The Consumer Product Safety Commission states that “typical” toilet drowning situation “involves a child under 3-years-old falling headfirst into the toilet.” 1
There are Two Popular Types of Toilet Locks
Toilet locks are practical infant safety checklist items that should be installed at least when your child becomes mobile. Like all baby proofing tools, they are not a substitute for adult supervision and will become useless once your child reaches a specific level of intelligence and physical skills. Until that day, however, toilet locks prevent child drownings and unauthorized flushing of toys and car keys.
Strap Toilet Lock
Strap-style toilet locks use adhesive tape strips to secure a movable strap to the side of the toilet bowl. The top end of this strap fits into a second piece of the lock, which I call a ‘lock dock’. This lock dock is attached to the top of the toilet lid with the same adhesive tape.
Arm-type Toilet Lock
In this design, the toilet lid is prevented from opening by positioning a movable ‘arm’ attached to the toilet lid. When moved into ‘locked’ position, the arm prevents the toilet lid’s upward movement by making contact with the toilet tank (Figure 2). I read the positive reviews, but thought that the design might allow a little upward toilet lid movement and allow Magistri Milo to work his fingers between the toilet seat and lid. Because attaching strap locks to the toilet bowl is problematic (see My Analysis of the Lower Strap Adhesion Failure), I recommend this style of toilet lock.
Figure 2. “Arm” type toilet lock
- I am not including a link to the strap-type toilet lock in this post because I cannot support their use.
Grandparent and Caregiver Homes Need Toilet Locks Too!
We quickly discovered that Grannie’s house needed toilet locks. They don’t have to be engaged when the kidlet is not visiting and don’t really get in the way in a home that only has a visiting toddler.
We used a Sharpie to highlight the raised lettering and arrow on the lock to help Grannie and her guests quickly operate the toilet lock. We used a black Sharpie since Grannie’s bathroom is white and black– consider a color that is visible but matches the decor to maximize the aesthetics of the installation. 🙂
Our Infant Safety Checklist Scare: Strap Toilet Lock Detached
Following our infant safety checklist, our bathroom baby proofing included placing a strap toilet lock (the Safety 1st Easy Grip Toilet Lock ) on our main bathroom toilet when Magistri Milo became mobile. Our toilet lock used a 3M™ VHB™ double-sided adhesive. It was easy to install and we checked this item off our infant safety checklist, satisfied that we had successfully baby proofing our toilet.
Like all toddlers, Milo is fascinated by the toilet, water, and all buttons and levers. This means that he has spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to operate the 3-sided squeeze lock mechanism that secures our toilet lock strap to the lock dock attached to the toilet lid.
The main bathroom is the most convenient for Magistri Milo’s potty chair. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that young children not be given unsupervised access to bathrooms due to multiple dangers, especially drowning. 2 Now that he is interested in the potty chair, we are facilitating access by leaving the door bathroom door open when we are actively with him during at-home play.
One day a 17-month old Milo was playing in the living room while I was folding laundry. He ran down the hallway, headed for the bathroom, whooping with excitement. I put down the clothes I was folding and ran to join him in the bathroom, hoping he was ready to use his potty chair. He was in the bathroom only a few seconds before me.
I entered to find Milo peering into the open toilet, holding the toilet lid up by the unsecured toilet lock strap as he held it high over his head!
The adhesive tape had come unattached from the smooth porcelain of the toilet bowl. The ‘head down, lid over head’ position is the perfect setup for a head injury or potential drowning. The lid would have come down on top of Milo’s head if he had lost his grip on the strap or if the lock had come uncoupled from the lock dock attached to the toilet lid.
My fear in this situation is justified. The Consumer Product Safety Commission states that “typical” toilet drowning situation “involves a child under 3-years-old falling headfirst into the toilet.” 3 A small child’s head can become trapped between a falling lid and the toilet seat, making it difficult or impossible for them to retreat. This is why children should not be unsupervised in bathrooms and why toilet locks are included on every infant safety checklist. Baby proofing is a moving target, but it does save lives.
Lower Strap Adhesion Failure is a Common Strap-Type Toilet Lock Customer Complaint
I studied our failed toilet lock and realized that the adhesive strip that the manufacturer supplied with the toilet lock was simply not up to the job of securing the strap to the smooth, slightly curving porcelain of the toilet bowl.
The Safety 1st company’s product review page for the Easy Grip Toilet Lock has 4 reviews. Three of those list failure of the adhesive tape as the reason for their dissatisfaction and 1-star rating, 4. Their OutSmart™ toilet lock has an overall rating of 4 stars based on 9 reviews, but two of the 9 reviews state that the adhesive tape failed.
The Outsmart lock’s reviews on Amazon.com are scathing 5 with 133 reviews averaging a 2.6 out of 5 for ‘adhesion’ and a 2.2 out of 5 star rating for ‘value for the money.’
My Analysis of the Lower Strap Adhesion Failure
The reviews all specify failure of the bottom attachment site on the toilet bowl, not the toilet lid attachment site. Failure of the bottom attachment must therefore be due to something that is different between the two attachment sites. I tried to re-attach the strap to the lower site using plumber’s caulk and ‘roughing up’ the strap attachment piece to increase caulk adhesion. This held for a while, but it failed within a month and we were right back where we started. I concluded that the continual slightly curving surface of the toilet bowl attachment site means that this design is simply not suited to long-term attachment. Consumers who purchased and reviewed the product before their child has moved into ‘full-blown’ toddler stages may give a premature favorable review. Further, like us, they may think the lock is protecting their child until the day the learn of its failure.
- https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Water-Safety-And-Young-Children.aspx, Toilets