Choosing Your Toilet’s Finish: Cotton White, Colonial White, and More


If the toilet can be considered one of the most important parts of any bathroom, then it stands to reason that it should look its best. Style and functionality can go a long way toward improving your toilet experience, but ultimately it’s the toilet’s finish that stands out first and foremost and ties the piece in with the rest of the room.

As we mentioned in our Guide to Choosing Stainless Steel vs. Brushed Nickel, the finish of a fixture can often make or break the design of an entire room; this rule is especially true for must-have items like toilets. Toilets typically come in a standard white finish, but when each product brand has its own version of “white” and “off-white” finishes, it can be hard to maintain a consistent shade throughout the bathroom. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the difference between some of the more popular finish options, like cotton white and colonial white, and then give an overview of all of the toilet finishes you’ll see on the market today.

TOTO Colonial White and Cotton White Toilets

The colonial white finish (left) has more of a grey tinge than the more traditional cotton white (right).

Cotton White vs. Colonial White

One of the most popular questions regarding toilet finishes (and finishes in general) is the difference between cotton white and colonial white. The answer? It depends on the brand you’re purchasing and the brands you’re trying to match.

Traditionally, cotton white and colonial white finishes are associated with the TOTO brand. On a typical TOTO toilet, for example, cotton white is as close to a standard bright white as you can get, while colonial white has a softer antique finish. If your bathroom is equipped with only TOTO products, this is all the information you need; just pick the shade you like best and stay consistent throughout the room!

On the other hand, if you want to mix products from different brands (an American Standard toilet with a TOTO toilet seat, for example) while still maintaining a consistent white finish, there are a few handy tips you’ll want to remember. Mainly, the TOTO cotton white finish is the more traditional white of the two, and therefore matches the white of a number of other brands like Duravit and Niagara. Meanwhile, TOTO colonial white is a more unique shade, and most often is used to match with white American Standard products.

Other Finishes

If you still want your toilet to have a classic white shade, but don’t prefer the look of cotton white or colonial white, there are a number of brand-specific, off-white finishes you can consider. TOTO, for example, offers the yellow-tinged bone finish, as well as some models in Sedona beige. There is also the Niagara white, the American Standard linen, and the Duravit white alpin. As always, we suggest sticking with a single brand in all your bathroom fixtures if possible (especially if the toilet sits right next to a similarly colored tub), because it’s much easier to match finishes that way. If you end up dealing with a mix of brands in the bathroom, just know that having two or three complimentary finishes can be an option as well.

And of course, there are alternatives to the traditional white toilet finish. Depending on any color accents you may already have in the bathroom, you might consider a bold ebony model (or maybe just the toilet seat, feel free to mix and match). As a plus, darker finishes hide dirt particles and other blemishes easier than their lighter counterparts, making cleaning less of a hassle. And then there are always the Rohl toilets, which have traditional white body finishes but give you several options for handle finishes, ranging from English bronze to polished nickel.

Toilet Finishes

We’ve included the major toilet finishes above, along with the brand associated with each one. Ultimately, the finish you choose is going to come down to your personal preference, as well as the fixtures you already have in place in the bathroom. Need any advice? Feel free to give the SUPPLY.com team of product experts a call at 866-355-0310!

Once you have your finish locked down, head over to SUPPLY.com to check out your next toilet today!