MILWAUKEE — Blow out the candle and ditch the aerosol can.
Kohler Co. has introduced a deodorizing toilet seat that it says eliminates embarrassing bathroom odors and the need for candles and sprays to cover them up.
A fan hidden in the battery-operated seat sucks in air and pushes it through an odor-eating carbon filter, followed by an optional scent pack. Product manager Jerry Bougher said the idea is to attack smells "where the action is."
The $90 seat is one of many high-tech gadgets that Wisconsin-based Kohler and its competitors have introduced in recent years to make time spent in the bathroom more pleasant. When it comes to toilets, consumers can get seats with features such as slow-closing lids, heat and nightlights that typically add $20 to $100 to the cost.
Kohler sees deodorizing technology as something that most consumers can connect with, Bougher said. "In terms of odor, everyone's experienced it."
The seat turns on automatically when someone sits down. The fan emits a slight hum as it filters the offending odor. The air flows over a scent pack similar to air fresheners used in cars, and the masking smell builds gradually. Bougher's wife, Angela, said her husband installed a Purefresh seat in their home without telling her, and she noticed the scent "just before you would normally reach for a can of spray."
Josh Pantel, 27, has a Purefresh seat in the Middleton home he bought about three months ago with his girlfriend, who works for Kohler. He too likes it.
"If you have a visitor or someone at your place, it makes them feel more comfortable using the restroom," Pantel said.
Kohler began selling the seats Nov. 10, in time for the Christmas season. They require two D batteries to operate, and Kohler says the batteries and carbon filters, which cost $6.99, should last six months. Scent packs, which must be replaced monthly, are sold three for $7.99.
It is not the first company to make a no-smell seat. San Francisco-based Brondell introduced one in 2006 but pulled it from the market about three years ago because the manufacturing costs were high and demand "wasn't where we had hoped it would be," said the company's president, Steve Scheer. His company now includes deodorizing technology similar to Kohler's on its $600 Swash 1000 bidet seats.
"Personally, I kind of view (deodorizing) more as an extra than as a core reason to buy the product," Scheer said. However, he said the market for specialty toilet seats is growing.
"People are becoming aware of these kind of unique products," Scheer said. "And once they've used something like a bidet seat or a heated seat, there's no going back."