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So you're looking to start on the bathroom makeover of your lifetime, but you don't want to end up in debt for the rest of your years because of it. The best thing for your bathroom in this situation might be to go green. While energy-efficient products may initially set you back a bit, their money-saving qualities are sure to keep you happy with your electricity and water bills for ages to come. While you're looking at designer shower curtains and sleek modern bathroom vanities, why not give a glance or two over these eco-friendly suggestions?


1. VOC-free paint. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are found in a variety of household substances, from craft glues to cleaning supplies, but one of the worst offenders can be paints. Most paints nowadays come with low-VOC certification, but why not go the extra mile (especially if you've got kids) and get VOC-free paint? It will look just as good and you'll know your air quality is 100-percent okay. The best part? It's a significantly minor cost increase.


2. A water-saving showerhead. If you're looking to cut the water bill in half, pair this with convincing your family to take slightly shorter showers. You'll have the same comfortable shower, but with a minimum of wasted water. Also, consider that hot water requires electricity to heat up - lowering your average shower temperature can reduce energy consumption as well.


3. An eco-friendly toilet. Whether you go dual flush or all the way with a composting toilet, there's no way a qualified model won't save on water without doing its job as efficiently as a regular toilet. Also, consider the green option of a bidet, which will help cut down on toilet paper use!


4. Organic cotton towels. While the price hike might be a bit higher than your average towel, you pay for what you get, and organic cotton is a quality material worthy of the investment. These towels will last for ages, retaining their softness and absorbency. Not to mention, you're giving your money to a company and movement invested in sustainability and green methods.


5. Take a look at your windows. Losing heat or the cool of air conditioning through a drafty or faulty window is like watching money slip through a hole in your pocket. As you remodel, be sure to give your bathroom the once-over for insulation as well as style.

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Keep your bathroom stylish through any season
Posted on Monday, July 30, 2012

The seasons will come and go, but that doesn't mean your bathroom needs to stay the same. While we dress up and decorate most rooms in our house in concert with the changes in weather and months, the bathroom tends to remain unaltered despite passing holidays and climate. Why not give your bathroom a little seasonal spark?


Start by keeping your linen cabinet well-stocked with plenty of stylish shower curtains for any annual occasion. Also, be sure to fill soap dispensers with the rotating scents of a season. Bring your bathroom to life and watch it grow and change with the calendar days.


Summer

Summertime is all about bright colors and plenty of sunlight. Keeping your windows open will not only give you an extra vent during hot showers, but will let in plenty of natural light and fresh air. Consider a shower curtain ablaze with yellows and oranges and switch over to soft cotton towels in white to take advantage of the pre-Labor Day fashion rules. As for hand soap, go for a coconut scent.


Fall

Beat the trees to their annual foliage change with gold and maroon hues for your autumnal bathroom. Why not plant a small pumpkin or gourd on your window ledge and fish out a shower curtain of falling leaves or a Halloween design? If you're looking for a great candle scent, look no further than cinnamon and apples or the rich sweetness of vanilla.


Winter

Winter will be all about warmth, so be sure to bring out the plush robes as well as the red and green towels. Consider decorating the rim of your bathroom mirror with a few strings of Christmas lights, and you'll want to go with something festive for your shower curtain as well. If you're trying to come up with some great hand soap or a few scented candles for the season, go for gingerbread, peppermint or cider.


Spring

With the warm weather on its way, be sure to put in a little spring cleaning to prep for the new season. While you're at it, invest in some new pastel-colored towels, grab an Egyptian cotton-scented candle and load up the soap dispenser with scents like cucumber melon or strawberry. Hang up a seashell-spotted shower curtain to fantasize about as you wait for those May beach days to arrive. 

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Imagine a world in which you rarely bathed, where running water was rare and drawing a bath downright inconvenient. You may not be surprised to learn that this world existed in France. In the 18th century, the men and women of France needed a way to bathe just the most imperative portions of their bodies on a regular basis. Rather than go through all the trouble of a lukewarm or cold tub of water, or venture into the Seine with a bar of soap, a method of quick cleaning for the nether regions was invented to keep folks feeling fresh.


While early bidets were nothing more than porcelain bowls of water conveniently fitted to chairs, the introduction of hand pumps soon led to cleansing jets of water and greater versatility. As plumbing advanced, chamber pots were replaced by our more modern toilets and found a home in the modern bathroom. Bidets soon followed.


The word itself is French, but doesn't stand for "uncomfortable posture" or any of the terms one might imagine. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, "bidet" is actually from the French word for a small horse, and if you've seen an old bidet demonstration or used one yourself, you'll understand why. Though modern models are shaped much more like toilets, the original bidets, being simple bowls, required a lot of squatting and straddling, not unlike you'd do with a horse.


So why has the bidet never caught on en masse in the States? Hygiene follows cultural lines, and the width of the Atlantic caused American and European thoughts on this matter to diverge slightly over the course of the 20th century. While Europeans take the extra care to clean their nether regions in a bidet as part of their regular bathroom activity, Americans have grown accustomed to the regularity of a daily shower. Bidets exist, but almost exclusively in the home, and not with the ubiquity of most bathroom fixtures.


While the bidet will never replace toilet paper as a self-cleaner, it can make a useful companion. You won't find many Americans willing to give up their TP in exchange, but using both water and paper to clean yourself makes common sense. As the popularity of the bidet grows and globalization brings world cultures together, perhaps the bathroom barriers will break down. It may be only a matter of time before the bidet becomes a happy inhabitant of your average public restroom.

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As the anchor of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain has long been home to a thriving cultural variety. From the Catalan language to island life in Ibiza or the Canary Islands, all of Spain is an icon of European grace and elegance. When we think of the country, it culls up the bright red of the matador's coat or the sublime facade of Madrid's city hall behind the world-famous fountain in the Plaza de Cibeles. Spain brings to mind a turbulent and impassioned history, the great armada, the modern skyline of Barcelona's financial district, the distinct cubism of Pablo Picasso and the dark vistas and beautiful, romantic nightmares of Francisco Goya. There is the white-capped border of the Pyrenees and the striking blue of the Mediterranean where it exchanges waters with the Atlantic. Spain is all of these things and more.


Imagine then if the entirety of a country could be encapsulated in a design. DecorPlanet.com is now proud to carry the Fresca Platinum line of bathroom products, inspired by and produced in Spain. Each one of the Fresca Platinum Bathroom Vanities is handcrafted in Spain using only the finest materials. Featuring slow-closing Hettich hinges and crystal drawer and cabinet handles by Swarovski, these are among the most beautiful and striking vanities available. Distinctly European, and taking décor touches from as wide as Vienna and Paris, these vanities embody the at once distinct and shared quality of Spain's own historic architecture and design.


The vanities come in heights between 24 and 47 inches, with widths up to 47.75 inches in the modern style. Go for variety with your vanity and equip it with LED lighting systems in the mirror and real leather and solid wood cabinets. These cabinets are of a unique quality and design seldom seen in the United States.


Let your bathroom transcend international boundaries. Paired with a variety of other bathroom accessories, from stylish shower panels to large and efficient storage cabinets in the modern style and sleek faucets, your Fresca Platinum Bathroom Vanity will come to vibrant life, and despite its fresh modern appearance, will maintain the age and European persona of its country of origin. DecorPlanet.com is happy to provide these gorgeous vanities to customers, so why not be happy to furnish your home with one? Give your bathroom a touch of continental charm.

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Although people may profess to love each room in their homes equally, they're liars. Rooms are not children, there's no unconditional love being handed out just because they're yours. Furthermore, you don't dote on rooms equally. You may be more likely to invest in your third new HDTV in as many years for your living room while your bathroom towels remain threadbare. Sometimes when a room can't be conquered, we just leave it be and let it settle in its inadequacy.


Bathrooms especially fit this bill. They're small, difficult to take care of and become gross really easily. Bathroom cleanliness drops exponentially - the difference between several days without a cleaning and two weeks is the difference between a hospital surgery and a superfund site. So when it's time to clean, don't be surprised when apathy overcomes disgust. And at that point, it's time to face it. You hate your bathroom.


The DIY Network has a show for just these individuals. I Hate My Bath follows the remodeling adventures of host Jeff Devlin, a licensed contractor, as he helps homeowners find economical and unique ways to redesign their spaces and rethink their accessories. Rather than take out a bank loan just to finish your tiling, follow Jeff as he shows you a cheap and fantastic way to fall back in love with your bathroom.


None other than Decorplanet.com will be featured on an upcoming episode. As Jeff consoles the poor individual who's fallen out with his or her bathroom, a variety of vanities, medicine cabinets, faucets, storage cabinets and a shower panel and snazzy wall-hung toilet will make appearances, courtesy of Decorplanet.com.


While the deluxe Fresca vanities are sure to draw a few interested eyes (as will the Fresca faucets, shower panels and storage cabinet), the show-stealer should end up being the wall-hung toilet. This TOTO toilet with Dual-Max flushing - meaning high efficiency - is stylish, space saving and pairs perfectly with an in-wall tank. You won't have seen anything quite like it in a home bathroom before.


So while only time will tell, it's a pretty safe bet that Jeff and the I Hate My Bath team will leave this session of restroom counseling and makeover with a happy ending. Be sure to tune in on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 at 10pm/9pm C!

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End-of-summer remodeling for the cooler season
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012

As summer begins to fade, the leaves turn, kids head back to school, evenings shorten and the air catches a chill. It's the perfect time of year for a long, hot bath. While luxuriating in piping hot water during the summer isn't anyone's idea of relaxing, the chill autumn weather is ideal for precisely this. Crack a window, light a few candles and settle in with a paperback.


But before you begin reaping the benefits of slightly chillier weather, why not take the late summer months to remodel your bathroom for a spa-like feel? Beat the pre-winter rush and have your bathroom made over for the season as a warm little haven with all the touches and amenities of a five-star hotel.


Looking for a few fantastic ideas? Consider these tips - small and large - for making the most of your tub, towels and accessories.


1. Use a window instead of a fan. Even the quietest exhaust fan causes a whirring that can be distracting to the individual looking for nothing more than a silent soak. Why not crack a window instead? The dichotomy of cold air and a hot tub can make for a comfortable contrast. Just be sure to install frosted glass in any low-lying windows.


2. Invest in a nice pair of robes. There's no question that the after-bath robe is like the ideal dessert to a delicious dinner. Whether you prefer your robes light and silky or thick and fluffy, have more than one on hand and be sure your robe hooks are worthy of them. There's no reason to install a shoddy robe hook in your bathroom - choose something with class and sophistication.


3. Have great towels. As excellent as robes are, you'll need a towel to give yourself a quick dry off, and when guests come to stay it's always important to share your best ones with them as well. Also, be sure to invest in a towel bar. Some even heat up and keep your towels warm for you.


4. Consider under-floor heating. This heating method is a great way to keep your floor warm any time of year. While you can easily heat the whole bathroom with radiant heat through convection, turn it up just a little for a pleasant floor temperature when you step out of the bath rather than deal with the cold shock of tile.

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If you're in the market for an electronic toilet paper dispenser that cuts your toilet paper for you in tiered increments from 23.6 to 47.2 inches, you're either very eco-conscious, very lazy or about to be overjoyed. Whichever it may be, the Japanese company Shikoku has come to save the day with the incredible Camitool, a touch-free toilet paper dispenser.


What's the purpose? Hygiene mostly. Who knows where previous toilet paper-touching hands have been? (You probably don't want to guess.) That's one of the reasons why the Camitool is selling to hospitals.


"...Because there's no need to touch the lid," a representative from Shikoku explained to DigInfo TV, "this dispenser is also an effective way to improve hygiene."


Not to mention, it's tailor-made for those with disabilities who may have trouble pulling and tearing at a typical toilet paper roll. But the Camitool has another purpose.


"It helps to conserve resources," the representative went on, "because it only dispenses paper in specific lengths."


But of course, it's the interior blade that makes the Camitool a long-awaited step in hands-free electronic toilet paper dispensing. Rotating the paper between two blades, the machine is able to cut your specified length before dispensing. It's a neat trick, to be sure. But how much will one of these set you back?


"The plastic version is priced at 60,000 yen (US$750)," the company rep told the source. And then there's the 95,000 yen - or $1,200 - made-to-order wooden edition, presumably for the outhouse or discerning lumberjack.


While the Camitool marks an advancement in developing restroom tools for individuals with disabilities, it also raises the question of how much the average individual needs restroom guidance. We don't have our magazine pile dispensing what it sees as appropriate reading material after all, or a medicine cabinet that advises us on that day's blush and eyeliner.


As for the Camitool's hygienic advantages, for some hospitals, no price is too high to assure cleanliness. Office buildings are another matter. Unless Shikoku comes out with a wholesale Groupon, don't expect to see the Camitool cropping toilet paper at work any time soon.

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Treating your bathroom as an art gallery
Posted on Monday, July 23, 2012

While you're not likely to lure potential patrons in with a wine and cheese showing, there's no reason why your bathroom shouldn't have a flair for the arts. While anyone interested in beautifying his or her bathroom with a touch of fine art is probably already outfitted with a mind for interior design, you'll want to make sure that the first style elements you pay attention to are the walls themselves before you decide what goes on them.


Beautifully painted walls can only bring out the best in a bathroom's décor. From the vanity to the toilet and the shower curtain, all aspects of your space are going to take their style and color cues from the background and ambiance offered by your walls. Depending on the sort of art you're considering touching up your bathroom with, you may want to go with various paint shades. Think about your particular aesthetic, then consider your wall color before embarking on your artwork choices.


Need a hand figuring out what aesthetic fits you best? Look no further than these handy suggestions.


1. Cat person or dog person. Animal-themed bathrooms are always popular, but none so much as those that declare which side the homeowner falls on in the battle between cats and dogs. If you plan to have a kitty-shaped soap dispenser or wall prints of paw prints, you may want to consider eggshell or light blue for your bathroom's colors. These will contrast well with black lab silhouettes or tabby stripes.


2. The fine art major. So you don't mind studying Cézanne as you brush your teeth, and John Ruskin is your idea of commode reading material. If you can delineate where Renoir stops, Picasso begins and Helen Frankenthaler took off, then you might want to go with either the stark white of the Louvre, the grays of the Met or the ever-changing and dynamic hues of a museum of contemporary art.


3. The traveler. Sometimes the imagination is touched off by the functional more than the sublime. If you're the sort who likes to spin a globe and stop it short with a poke of your finger, maybe framed maps would be more up your décor alley. A NYC subway shower curtain, a street map of Paris, the entirety of Peru - your imagination is your only limit! As for wall colors, go with sky blues or sea greens to remind yourself of all the travel that still awaits you.

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Six great green tips for your bathroom
Posted on Friday, July 20, 2012

When it's so easy to make a mess of the bathroom, why do so in such a way as to make a mess of the earth? Keeping your bathroom in top condition is one way to stay green - the cleaner and better ventilated it is, the fewer chemicals you'll have to use to get rid of that mold and mildew once it's settled in.


But the steps you can take to keep your bathroom green stretch far beyond a regular cleaning, a good ventilating fan and a few cracked windows. If you want to reduce, reuse and recycle throughout your whole home, the bathroom is a great place to start. Consider these six tips to get you started. Do the planet a favor - you'll feel better at the end of the day.


1. Water-saving toilet. Eco-friendly toilets are becoming a popular investment for homeowners. Light on water and easy on the earth, these efficient and powerful machines are the future of bathrooms.


2. Organic cleaning supplies. You will always have to clean - from the toilet to your vanity, shower curtain and tub. But keep in mind that preventative cleaning will help you avoid having to take out the big guns like bleach and ammonia. Instead, use a steady prescription of organic and all-natural cleaning supplies.


3. Get recycled toilet paper. Though at first it sounds like a terrible idea, recycled toilet paper can help make a slight dent in the deforestation of the world. It might not seem like much, but over a lifetime that's quite a few trees you're saving.


4. Shorten your showers. If you think a toilet flush uses a lot of water, consider all that excess that makes it down the drain if you nod off for five minutes during your morning shower. Don't waste water, keep showers short and remember that age-old wisdom about brushing your teeth at the sink as well - the tap doesn't need to be on the whole time.


5. Use all-natural toiletries. Just as you've invested in organic cleaners, greening your toiletries is a great chance to contribute to the environmental movement. From all-natural toothpastes to eco-friendly makeup, you'll be doing your body, the industry and the planet some good.


6. Remember to turn out the lights. This is the easiest and most overlooked of all green opportunities, even in the bathroom. Get in the habit and never lose it!

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If the late Swedish crime fiction author Stieg Larsson, who gave us The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, had lived to see this, it might easily have fueled a brand new trilogy.


A 38-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman were caught red-handed leaving the scene of a crime, laden with stolen tea, coffee and a pilfered toilet seat. The fact that the scene in question was a courthouse is not an irony that's escaped any news outlets, from The Huffington Post to a number of Swedish sources. The restroom robbers left a court hearing before raiding the break room and removing the seat of an innocent toilet in the commode. They were spotted on security footage attempting to break into a storage locker and were met by police just outside the building in Kristianstad.


Thankfully, Swedish authorities are treating the situation with the necessary gravity.


"It's been said they had been at a hearing," Mikael Persson, a member of Kristianstad police, told the local Swedish newspaper Kristianstadbladet. "They clearly thought what was said was crap."


It turns out these two thieves may be wanted for other crimes as well - they're being held under suspicion of robbery as well as attempted robbery. But why would anyone want to steal a toilet seat in the first place? Were the Crown Jewels of England the regular recipient of bare rears, a thief might think twice before snatching them up.


While Larsson might have come up with a caper worthy of Conan Doyle, the truth of the matter is much more banal. Much like a picked-over car, toilets make for popular parts and scrap fencing. Parts may also show up on lists during especially unusual scavenger hunts.


While there are a limited number of ways to ensure that your own toilet seat isn't stolen (one of which is simply to have normal friends), you can make sure that it's worth stealing. Keeping your toilet seat in gorgeous and pristine condition is a great way to elevate your bathroom from merely normal to gorgeous. Keep your toilet in good shape with regular scrubbing and cleaning. Use high-quality brushes and bleach, and keep scented candles and a book of matches around, since half one's experience with a room's cleanliness is olfactory.


Just remember that if someone does take off with your beautiful seat, lid or bowl, it can't be anything other than a crime of passion.

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Are your parents visiting? Is your apartment going to host a dinner party? Perhaps you're just frightened to enter your bathroom and deal with the vestiges of several weeks' lack of sweeping. Whatever the reason, there's no bad time to delve in and give your bathroom a good deep cleaning.


More than any other space in the house, a bathroom bears the brunt of our messes and, at the same time, demands good hygienic conditions. Find a few hours one weekend to scrub, sweep, scour and sweeten up your bathroom. Looking for a place to start? Worried you might've missed a spot? Check out this definitive how-to list and get cleaning - just remember to be wary of mixing noxious chemicals, especially ammonia and bleach, both of which are common in bathroom cleaning products.


1. The mirrors. This one's easy. Want a streak-free and beautiful vision of yourself staring back out of the mirror? Grab some Windex or other premier glass cleaner and go to town.


2. The countertops. Depending on your countertop material, you'll want to switch between a sponge or something that scrubs just a bit more roughly. Invest in a good bathroom cleaning mixture for these, and go all-natural or germ-killing to fit your own tastes. Just make sure you've buffed out every bit of makeup, toothpaste and dried soap left behind on the vanity.


3. The floor. Sweep every dust bunny and stray hair into a neat little pile, then vacuum that up. A Swiffer mop isn't a bad investment for your bathroom - it picks up everything you can't see. And never neglect to sweep behind the toilet!


4. The shower and bathtub. There are several preventative measures you can take when it comes to cleaning your tub. First, squeegee down shower doors and wall tiles after a wash. This will help cut down considerably on mildew. And never forget to clear the drain of hair and soap scum. Go about cleaning your tub the same way you attacked your counter tops. When you're scrubbing away, be sure to wear rubber gloves, especially when using commercial rust-removing products or drain cleaners.


5. Your toilet. Here it is, the final frontier of your bathroom cleansing. Start by letting some toilet bowl cleaner, usually containing bleach, sit in the water for several minutes, then scrub away with a long-handled brush (you might want to toss this out afterward), flush and scrub again. Repeat until things are looking good.

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There are several reasons why you may want to visit Lucas, Kansas, population approximately 400, as you pass north of Wichita. The first is an interest in the popular World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things attraction. There's also scenic Wilson Lake, Flying Pig Studio and Gallery as well as a number of other grassroots folk art attractions. And now there's officially Bowl Plaza - home to the artiest toilets the world has ever seen.


As previously covered, Lucas had been raising funds for an epic first flush event. Having collected bids through a variety of auctions (silent, live and even eBay), the citizens and visitors from far and wide saw off the inaugural toilet use in style. The pomp and circumstance was nothing to shrug off, either!


A parade of costumed townspeople and travelers, a formal lecture on poop, toilet paper roll Olympics and a talent show were only the start of the day's events. According to the Salina Journal, attendees led the parade with toilet plungers held aloft beside scrub brushes as the official first-time flushers preceded the mass dressed in regal capes and (fittingly) paper crowns.


The 90-year-old Dorothy Johnson, one of the royal few, is a singularly lucky woman. She was given the improbable honor of a first flush after winning a silent auction for one of the four stalls.


"I didn't think this thing would have so much notoriety," she told the source.


But the opening has garnered an astounding amount of attention - from folks out of town, out of state and even a group of students willing to travel through summer vacation.


Bowl Plaza, which abuts the Grassroots Art Center, looks like a toilet from a distance. The ring of benches outside the toilet tank-shaped building makes for comfortable sitting while waiting for visitors to do their business indoors. The bathrooms themselves are clean and only cluttered by stylish porcelain art. Naturally, the individual stalls carry punny names, such as the "Superbowl" and "Oval Office," proving there's no shortage of wit in the rural Midwest.


Ever wanted more mosaics in your commode? The denizens of Lucas have answered that call, colorfully and with a sense of humor.

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Puns abound in Walmart super glue incident
Posted on Tuesday, July 17, 2012

While it's not the first prank to be treated with gravity, it still may come as a shock to the felons who put a quick coating of superglue on the seat of a Monticello, Kentucky, Walmart toilet that they are wanted for charges of second degree assault. That's one serious April Fools.


When a Kentucky woman, who has understandably retained her anonymity, took a quick bathroom break during a shopping trip, she soon found that she couldn't get up from her toilet seat - and wouldn't for about an hour. After another individual heard the woman crying out from her stall, paramedics were summoned. The medical team worked carefully to remove the woman from the porcelain bowl, but were unable to extricate her from the seat itself. That was, thankfully, removed at an emergency room.


Who could perpetrate such a deeply uncomfortable prank? Or was it all a sticky twist of fate?


"We're looking at it," Monticello Police Department Chief Ralph Miniard told the Kentucky Post. "Right now, I wouldn't be prepared to say which way it was - accident or intention."


While officials aren't pointing fingers in any particular direction, the chances of a toilet seat becoming coated in super glue via innocent circumstances seem slim to none. It's also not the first case in which Walmart, adhesives and an innocent posterior came together. A similar fate befell a Maryland man earlier in the year.


Could there be a repeat offender? A serial super glue fiend? Or just a copycat prankster? Whoever these criminals might be, they've left their victims stuck in unfortunate situations.


These super glue crimes are also indicative of larger public restroom phobias. What's the best way to cure concern over shared toilet seats? While some might scoff at the ubiquitous paper toilet seat covers found in many establishments, one of those could have saved the anonymous duo of victims a lot of trouble.


Though no one should fear a Walmart bathroom, be sure to use proper sanitary etiquette and count on others to do the same. Clean up your messes, alert employees about replacing toilet paper or soap and don't ruin someone's day with a prank.


If the pranksters do exist and are still at large, hopefully Maryland and Kentucky police can hunt them down before they strike again. If it was all just an accident, one might want to be extra wary of where they casually lay their keister next.

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People have delivered children in a variety of places. Traditional locations include hospital rooms and taxi cabs (often during traffic jams and on the way to the hospital rooms). Once upon a time, everyone gave birth at home. New trends are popularizing birthing pools. But one of the least popular options is usually not an option at all - just random coincidence.


When a young, anonymous mother started giving birth in a toilet stall at a Shanghai mall, shop clerks, customers and sanitary workers rushed to her assistance after hearing the cries of sudden labor pains. Though an ambulance and medical team were called, the woman gave birth in the mall bathroom with the assistance of the various good Samaritans who showed up.


Somewhere in here is a great satirical social commentary.


"One worker helped by holding the baby carefully in her hands, while she was still attached to her mother via the umbilical cord," a security staff member told the Shanghai Daily in detail. "And others called an ambulance."


While the mall restroom is a poor place to give birth, westerners might find it an uncomfortable place to even use the toilet. In Shanghai and many other Chinese cities, restrooms are usually stocked with squat toilets or troughs that make tiny European models look positively luxurious by comparison.


While hotel and airport toilets are in solid shape, it's rare to find a western-style porcelain bowl once you're in the city. Public toilets are almost always squat basins with little to no toilet paper and antiquated plumbing systems. Expect startling hygienic conditions as a traveler abroad. Chinese public toilets are not famous for their decorum.


So you can imagine that being born in one might not be the healthiest or most noble of births. But it seems that the mystery young woman and her infant have made it through just fine. Following the mall debacle, the mother and child were carried by ambulance and admitted to Shanghai First Maternity and Child's Health Hospital, where both were declared healthy by doctors.


While what could have been a major health risk turned out okay for the mother and child, with any luck, the restroom situation in Shanghai and China's many provinces will improve with time. Not just for hotel guests caught needing to pee while out on a day trip, but for the many citizens who still lack the essential plumbing to maintain a healthy habitable home.

 

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It's how we see objects, how we perceive colors, how we gauge distances and even how we know the right kind of toothpaste to brush our teeth with. Lighting is the key to all of life's functions, and that includes the ones that happen behind bathroom doors.


Lighting your bathroom is just as essential as lighting a kitchen, living room, home office or garage - and in some cases, more important. It's where we go to put ourselves together in the mornings and evenings. It's where we pour steaming baths and try to unwind after another busy day. It's where we most require a little privacy - and even clearly visible reading material. Bathroom lighting is very important.


But there are also a variety of types, and depending on what your spa, primping or regular expectations are, you'll want them in the perfect light.


1. Natural light. Large windows and bathrooms may not seem to go hand-in-hand, but just as with any other space in your home, the bathroom really benefits from a healthy dose of natural light. It's good for the brain and even your décor. Don't be afraid to open some windows and let in the daytime glow.


2. Overhead lighting. Unfortunately we don't have the benefits of natural light 24 hours a day, and on a cloudy afternoon, big windows just won't cut it. Overhead lighting is essential to any bathroom, but you should do your best to make sure it fits your style and theme. This concerns more than just the light fixtures, though - whether you use warm light or a white that more accurately represents the color spectrum, you want to keep your bathroom feeling relaxed and cozy.


3. Vanity lighting. While overhead lighting can be useful for most bathroom activities, using your vanity for grooming, applying makeup or even brushing your teeth benefits from very specific lighting. Your vanity lighting should be focused and all about attention to detail. Be sure to pick bulbs and fixtures that don't skew colors.


4. Candles. One of several spa essentials, candles are classic bathroom lighting for when you want nothing but the relaxing and therapeutic flicker of a few tiny flames. But not all candles are created equal! Look into soy scented candles for an aromatic and clean burning alternative to paraffin. 

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Crafting that daydream home spa in your bathroom
Posted on Monday, July 16, 2012

Is there any finer afternoon activity than coming home after work, pouring a steaming hot bath, lighting a few candles and sprinkling in some bath oils, then relaxing with an absorbing book or by resting your eyes? The only way to improve on an hour like this is to step out of your beautiful porcelain tub into an interior designer's dream. Everyone fantasizes about the perfect home spa, so why not begin making over your bathroom into that imagined ideal?


If you're considering taking the next step toward a spa bathroom, you'll want to consider a few tips along the way, from the right flooring to the ideal candles and necessary soundtrack. As you embark on your remodeling and redecorating project, keep a few of these essential tips in mind.


1. Find your style. 18th century French aristocratic elegance, Swiss mountain hot springs, Roman spas or Japanese bath houses - find an inspiration and you'll find a theme.


2. Settle on your materials. Let your bathroom's style inform your construction choices. From granite to porcelain or even hardwood, a bathroom can be constructed from a wide variety of materials. Don't fear splurging - it's worth it for your home spa.


3. Pick your vanity. While your toilet and bath or shower are the most essential features of your bathroom, they don't hold the eye-catching command or multi functional importance of your bathroom vanity. Yours should be an expert mix of efficient storage and glamour. Let your vanity be the bathroom's focal point.


4. Begin establishing your décor. Informed in part by your established style and in part by its own themes, your décor will encapsulate wallpaper, colors, prints, mirrors, towel racks, doorknobs, shower curtains, ceiling and wall lighting fixtures, soap dishes, candle holders, plants and every other facet of your bathroom. Collect and establish these items slowly to let your home spa accumulate its own character.


5. Pay attention to lighting. Lighting may be one of the most important and overlooked parts of remodeling a bathroom as a home spa. Don't be afraid of large windows and natural light. At night and in the evenings, avoid harsh whites or fluorescents - anything too bright will mean discomfort, and that's the last thing any spa needs.

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The spirit of San Diego's annual Comic-Con has always been playful, so it's not surprising that the final clues of a long scavenger hunt led a group of avid Avenger fans to a quirky endpoint. After hours of searching, 300 dedicated attendees were led into the United Artist 14 Theater. As the lights dimmed, a familiar face popped up on the screen.


"I am coming to you live from a bathroom stall in Wilmington, North Carolina," quipped Robert Downey Jr., who was, indeed, seated on a toilet. "Where I am prepping to shoot the very famous toilet escape sequence from Iron Man 3."


Though no such toilet escape exists, that didn't stop the Comic-Con group from laughing and clapping with delight. Downey, whose career has been on a constant upward trajectory since the release of the first Iron Man film in 2008, managed to capture the perfect mix of enthusiasm and humor befitting his porcelain perch.


Briefly recapping the events of the Iron Man tie-in film The Avengers, this spring's big-budget comic book adaptation, Downey reminded fans that a very important plot point remained to be tied. What was that story strand's fate?


"So I'll let you see it for yourself," said Downey. "This exclusive short film directed by my dear friend and Marvel [Comics] co-president - isn't that synchronistic - Louis D'Esposito."


Downey's announcement was quickly followed by an 11-minute short film detailing an epilogue to The Avengers, in which a young New York couple stumbles across an alien weapon of astounding power. The film, which stars Lizzy Caplan and Jesse Bradford, will get a wide release on the upcoming Avengers Blu-Ray.


But the question remains - why a toilet? Was it Downey's particular brand of irreverence or a particular love of bathroom lighting fixtures and vanity cabinets? More likely than not, it was a sound mixing issue. When you're making cinema-shaking announcements about one of the biggest (and already most successful) franchises in film history, you want to be sure your fans can hear you.


And thankfully they did - not that Downey's or Marvel's assured success at the movies is in any danger. With combined domestic box office takes of over $600,000,000, according to Box Office Mojo, the past two Iron Man movies have secured future films - especially considering The Avengers broke six million all on its own. With star power like that, Downey's not getting flushed any time soon.

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Everyone has been in that nightmare situation when it seems that you'll either suffer irreparable harm from a burst bladder or have to go in the street. Not a single Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks or Barnes and Noble seems to have a bathroom (where do these employees pee?), there aren't any local public toilets (where are your tax dollars possibly going?) and it seems like your life has never been and will never be so heartbreakingly difficult.


Well, luckily, there's an app for that. A whole bunch, in fact. There are also a few common sense tips. And, in Australia, there's even a nation-wide public toilet map.


A number of iPhone and Android apps exist to give you a helping hand finding public toilets. The handy GPS features equipped on smartphones mean that apps can pinpoint exactly where the closest public toilet is to your location (provided you've got plenty of WiFi and/or cell service). One of the lead smartphone applications is produced by Charmin (the toilet paper company featuring the cuddly bears). The tongue-in-cheek title, Sit or Squat, delineates the line between clean and comfortable restrooms and the sort of greasy spoon and trucker joints you won't want to stick around in longer than you have to. Although beggars can't be choosers, it's a useful tool to have in a pinch - especially for the squeamish.


For those ill-equipped for public toilet apps, there are some common sense rules to follow. Parks and public spaces used for concerts or city-related events are more likely to house public toilets, as are government buildings. Don't expect public transportation to offer any opportunities, however. When down in the subway or waiting for a bus, you're probably on your own. Bustling downtown fast food restaurants - ones with high traffic and few seats - aren't likely to have public restrooms either, so don't waste your time hunting around in them. A good tip would be to check movie theaters.


The other option is to move to Australia. Here, the government has noted more than 10,000 public toilets on an interactive online map that can be searched by location or - for the merely curious - browsed. While they don't offer printed editions of the map, it is quite a sight to see and can be linked up to your smartphone's GPS. Talk about a great use for tax dollars!

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Livening up your guest bathroom for Labor Day weekend
Posted on Thursday, July 12, 2012

For most of us, Labor Day weekend is the final cookout of the summer - a last chance to celebrate in the sun. While this holiday will probably include a busy grill, cooler full of beers and backyard game of wiffle ball, it assuredly means hosting swarms of relatives, friends and neighbors. A few of these you may have to put up for the night as well, so while you'll want the guest bedroom stocked with new sheets, freshly plumped pillows and plenty of space for suitcases, the bathroom is the real place to primp and prepare.


Family or not, your guests' comfort is of the utmost importance, and where should they feel most at home other than the bathroom? If you're looking for some prep tips for your guest bathroom in time for the Labor Day overnighters, consider these suggestions.


1. Keep it cool. No matter your personal color preferences, don't go too gloomy or bright with your guest bathroom hues. Keep the color scheme cool and airy - light blues and creamy whites. And be sure there's a plentiful natural light source with operational blinds or curtains, of course.


2. Don't skimp on the vanity. Bathrooms all have a focal point, and it's almost always the vanity. A great vanity shows taste and class while remaining functional and providing plenty of storage.


3. Provide amenities. While there's no expectation that you should offer hotel service, it might make a nice touch to offer your guests a few amenities beyond toilet paper or towels. Stock a nightstand drawer or the linen cabinet with extra toothbrushes, shampoo, bars of soap or any other items your overnighters might have forgotten at home. Don't be subtle about it - leave a note on the bathroom mirror.


4. Get some potted plants. While this is an excellent rule of thumb to follow anywhere in your house, it's especially true in your guest bathroom, where air quality is especially integral, so invest in a potted plant or two. These all-natural air-fresheners are a great way to keep the room's oxygen smelling sweet.


5. Have comfortable towels. Perhaps the number one rule of overnight hosting is to provide the most luxurious and comfortable towels your guests have ever had the pleasure of using. It can make all the difference between an average and amazing bathroom experience.

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People have done crazy things for charity, others have done impressive things, a grand majority have done uninteresting things and then Simon Griffiths did an odd thing. But before that, he had a really great idea.


Before Griffiths' recent and odd charitable decision, he founded the toilet paper company Who Gives a Crap. If it seems that the confrontationally-titled bathroom tissue company is trying to get your attention, it is. Who Gives a Crap takes its business model very seriously, and you should too. For every roll of toilet paper you buy, 50 percent of your money goes toward the construction of new toilets in a number of developing countries.


The other half of Who Gives a Crap's business model is much simpler. Just as roadwork will never stop being a necessity, toilet paper has some of the best job security among bathroom products - it's guaranteed to sell. Griffiths and his company just want to make sure it sells well by producing the best and softest recycled toilet paper ever.


But to launch the business itself, Who Gives a Crap is going to need some money. That's where the odd charity movement comes in. Or, rather, lack of movement.


Griffiths, who has reddish-blonde hair, a bearded face and understandably haunted eyes, makes an appeal from a toilet in a video on his indieGoGo campaign page. Until his company is able to raise the $50,000 they need to start helping sanitation in developing nations, he won't get up. And as we all know, that means the poor guy will be dealing with some awful pins and needles in his legs. It's been well over a day already.


"I'm sitting down for what I believe in," Griffiths deadpans in his video. And though his pants are around his ankles, he looks a little ridiculous in his sandy sports jacket. While it's rare 10 seconds go by without as many puns, it's clear that he and his enterprise are in earnest.


So, whether you're a campaign contributor or not, it's certainly worth keeping an eye on Who Gives a Crap. Cleanly operating bathrooms are a vital part of a functioning society, so Griffiths' company's proposed charity could make a huge difference in the world. There's no shortage of need out there, either of toilet paper or helping hands.

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Lucy Sanchez is 66, and at that age she deserves to use the toilet in her own bathroom without bringing an umbrella with her. But such is life for the residents of the Bronx's Mt. Eden building, which is owned by College Management, the certified worst landlord in New York City.


"I spent three years sitting on the toilet with an umbrella," Sanchez told The New York Daily News. The leaking ceiling in her bathroom got so bad that the tenant ended up shelling out the cash to fix it herself.


This is not the worst of the horrors haunting Mt. Eden or either of its two neighboring buildings on College Ave. There are rats hellbent on getting into refrigerators, a permanent infestation of cockroaches, toxic lead paint, a lack of fire detectors, collapsed ceilings and a case of chronic asthma from the building's dust (that toxic paint is peeling) for 57-year-old Minarda Pimental.


But the residents have risen up in their defense, suing College Management through the Bronx Housing Court. Just as importantly, College Management has been brought out into the open on Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's list of the city's very worst landlords. Its position? Number one out of 330 offenders in over 360 buildings.


"It takes years of neglect for a building to deteriorate to the point where it ends up on our Watch List," de Blasio told CBS New York. "But with enough public pressure and strong tenant organizing, we can turn these buildings around and make life better for thousands of New Yorkers."


If it takes years of neglect to end up on the Watch List, College Management must have been doing double duty. A quick stroll through the three notorious College Management properties in the Bronx would reveal over 700 housing code violations, so with any luck these tenants will be living in actual comfort before long. If there's one lady who deserves to enjoy a nice bathroom vanity without worrying about rain, it's Lucy Sanchez.


Health and housing violations can be a serious matter, so if you feel that your rented home isn't fit for occupation - a good sign is carrying an umbrella inside - seek out your landlord, and if they won't listen to reason, get involved with a local tenants' rights organization. 

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Many of us have heard plenty of toilet-related horror stories. There's the classic tale of the rat that got into the pipes or the snake that worked its way up the drain and into the bowl. Then there are the urban legends about airplane toilet mishaps or cherry bomb pranks gone terribly wrong. At the end of the day, these terrors have no traction compared to the reality of accidentally flushing 8,000 euros in engagement rings.


Ashling Cahill was staying at the Bellinter House Hotel in Navan, County Meath, Ireland, and wrapped her engagement and pre-engagement rings in toilet paper to store in her wash bag. However, when the bag spilled over into the toilet, Cahill's friend Imogen Gunner casually flushed what she thought was a wad of toilet paper down the loo.




Cahill's epithet once she found out could only have been situationally-appropriate.


A search of Tolkien proportion for the rings immediately went underway. A total of 12 men from a variety of waste water services and septic tank companies volunteered their help. Over the course of eight hours, these volunteers plumbed the depths of their generosity as well as the hotel's septic tank. When toilet cameras and a vacuum failed, a particularly brave man named Barry Benson made a series of spelunking excursions into the tank on his own in search of the lost rings. Unfortunately, he came up empty handed.


"The guy ... has confined space training," Jim Phibbs, director of one of the responding wastewater services, told the BBC. "[He] went down three times with oxygen tanks each lasting 20 minutes."


While Cahill and Gunner's friendship seems to be on stable grounds (Gunner is still scheduled to be the singing talent at Cahill's upcoming wedding), the question remains of how avoidable this accident was. Should Gunner have opened the floating tissue before flushing?


Or, perhaps we should all just be careful about where we keep our valuables and toiletry bags. Over the gaping maw of the toilet bowl is never an advisable place to put your things, unless you're dying to be out 8,000 euros and make international news.


"This was a complex operation," Phibbs added. One can only imagine poor Benson's evaluation of that understatement.

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It's probably every flyer's second-worst nightmare. On a recent American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Dallas, actor and sometimes-political-aide Kal Penn and other passengers were part of an emergency landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This wasn't due to an engine failure, radar misreading or Air Marshal arrest, but something potentially far worse. Penn, proving himself a voice of his generation, immediately took to Twitter.


"Unexpected landing cuz toilets overflowed on @AmericanAir," tweeted the former star of House and the trilogy of Harold and Kumar comedies. "My 1st emergency landing cuz of poop. Kinda funny kinda not."


Included with the tweet published on the TMZ was a photo of a blue lavatory waste truck rushing to the rescue.


While Penn's visceral description is the stuff of nightmares, it may be that he overreacted just a little.


"The lavatories were inoperable, so we landed in Albuquerque briefly to service them, for the convenience of our customers," said a representative for American Airlines shortly after the incident. "We apologized to our passengers for the inconvenience."


While the reality diminishes the horror of Penn's report, it does draw some important and significant attention to airline bathroom etiquette, hygiene and safety. We're all familiar with the waterless vacuum toilets on planes, and considering how

powerful those are, it's pretty unlikely that a clog living up to the level of Penn's story would occur. However, toilets are known to malfunction, and it's good to know that contingency plans are in place for such an event. Despite the inconvenience, American Airlines probably made the right choice servicing the toilets in Albuquerque. "Better safe than sorry" takes on entirely new levels of gross in an airborne clogged toilet situation.


Patented in the '70s and first appearing on aircrafts in the early '80s, the modern vacuum toilet uses little liquid and a lot of suction to do its job. One of the greatest features of the model is that it sucks the vapor out of the air, leaving bathrooms smelling cleaner and more sanitary. While the old urban legend about the dangers of sitting on an airplane toilet when you flush are still up in the air (but unlikely), it's not a bad water-saving way to go about one's business. No wonder home models are available! And, because there's no liquid that can overflow, it looks like Penn's tweet was the exaggerated account.

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Suwon, a city just outside Seoul, has long been pioneering the importance of toilets. Rather than grudgingly accepting its position as the home of toilet innovation - because some city had to be - Suwon has embraced everything about the iconic porcelain bowl. So much so, in fact, that the former mayor, Sim Jae-Duck, had for years gone by the pseudonym Mr. Toilet. And why not? Sim Jae-Duck was the founder of the World Toilet Associations (an international group dedicated to toilet sanitation), redefined toilet and restroom quality in Korea, built a toilet-shaped house and was even supposedly born in a bathroom!


When Sim Jae-Duck, a.k.a. Mr. Toilet, passed away in 2009, his home was donated to the city and has since been reopened as a public park and museum - what Korea has declared is "the world's first toilet-themed park." So far, no one has risen to dispute this.


Inside and surrounding Mr. Toilet's house are a plethora of porcelain thrones, international bedpans and murals and sculptures of the sort of bathroom activities you'd expect going in. Changing tables, histories of latrines, fun feces facts and dioramas are interspersed with chamber pots, a series of thatch and straw outhouses (occupied by bronzed statues caught in the act) and even what appears to be a quiet sand garden with a very odd - if thematically appropriate - sculpted stone centerpiece.


However, for all the pomp, circumstance and bathroom humor, Sim Jae-Duck's legacy is an important one. His crusade for cleaner bathrooms and sanitary commodes is more than a quirk or even luxury - it's an essential part of modern society. Many undeveloped and developing countries suffer egregious disease and sickness due to lack of proper sanitation. Even Korea has been noted for the poor quality of its public restrooms before Sim Jae-Duck took the initiative to make a change and restore the country's national pride in its lavatories.


Sim Jae-Duck was more than privy to the desires of his city and country for cleaner bathrooms - he was cognizant of their need for health and sanitary safety. If the legend about his birth are true, the one thing about Mr. Toilet's legacy that becomes clear is that he was certainly born into it.

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A rude surprise but a clever reminder
Posted on Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Every so often a guy will wander into the bar bathroom to relieve himself and be confronted by a public service announcement about drinking and driving. He probably ignores it, especially if he's had a few beers, and leaves.


Michigan Police and a company called Wizmark industries (yes, there's a pun there) are teaming up to make sure this never happens again and ensure that when men are faced with bathroom PSAs, they listen. Their method? A talking urinal.


According to The Detroit News, 400 talking urinal cakes had been delivered to about 200 establishments just in time for the Fourth of July. And while the prospect of a urinal cake cracking wise and offering safety advice might not seem all that sobering for potential drunk drivers, police are hoping it helps cut down on the thousands of alcohol-related driving deaths the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tallies each year.


What does the cake itself have to say?


"Had a few drinks? Maybe a few too many?" it asks unwitting bathroom patrons. "Then do yourself and everyone else a favor: call a sober friend or a cab. Oh, and don't forget to wash your hands."


While washing your hands is certainly advisable at both bars and the home, so is not driving drunk. So how can us regular folk take this idea and run with it at our own July 4th parties?



Since the beer and wine will be flowing, you might want to make sure no one makes any unfortunate decisions under your watch. When hosting a party, consider leaving a note across from the toilet or on the bathroom vanity reminding your guests that in a pinch they've got a free ride home and are welcome to stay as long as they like.


"We want people to be safe and make responsible decisions," Anne Readette, Michigan's Office of Highway Safety Planning spokeswoman told the source.


It's not a bad idea. With beautiful weather and plenty of parties to get to, now may be the best time to make sure you and your friends are safe!

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