Why’s There a Fly in the Urinal?

Gentlemen, How Flies and Bees can Improve Your Aim

While this typically does not apply to waterless urinals, water-using urinals often have urinal screens placed at the bottom of the urinal. These urinal screens typically there for two purposes:

1.    For decades, they contained chemicals to help reduce odors, but many of those chemicals are now banned.

2.    They helped prevent larger debris from entering the urinal drain and causing a blockage.

fly on urinal, waterless

But some military operations found other reasons for installing urinal screens. They began placing urinal screens that had a red dot – or many red dots - at the bottom of the urinal. The main reason for this: it encourages guys to improve their aim. 

After all, if sharing a barracks with 20, thirty, or more guys, the urinal area can get pretty messy.  Better aim meant the bathrooms stayed cleaner and more hygienic.

However, in the 1960s, the Dutch army took this a step further. The screens were designed with etched flies of different colors worked into the urinal screen pattern. According to Keiboom Van Bedoff, a Dutch maintenance worker, adding the flies helped guys improve their aim much better.  This was because they now focused their attention on trying to immobilize the flies (even though they were nothing but plastic).

“They now had the ability to use one’s natural gifts and achieve victory over the foe while standing,” he explained. Guys, he felt, can always beat flies. “That’s why urinating on flies is so satisfying.”

However, this idea of adding insect targets to urinal screens actually goes way back. In the 1890s, some urinal screens in Britain were designed with etches of bees, not flies. This became the favored urinal screen target throughout the U.K.

Why bees and not flies is anybody’s guess. But what we do know today is that these types of screens are rarely used. However, based on the appearance of some men’s restrooms today, it might be time to bring them back.

What Makes an Icon?

Some companies in the US such as Apple, Nike, Harley-Davidson, and IBM have become icons.  Virtually everyone knows who these companies are – and even more – they respect and appreciate these companies.  Many people who have purchased one of their products often feel close to these brands, as if they and their products were a friend.

If you were to ask a marketing professional how to turn a company into an icon, they would likely have just a few suggestions, such as:

·       Recommend that the company continue making quality products

·       Introduce an unusual product

·       Spend lots and lots of money on advertising and promotion

·       Wait about ten or more years and see what happens.

That's usually how many years it takes.  Most people don't know it, but Nike has been around for more than 50 years. It was not until the mid-1980s when word got around that they were making special sneakers for Michael Jordan, and when they made similar sneakers available to the public, that the company emerged as an icon.

Another company that became an icon as a result of introducing a unique product, along with spending lots of money on advertising, was Apple.  While Apple was very popular in the early 1980s, it became an icon with the introduction of the McIntosh in 1984. No one else had a computer like the Macintosh, and while the company struggled for years, it has always held on to its iconic status.

But sometimes, icons emerge because they have stood the test of time. UPS is a perfect example.  There have been delivery companies such as UPS for decades, going back to the early part of the 20th century. In fact, UPS started in 1907.  But over the past 110 years, many delivery companies have come and gone.  UPS stayed. The company grew and eventually went international. UPS became an icon merely because they had staying power.

Waterless Co, waterless urinals

And it is this staying power that takes us to Waterless Co. Inc. 

Waterless was the first company to offer waterless urinals in North America back in 1991.  Having shown that this technology works, by the early 2000s, several companies, including leading manufacturers of restroom fixtures, also introduced urinals that require no water to operate.  Some of these companies are no longer in business.  Others have found it better that they focus on their core – water-using – products. Still others have entered the market and then walked away, realizing that just one or two players in the waterless urinal industry segment, essentially offer the best in the market.

That pretty much is where we are today.  While we are reluctant to call the company an icon - at least just yet - Waterless Co. Inc. has been around longer than any other player in this industry.  Just like Apple, it introduced a product that was very unusual for its time.  When it began, Waterless Co. Inc. was the only manufacturer producing waterless urinals. While the company did not spend lots and lots of money on advertising, as it is a facility based product, they have managed to get lots of publicity and attention about their waterless urinals in all kinds of industry trade publications.

The thousands of installations Waterless urinals throughout the country and the world has also helped people and facility managers better understand these urinals, how they work, and value their multitude of benefits.

For more information on no-water urinals, contact a Waterless representative at 800-24-6394

Finding the Real Restroom Odor Culprits


Let’s face it. For the past hundred years or so we have grown accustomed to the idea that urinals, and their immediate surroundings, produce odors. Facility managers and maintenance crews have battled this issue for years.

In well-maintained buildings and restrooms, the areas around urinals, especially the floor in front of the urinal as well as walls and dividers, have been given special and regular cleaning attention, all in a focused effort to reduce odors.  However, this has not always proven successful, and the malodors persist.

And today with increased water costs and the need to reduce water consumption, we are dealing with a new situation that will likely also impact restroom odors, related explicitly to urinals.  With traditional flushing urinals, the water released by the urinal dilutes the urine in the bowl.  This helps eliminate odors.

But when water efficiency and water conservation efforts are put in place, and the water used per flush is reduced, the concentration of urine in the bowl increases along with the potential for odors.

Because no-water urinals use, as the name implies, no water whatsoever, many people initially believe that a urinal without water will produce odors.  If there are odors in a restroom where no-water urinals are installed, the first assumption tends to be it “must be those urinals.” But as shown above, other locations around a urinal are most often the culprit.


Where waterless urinals differ from flushed units is that instead of using water to carry urine out of the bowl, leaving wet surfaces, non-water urinals have a cartridge insert in which floats a sealing liquid. Once the urine flows into this cartridge, as long as the sealing liquid in the cartridge is present, there cannot be any odors.  This also allows for the urinal to stay dry.  Bacteria, which typically are what produces odors in a urinal, cannot grow because there is no moisture.  As a result, no bacteria growth, no malodors.

This leads us to another benefit of waterless urinals as well. For the maintenance and custodial crew, a waterless urinal tends to be easier to clean than a traditional, flush urinal.  This is because water and water residue inside the urinal bowl and around the rims are dry, so no residue develops.

While we will likely continue to have restroom odor problems, even in the best of situations, at least we know to look beyond the urinals, especially the no-water urinal.  In many cases, the real odor causing culprits have nothing to do with the urinal at all.

The Waterless Urinal and the Fly: a Water Saving Love Story

The Waterless Urinal and the Fly: A Water Saving Love Story

What’s happening in our men’s rooms? Waterless urinals? Flies on the porcelain? Here’s one fact that struck me. Each commercial-use waterless urinal can save between 15,000 and 45,000 gallons of water a year. Ah…no wonder waterless urinals are showing up in airports, malls and office buildings? But what about the fly on the porcelain? With an interest in learning more about this fast growing sector, the business of saving water and that fly…. I reached out to Klaus Reichardt. Klaus should know. He invented the waterless urinal and with the company he founded, San Diego based Waterless Co Inc., Klaus and his team sell more waterless urinals than anyone in the world.

This article is published in ZDNet.  Read More Here