This review was first posted March 2014 and has been updated with the benefit of 14 more months usage.
The Clos-o-Mat Palma Vita is a toilet that provides flushing, washing and warm air drying in its combination toilet/bidet with dryer. It looks like a large standard toilet, except for the elbow flush pads and it works as a standard toilet, but it also provides a hands-free option that removes the need for wiping and manual flushing. It is manufactured by Cheshire based company Total Hygiene and currently available in the UK only.
The Palma Vita can be used as a regular toilet. The standard unit does not look out of place in a modern bathroom at home and part of its appeal lies in its unobtrusive design. Guests and other household members can use the toilet without the washing and drying by pressing the elbow pad whilst standing to flush after use. A motion sensor detection (proxy) switch is an optional extra that would also allow flushing by waving a hand over the switch.
Flushing & Washing
The Palma Vita flush and wash at the same time if the elbow pad is pressed and held for 10-15 seconds. The water is heated up, with my unit but the first second or two is usually cold water and after 8-9 seconds the water was cold again. After a couple of months the water just went cold completely. I got the electrician to look at it again and after several attempts he was able to get the water lukewarm. There are three douche options (all are included in the price) to choose from: single spray, extended single spray or twin spray.
Air drying starts when the elbow pad is released when seated. It is not a quick process and takes 2-3 minutes and for the first minute the air is cool and slow. It automatically stops either on a timer or when the person sitting down stands up, so if you happen to lift slightly during the drying part, it turns off and there is no way to turn it back on again. The dryer only activates after washing. I would highly recommend keeping toilet roll nearby in case the dryer doesn’t dry well enough or the process is accidentally interrupted.
The Palma Vita can be customized to suit various requirements. The items below are not included in the standard price and will incur additional costs. Independent4Life has a list of the cost on their sales page here.
The height of the Clos-0-Mat can be increased by adding a plinth during installation to permanently raise the unit. Plinths come in heights of 2.5, 5, 7.5 and 10 cm.
Three alternative switches
If the elbow pad is too difficult to press and hold, three alternatives are available. An air operated touch sensitive hand or foot switch is the first to consider. No electricity is needed to operated it, but light pressure and the ability to press and hold is. The second option is a proxy switch that allows users with little or no grip to activate the unit by passing their hand in front of the sensor. The third option is an infrared remote control that can be used by carers.
Integrated fold-down support arms both make transferring from a wheelchair easier and as the arms fold away they are quite discrete. Lateral body supports can be added to the arms for additional support and a selection of pediatric support systems are also available. A bariatric support bench can be custom-made to size and fits over the toilet or a 19″ wide Big John seat can be fitted to accommodate those with a larger frame.
Soft seats are available in Junior, Adult and Adult Open Fronted sizes. Soft arm sleeves are available to fit over the fold-down support arms to provide extra cushioning. These are useful for those who use the support arms to push up with their forearms.
Palma Vita Maximum load: 190kg/30st
Palma Vita with Big John seat Maximum load: 362kg/57st
Medical Device Class 1 certified 2007/47/EC
Complies with current electrical regulations and can be fitted into Zone 1
The Clos-o-Mat Palma Vita should be fitted by a qualified electrician and plumber. It has an electrical component that requires electrical installation in accordance with ieee Regulations. Our’s was fitted by a plumber who had never seen one before and hence we’ve had a couple of issues with it including water not heating and leaks. We had no choice in the matter but if you can make sure your plumber knows what he or she’s doing! It requires an earth connection. It needs cold water entering as well as a relevant soil connector.
Shielded from water spray
The Clos-o-Mat must not be in direct line with the shower spray, some form of partition should be placed between it and a shower. It cannot be used as a shower chair, that is under no circumstances should anyone sit on it whilst being showered.
The Clos-o-Mat Palma Vita was designed and manufactured specifically for people with a disability and it is a very accessible product. It can be used without sight and in addition, all soft seats are available in a dark blue colour to aid the visually impaired.
The number of optional extras allows customization for physical disabilities and if there is any toilet that could be used independently, this is it. The paediatric support frames makes it accessible for children with disabilities and its standard shape and design also makes it accessible to small children, just add a standard small step, like this for toddlers to use. Standard toddler trainer sits fit on the unit, however with the wider brim it is also easy for them to just perch on the end. The bariatric options increase user weight from 190 kg /30 st to 362 kg /46 st.
Ease of Use
The non-standard controls are not obvious to first time users and require some basic instruction for regular and full use. The elbow pads are not something most people have come across. The bidet and air dryer is beautifully hidden, but that can also lead to a shocking surprise. I would recommend putting up a small sign with instructions for guests or when installed in public areas. After first use, it is easy and convenient to use.
Manufacturer: Total Hygiene Limited
Price: £2,300 – £2,450 excl VAT (VAT relief available)
Annual servicing contract: Approximately £165 per year
Included in the purchase price
The following is included in the price:
Commissioning is included in the cost of the Clos-o-Mat unit. The engineers commission each Clos-o-Mat unit 10-14 days from installation date. The commission checks that the unit is installed correctly, ensures the user is familiar with how it works and makes any adjustments in temperatures or pressures to suit the client. The building company we had fit the Clos-0-mat did not arrange this and we had problems that could have been avoided if checks had been done.
12 month guarantee: The guarantee period of 12 months commences from date of commission.
The Clos-o-Mat Palma Vita is an excellent example of universal design executed well. It can be used by young and old, functions as a regular toilet or a 3-in-1 unit and fits into a modern home or commercial premise equally well. It is a more eco-friendly alternative using less water to flush than a standard toilet and (usually) no toilet paper, however when the dryer does not work 100%, it has to be flushed twice. By reducing hand contact, it is also a more hygienic option.
The drawbacks are not necessarily deal breakers. The standard douche is quite narrow and a bit of wiggling to get positioned for optimum cleaning is sometimes required. If you flush slightly prematurely as you get up or accidentally hit the elbow pad as you stand, you get sprayed all the way along your back as the strong action results in a fountain taller than most people. The dryer is a bit of a disappointment and most of the time has to be supplemented with paper which then needs a second flush. The high price tag makes it something that most people will not be able to afford out of pocket, but it is an item eligible for disability related funding and can be paid for with a disabled facilities grant, a charitable grant or a personal health budget.
It may take some getting used to, but once it has been used a few times, the novelty wears off and the advantages outshine any awkwardness. It is comfortable to use and due to its many customization options, has the potential to facilitate independent toileting for many who have to rely on carer support normally. It provides access to independence and yet it isn’t a clinical looking contraption that I am embarrassed to point house guests towards. Get one if you can, actually, get two.
After 12 months
After another year the Clos-o-Mat still gets our recommendation. We had some issues to do with the temperature of the douche and a leak where it connected to the main outpipe but these have been outweighed by the independence and usefulness it gives. If you get a Clos-o-mat make sure you get it commissioned and seriously consider the maintenance contract.
This review is based on a Clos-o-Mat Palma Vita installed on domestic premises via a Disabled Facilities Grant in August 2013.