That’s How a Toilet Works

A riddle for you: The average person uses it about 2,500 times a year. Over a lifetime, you end up spending 3 months there. It gets the highest number of simultaneous visitors during Super Bowl halftime. Yep, today we’re talkin’ toilet! Let’s find out how it works!

Believe it or not, the key moving power behind today’s toilets is … gravity. But for gravity to pull our waste away, it needs some help. That’s where the commode’s specific design and engineering come into play. What happens when you flush will often depend on where you live in this world, but here are the basics…

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The main parts 0:54
Where all the magic happens 3:34
How they do that in Europe 4:59
Rivers of waste 5:58
Waterless lavatory 6:54

– There’s that tank behind you where you might have some decorative potpourri sitting on top. If you take the lid off, you’ll see a bunch of water sitting inside.
– The fill valve works a lot like a doorman at the club. It decides when there’s enough water and stops more of it from getting in.
– Once the water level gets to where it needs to be, a float rod attached to the ball pushes the fill valve so that extra water can’t get in.
– A typical American toilet has a handle on the side of the tank that you push down to flush. In Europe, some older places still have pull chains above the commode.
– When you press the handle or push the button to flush the toilet, it pulls on a chain that lifts this thing on the very bottom of the tank called the flapper.
– Water doesn’t just come out in one large stream but moves through scattered holes in the rim.
– Most of the water successfully leaves the system through the main drain, but some of it stays in the bowl.
– That big curved pipe under the toilet toward the wall – it’s called the S-bend, and that’s where all the magic happens!
– Thanks to that special curvature in the S-pipe, it creates something called a trap. When you fill the bowl with each flush, you overflow and break that trap, causing the main drain to literally pull the water down.
– Over in Europe, they use the washdown system. Instead of pulling the water out, it basically gets pushed down through the exit.
– That toilet water joins the soapy water from your daily showers, dishwashing, and laundry days.
– All those gigantic rivers of waste flow into treatment plants. There, they remove any harmful substances from the water – you can imagine how many germs are in there!
– The cleaning process takes a long time with all the proper chemical processing. And only after it’s definitely clean and safe, the water is set free into a nearby river or the ocean.
– The most famous waterless lavatory has to be the airplane toilet. They use a disinfecting liquid and powerful vacuum suction thanks to the air pressure difference inside and outside the cabin.

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