Why Facility Managers Need to Know about Urinal Splash Back

Why would facility managers need to know about urine splash back?  Of all the facility manager roles and responsibilities, why would they have to think about this.  Is this included in the facility managers duties and responsibilities?

waterless urinals and urine splash back

Read below and you'll find out.

Scientists Randy Hurd and Tadd Truscott are researchers at the Splash Lab at Brigham Young University. The Splash Back Lab investigates all kinds of splashes, including urinal splash back research. The researchers set out to determine if there ways to minimize or eliminate urine splash back.

Urine splash back is a problem for many men because it invariably means that, while using a urinal, some urine splashes back on their clothing and shoes. But facility managers should be concerned about urine splash back as well. This is because urine also splatters on walls, surrounding partitions, and floors.

Urine is acidic, so when it gets on these surfaces, it can begin to mar their appearance. When the urine is still wet, it can also draw soils and dust to it. And as this soiled urine accumulates in grout areas in floors or on walls, it can discolor the grout and, because grout is porous, become a home for bacteria and other pathogens.  This then typically becomes a difficult cleaning challenge for facility managers and custodial workers.

Most people believe urine as essentially “clean,” free of germs and bacteria unless the person is sick. However, this does not appear to be the case. According to one study published in late 2013, there are more than 3,000 compounds in urine, with about 72 that are made up of bacteria. “Urine is an incredibly complex biofluid,” says researcher David Wishart, a professor at the University of Alberta who looked into the makeup of urine. “We had no idea there could be so many different compounds going into our toilets and urinals.”

Back to Urine Splash Back and the Splash Back Lab

Now that we know a bit more about what kinds of problems splash back can cause and that urine is not as clean as many of us once believed, let’s look further into the research of the “wizz kids,” as the two Splash Lab scientists call themselves. According to Jacob Davidson, writing in Time magazine, the researchers built a specialized hose “to simulate the pressure and flow rate of a healthy urinating male, even designing two different artificial urethras.

Then, they used high-speed photography and image processing to study such essential topics as the ‘effects of [urine] stream breakup,’ how the ‘surface impact angle’ affects ‘lateral and vertical droplet distances,’ and the ‘effects of velocity [meaning speed] and depth on droplet ejection distances.’” (Jacob Davidson, “’Wizz Kid’ Physicists Working to Solve Urine Splash back,” Time, November 9, 2013).

Sounds a technical.  Let’s just say that the researchers worked to replicate what happens when a man pees in a urinal or toilet. They examined the breakup of the “urine” stream as it was being released from the (artificial) urethra and observed whether different directional angles of urine release on the surface of the urinal could help minimize splash back.

What Did They Discover about Urine Splash Back? Here are the key points:

• First, they found that the urine stream starts to break up into droplets in the urethra long before it is released into the urinal, and it breaks up even more as soon as it is released into the urinal. So right “out of the gate,” the urine is ready to splatter.
• Next, they discovered that urinating at a 90-degree angle directly onto the wall of the urinal is the big troublemaker. It’s the same as turning on a garden hose and holding it six inches from a wall. The water will likely splatter on to wall, floors, and in your face. Interestingly, the researchers found that most men do urinate at a 90-degree angle.
• One of the best ways to eliminate urine splash back, according to the wizz kids, is to urinate parallel to the surface of the urinal. This means that the direction should be down, toward the base of the urinal, and not directed toward the wall of the urinal.
• And the final recommendation is to urinate as close to the urinal as possible. Getting close to the urinal is the opposite of what most men like to do, but what the researchers uncovered is that the closer you are, the smoother the flow and the less the urine breaks up into droplets. The farther away you stand from the urinal, the more likely there will be droplets looking for a place to splatter.

We should note that there was actually one more recommendation: to sit down when urinating. However, that recommendation did not seem to “sit” well with most men.
While the wizz kids did not investigate whether splash back issues would be any different if urinating in a waterless urinal, the directional instruction given here is applicable no matter what type of urinal is used.

However, it is possible that there may be less splash back in a waterless urinal, because most water-using urinals have some water standing in the base of the urinal. When the droplets of urine fall into the water, there is a tendency for outward and upward splatter.

Because we are discussing waterless urinals, it is possible some facility managers remember the little signs that typically were posted above waterless urinals, instructing men to simply do their business and walkaway.  This is because many were looking for flush handles, which are not used on waterless urinals.

For facility managers looking for ways to minimize urine splash back and keep surrounding floors and walls cleaner, it might be a good idea to post a new sign above the urinal, this one saying: “Gentleman, help us keep you restroom clean and healthy. Stand close and point downstream.”

Now that you and facility managers know more about urine splash back, find out more about waterless urinals by clicking here.