal with environmental aggressors when sufficiently moisturized. You may also want to veer towards dermatologically tested products to be on the safe side.
If you have normal skin, you are spoilt for choice. Any type of aftershave should work for you and it comes more down to personal preference and local climate. Balms and gels work better in colder, dryer climes, while tonics may be just what you are looking for at the height of summer.
Many aftershaves come with a distinctive scent. Pick one that suits your style or go scentless if you want your perfume or deodorant to be the main fragrance.
If you are prone to a rather harsh shave with numerous cuts as a result, opt for a higher alcohol content to remove dirt from open wounds to keep them clean. The alcohol will also limit the length that you will bleed meaning you won’t have to spend the morning with a piece of tissue on your chin. In addition, if burns are an issue go for cool gels that provide relief and help the skin recover quicker.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.