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Toilets' design guards against aromas

Recently, while using ye olde plunger to remove offensive blockage from a toilet, I started wondering why the aforementioned toilet is a repeat offender. In reviewing the exit strategy of toilets, it is obvious that they are designed so their contents must navigate an uphill curve to exit. So the question is: If stuff runs downhill, why are toilets designed to force it initially uphill?

— Randy C., Jacksonville

You pose an interesting problem that we at the SYA Toilet Bowl decided not to sit on, Randy.

So we called veteran plumber Daryll "Red" Bailey of Medford who — this will impress you — was the plumber for Gov. Barbara Roberts in the early 1990s.

Yep, he worked on toilets in the state Capitol where they, like their common brethren, also sent stuff uphill before making the final plunge.

He explained the initial uphill strategy involves a sewer trap to keep gas out of the bathroom and the house.

"The quick answer is that a sewer trap prevents sewer gas from coming up into your house," he said.

Noting that most pipes leading to toilets are 3 to 4 inches in diameter, the gas from the septage would quickly fill a home with the nastiest odor imaginable, he said.

"Without a trap, if that gas went into your house, you would blow your house apart when you lit a match," he said. "It is really, really foul."

In addition, the trap creates a vacuum to pull the stuff out of the bowl, he added.

"It helps suck the water down, along with the fecal matter," he concluded.

We hope our answer passes ye olde sniff test, Randy.

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