Remember when you were a little kid, and your mother would take you to the supermarket, and as you approached the glass doors you’d wave your hand at them… causing them to open…
It was almost like magic! Sure, deep down you probably knew there was some kind of science behind what was actually happening, but you didn’t care. All you cared about was that you waved your hand, and the door opened. Well now you can have that same “Jedi moment” every time you flush your toilet, thanks to the KOHLER Touchless Toilet Flush Kit.
The KOHLER Touchless Toilet Flush Kit does exactly what it sounds like: it flushes your toilet without you touching a handle. It’s essentially a small battery-powered motor with a proximity sensor. The motor hangs on the back of your toilet tank, just under the toilet lid (but still above the water line), like this:
Don’t worry if you have an older style flapper toilet that’s different than the canister style shown in the above marketing photo that I stole from KOHLER’s website. The kit installed fine in my regular toilet, too (KOHLER says it won’t work with ballcock types or top-mount dual-flush systems):
It took me all of about 10 minutes to install the kit (full disclosure: KOHLER sent me a free one to review). When activated, the Touchless kit does pretty much the same thing a manual toilet handle does: lifts up the chain, which opens the flapper, which allows the water in the tank to flow into the toilet bowl. It just does it automatically… without being touched… which is awesome.
After installing, I tested mine a few times before putting the lid on, and I have to admit I had serious doubts as to whether it would really be able to sense my hand through the thick porcelain lid. My fears, however, were totally unfounded. It worked just fine. In addition to the main actuator, KOHLER also provides a plug to fill the hole where the old handle connected to the tank, four AA batteries (which they claim should last a year), and a fancy sticker to place on your toilet lid to mark the approximate location of the sensor. Just hold your hand over the sticker for a second or two, listen for a soft beep, and then whoosh!
Check out Elle from “What’s up Moms!” as she shows just how easy this thing is to install and use:
I wasn’t sure how my wife would react to me installing this in our master bathroom toilet, but she loved it immediately. And I have to admit I love it, too. I’m sure she loves the fact that she doesn’t have to touch a germy toilet handle any more. But for me, I love using “The Force” to flush my toilet. However, no matter how much I beg, my wife still refuses to call me Luke Skypooper. And I didn’t even bother to ask her to refer to me as Poo-bacca, C3-Pee-O or R-#2-D-#2.
Potty humor aside, the KOHLER Touchless Flush Kit has only been installed in our toilet for a few days, but it’s worked flawlessly every time. And the more I use it, the more I wonder whether it might be helpful for parents of kids going through potty-training. It’s certainly more fun than using a regular old handle, and that can’t hurt when trying to give your potty-training kids that little extra incentive to answer the Call of Doody in the toilet. If you get one and try potty training with it, let me know about your experience in the comments.
At just under $100, the MSRP for the Touchless Flush Kit does seem a tad bit spendy. Hoewever, you easily can find them for around $50 on Amazon. At that price, it’s worth picking one up for the “geek factor” alone, regardless of any potential germ avoidance.
Bottom line: the KOHLER Touchless Flush Kit isn’t just a novelty item. It’s easy to install, it works as it should, and as long as you’re not paying full retail, I think it’s a good value. I recommend getting at least one to try it out (it’s easy to revert back to your regular handle if you don’t like it). I plan on picking up at least a couple more for some of the other toilets in the house, because I’ve already caught myself thinking “Oh, how quaint. A handle!” when using other toilets around the house. 🙂
As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below!
Feb 13, 2015 UPDATE
This product worked flawlessly for a few months. So flawlessly, in fact, that every time I waved my hand and magically flushed the toilet, I was actually impressed by how reliably it worked, flushing every time we wanted it to, and never when we didn’t.
But that changed last week. At about 3:00 am, I heard the toilet flush in the master bath. Since my wife was sound asleep beside me, I thought “Hmm, that’s strange,” and then I heard it flush again. I got up to investigate, and discovered that the toilet was flushing on its own about every 30 seconds. Other online reviews have referred to this as the “phantom flush.” Wanting to get back to sleep, I removed the tank lid, pulled the battery pack from the unit, decided to deal with the phantom flush after the sun came up, and went back to bed.
Later that day, I tried swapping out the batteries. I figured maybe the AA batteries that came with the unit had worn out after 4 months, and that fresh Duracells might do the trick. That seemed to work, until later that night, when I heard the phantom flush again. I yanked the battery pack, removed the lid again, and for the past few days we’ve been manually flushing the toilet by pulling the chain by hand.
Today, I called Kohler’s Customer Service phone number. I decided not to tell them that I was using a review unit (or that I’d be writing about this phone call on my blog), because I wanted to see how they’d handle a standard support call on this product, without thinking that the outcome might be written up online. I’ve dealt with Kohler Customer service in the past, and have never been disappointed, so I had high hopes.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Dashiqua, who apologized for the problem, verified my address, asked me where I’d purchased the unit (I lied and told her Home Depot — sorry Dashiqua), and then told me she’d look into what she could do to “solve my problem.” You gotta love that approach: apologize, verify info, and re-assure me that she’ll find a solution. This is the pattern for top-notch customer service, folks — and it’s exactly what I’ve experienced every single time I’ve dealt with Kohler.
After a brief moment on hold, Dashiqua returned to inform me that they were aware of the “phantom flush” problem, that they’d made some design modifications to the battery pack and the unit’s lid, and that she’d be happy to mail out the redesigned versions of both parts. The redesigned battery pack was in stock and would arrive in a few days, while the new lid was out of stock and would be sent as soon as they got more in. She advised me to put the battery pack in as soon as it arrived, and see if that solved the issue. Once it arrives, I’ll update this article.
For now, I’ve sadly re-installed the manual handle, and feel bummed that I can’t magically flush the toilet any more.
This must be how Superman felt in Superman II when he gave up his powers. 🙁
March 29, 2015 Update
KOHLER actually sent me the upgraded parts rather quickly, but I didn’t get around to installing them until this week. Check out my Product Update post to see if the new parts stopped the phantom flush!