Deciphering bathroom-speak: how to tell what’s what

Could you recognise a piece of sanitaryware or a dual-flush WC at ten paces? If not, start here with our beginners’ guide to bathroom terminology

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The world of bathroom fixtures and fittings has its own language and if you are going to make sure you get the exact suite you want it makes sense to master it. So here goes.

The suite

A bathroom suite is made up of the toilet or WC (standing for the old-fashioned term water closet), bath and basin. You might also decide on a bidet.

The collective term for them is sanitaryware and they are made of a very hardwearing, waterproof substance called vitreous china which should be cleaned with non-abrasive materials and warm, soapy water.

The toilet

The toilet is made of three parts – the cistern or tank, the seat and the pan. According to the Bathroom Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) today’s dual-flush cistern gives an average flush of 4.5 litres – half the volume of the 1980s. It also allows the user to choose how much water is delivered.

A new cistern needs to conform to the Regulators’ Specification for WC suites – six litres maximum and a reduced flush of no less than two-thirds of the maximum. BMA members will always meet this requirement.

The two basic types of pan are known as open-rim or box-rim depending on how they deliver water for the flush. Toilets can be front lever or side lever flushing – fairly self-explanatory – or top-flushing with a button on top of the cistern.


Basins often sit on a pedestal which helps support them and also hides the pipework. But they can also be inset, semi-recessed or mounted on brackets – all depending on how you want to fix them to the wall.

They can also be classified by how the taps are arranged with one, two or three tap-holes. The three-hole arrangement is associated with traditional designs and taps can alternatively be fixed to a wall or counter top.

• For more information and downloadable factsheets visit the Bathroom Manufacturers’ Association website.