Sometimes you see an invention and you think, "Yes--this is brilliant!" and sometimes you see one and think, "Really?" That was my reaction when I saw an advertisement for Illumibowl--the motion-activated light that illuminates the water in your toilet, available in your choice of eight glowing colors. "Why would I want to pee in a glowing purple toilet?" I thought. Then, "Who wouldn't want to pee in a glowing purple toilet?"
All princess fantasies aside, however, going to the bathroom at night is serious business. According to Prevention magazine, more than one-third of women over 40 experience "nocturia," and according to a National Sleep Foundation survey, about 65 percent of people age 55 and older report getting up several times at night to use the bathroom. Exposure to bright light at night can interfere with important sleep hormones, and--as I can report from repeatedly waking my husband up with the bathroom light--can interfere with marital happiness, as well. So the idea of a dim, motion-activated soft light in the bathroom that guides you to the proper destination is a clever solution to the problem.
Whiz kids Matt Alexander and Michael Kannely invented the Illumibowl in the fall of 2014. As they write on their website, the product concept was formed "after one-too-many midnight bumps, bruises, and alien abductions that occurred while en route to a rendezvous with the porcelain throne."
Now, the duo is on a mission: "Our sole purpose in life is the utter extinction of the boogeyman, the monsters hiding under the bed, and all things that go bump in the night." Knowing their market they add, "You're welcome, night owls. You're welcome." They also, in keeping with their target audience, provide a "Potty Humor" section on their website for all visitors to enjoy.
To get the company started, the team turned to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, where they raised close to $100,000. With that funding, they were able to create a relationship with a factory in China and fulfill all their Kickstarter orders by the end of summer 2015. Since then, they have sold several hundred thousand units of their fancy toilet light, and have been featured on a variety of outlets and media, including Gizmodo, Good Morning America, and Shark Tank. Shark Tank investor Kevin O'Leary has helped get the product into brick-and-mortar stores like Bed Bath & Beyond.
The product works by attaching to the side of a standard toilet with suction cups. The light feature, which sits inside the bowl, can rotate through colors or be set to a single favorite choice. Matt and Mike both personally prefer aqua, in case you were curious. When you are through with your nocturnal visit, the LED light turns itself back off, saving bulb life. This is good, because who wants to reach in there to change a bulb?
As with all good ideas, the competition is showing movement. The GlowBowl is currently an Amazon best seller, and the Best Light Motion Activated Toilet Night Light is price cutting (it's currently $8.99, down from $21.99). "Dark toilets are a problem that plagues everyone, so you can't blame other people for following in our multicolored footsteps," Illumibowl's Joshua Jamias says. To gain market share, the team is currently working on their number two idea but declined to share what might be next for future models. Various possibilities come to mind: disco mode? Music? Who can say? In the meantime, I will be happy with my glowing purple (or maybe aqua) bowl.