While urinals are generally intended for use by males, it is also possible for females to use them. The different types of male urinal, for single users or trough designs for multiple users, are intended to be utilized from a standing position. Designers of urinals for women have adopted various approaches: some intending the user to "hover" over the unit, facing away from it, others intending the user to stand facing the urinal, with or without a female urination device. While uncommon due to restroom segregation, it is possible for females to use male urinals.
Public urinals usually have a plastic mesh guard, which may contain a deodorizing urinal deodorizer block or "urinal cake". The mesh is intended to prevent solid objects (such as cigarette butts, feces, chewing gum, or paper) from being flushed and possibly causing a plumbing stoppage. In some restaurants, bars, and clubs, ice may be put in the urinals, serving some of the same purposes as the deodorizing block.
The term may also apply to a small building or other structure containing such toilets. It can also refer to a small container in which urine can be collected for medical purposes, or for use where access to toilet facilities is not possible, such as in small aircraft or for the bedridden.
- 1 Purposes
- 2 Flushing
- 3 Arrangement
- 4 Street urinals and vespasiennes
- 5 Makeshift urinals
- 6 Urinals designed for women
- 7 Special urinals
- 8 In popular culture
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In busy washrooms, urinals are installed for efficiency: compared with urination in a general toilet, usage is faster because within the room there are no additional doors, no locks, and no seat to turn up; also a urinal takes less space, is simpler, and consumes less water per flush than a general toilet. Urinals also come in different heights, to accommodate tall and short users. There are often privacy barriers between the urinals.
Most public urinals incorporate a flushing system to rinse urine from the bowl of the device to prevent foul odors. The flush can be triggered by one of several methods:
This type of flush might be regarded as standard in the United States. Each urinal is equipped with a button or short lever to activate the flush, with users expected to operate it as they leave. Such a directly controlled system is the most efficient, provided that patrons remember to use it. This is far from certain, however, often because of fear of touching the handle, which is located too high to kick. Urinals with foot-activated flushing systems are sometimes found in high-traffic areas; these systems have a button set into the floor or a pedal on the wall at ankle height. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that flush valves be mounted no higher than 44 inches (110 cm) AFF (above the finished floor). Additionally, the urinal is to be mounted no higher than 17 inches (43 cm) AFF, and to have a rim that is tapered and elongated and protrudes at least 14 inches (36 cm) from the wall. This enables users in wheelchairs to straddle the lip of the urinal and urinate without having to "arc" the flow of urine.
In Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the Republic of Ireland, Hong Kong and some parts of Sweden and Finland, manual flush handles are unusual. Instead, the traditional system is a timed flush that operates automatically at regular intervals. Groups of up to ten or more urinals will be connected to a single overhead cistern, which contains the timing mechanism. A constant drip-feed of water slowly fills the cistern, until a tipping point is reached, the valve opens (or a siphon begins to drain the cistern), and all the urinals in the group are flushed. Electronic controllers performing the same function are also used.
This system does not require any action from its users, but it is wasteful of water when toilets are used irregularly. However, in these countries users are so used to the automatic system, attempts to install manual flushes to save water are generally unsuccessful. Users ignore them not through deliberate laziness or fear of infection, but because activating the flush is not habitual.
To help reduce water usage when restrooms are closed, some restrooms with timed flushing use an electric water valve connected to the restroom light switch. When the building is in active use during the day and the lights are on, the timed flush operates normally. At night when the building is closed, the lights are turned off and the flushing action stops.
A flushing system connected to the opening of the washroom door can count the number of users and operate when the count reaches a certain value. At night, the door never opens, so flushing never occurs.
Electronic automatic flushes solve the problems of both previous approaches, and are common in new installations. Passive infrared sensors identify when the urinal has been used (or when someone has stood in front of it and moved away), and activate the flush. Thus the urinal is cleaned, where with a manual flush it might not have been, but water is not wasted when the toilet is not used.
Automatic flush facilities can be retrofitted to existing systems. The handle-operated valves of a manual system can be replaced with a suitably designed self-contained electronic valve, often battery-powered to avoid the need to add cables. Timed-flush installations may add a device that regulates the water flow to the cistern according to the overall activity detected in the room. This does not provide true per-fixture automatic flushing, but is simple and cheap to add because only one device is required for the whole system.
To prevent false-triggering of the automatic flush, most infrared detectors require that a presence be detected for at least five seconds, such as when a person is standing in front of it. This prevents a whole line of automatic flush units from triggering in series if someone just walks past them.
The automatic flush mechanism also typically waits for the presence to go out of sensor range before flushing. This reduces water usage, compared to a sensor that would trigger a continuous flushing action the whole time that a presence is detected.
This is an older method of water-saving automatic flushing, which only operates when the room is being used. A push-button switch is mounted in the door frame of the restroom, and triggers the flush valve for all restroom urinals every time the door is opened. While it cannot detect the use of individual urinals, it provides reasonable flushing action without wasting excessive amounts of water when the restroom is not being used. This method requires a spring-operated automatic door closer, since the flush mechanism only operates when the restroom door opens.
A more recent innovation is urinals that use no water at all, first invented by a German named Klaus Reichardt. The innovation is secured with several patents. Models later introduced by the Waterless Company in 1991 and others in 2001 by Falcon Waterfree Technologies and Sloan Valve Company, as well as Duravit, use a trap insert filled with a sealant liquid instead of water. The lighter-than-water sealant floats on top of the urine collected in the U-bend, preventing odors from being released into the air. Although the cartridge and sealant must be periodically replaced, boosters claim the system saves anywhere between 15,000 and 45,000 gallons (approx. 55,000 and 170,000 liters) of water per urinal per year. However, compared to a 1.6 GPF urinal, these numbers assume a flush urinal would be used between 40 and 120 times per business day. US federal law has mandated no more than one gallon per flush since 1994, and the EPA estimates that the average urinal is flushed 20 times per day, which gives an average water use of 7300 gallons per year.
Waterless urinals can destroy some kinds of plumbing systems, requiring expensive repairs.
Other companies do not use a cartridge; instead they have developed an outlet system that traps the odor, preventing the smell often present in toilet blocks. Another method to eliminate odor was introduced by Caroma, which installed a deodorizing block in their waterless urinal that was activated during use. Mechanical traps are not allowed by US building codes.
Waterless urinals can be installed in high-traffic facilities and in situations where providing a water supply may be difficult or where water conservation is desired. Due to high-level water restrictions, Brisbane, Australia, has mandated conversion to waterless urinals, and flush urinals are rarely seen.
Plumbers' unions initially opposed waterless urinals, citing concerns about health and safety, which have been debunked by scientists who have studied the devices. Attempts to have the devices allowed in plumbing codes were opposed. Manufacturers devised a compromise, where the Uniform Plumbing Code was modified to allow waterless urinals to be installed, provided unnecessary water lines were run to the back of the urinals. In March 2006, the Associated Press reported that the plumbers' union in Philadelphia had become upset because developer Liberty Property Trust had decided to use waterless urinals in the Comcast Center. Many in the union believed that this would lead to less work for them. The developer cited saving the city 1.6 million gallons (approx 6 million liters) of water per year as its deciding factor.
Most waterless urinals, however, do not remove odor staining on the surface of the urinals if not cleaned normally. Even when maintained according to recommendations, flushless urinals emit a fish-like odor that most people find unpleasant. In February 2010, the headquarters of the California EPA removed waterless urinals that were installed in 2003 due to "hundreds of complaints", including odors and splashed urine on the floors. Officials blamed the failure of the project on incompatibility with the building's existing plumbing systems.
Urinals in high-capacity washrooms are usually arranged in one or more rows directly opposite the door, so that users have their backs to people entering or standing outside. Those in the street may be arranged in a circle, with all users facing the center, with partitions high enough that they cannot wet each other, and usually high enough that they cannot see over. In a street urinal with an outside screen or wall, the users may stand back to back.
Trough urinals may be used by several people simultaneously. Their use has been made famous by venues such as Wrigley Field and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.[dubious ] They do not allow for much privacy. Also care must be taken not to confuse a trough urinal with a sink.
Urinals used for high throughput capacity are part of an efficiently designed washroom architecture. Large numbers of them are usually installed along a common supply pipe and drain. There may be partitions for privacy.
Often, one or two of the urinals, typically at one end of a long row, will be mounted lower than the others; they are meant for the disabled and other users who cannot reach the regular urinals. In facilities where people of various heights are present, such as schools, urinals that extend down to floor level may be used to allow anyone of any height to use any urinal.
Urinals were once used exclusively in commercial or institutional settings, but are now available for private homes. They offer the advantage of substantial savings of water in residences with many occupants.
Street urinals and vespasiennes
In some localities, urinals may be located on public sidewalks or in public areas such as parks. These urinals are usually equipped with partitions for the sake of privacy. They may or may not be equipped with flush mechanisms.
Until the 1990s, street urinals were a common sight in Paris, and in the 1930s more than 1200 were in service. They were famous among foreign tourists. Parisians referred to them as vespasiennes, the name being derived from that of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who, according to an anecdote, imposed a tax on urine. Beginning in the 1990s, the vespasiennes (renowned for their smell and lack of hygiene) were gradually replaced by Sanisettes. Today only one vespasienne remains in the city (on Boulevard Arago), and it is still regularly used. They still exist in other French cities and in other countries. The Netherlands has a number of strategically placed street pissoirs in various cities.
In the Philippines, Marikina was the first city to install street urinals in the late 1990s. When Marikina Mayor Bayani Fernando was appointed chair of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, he installed street urinals in the rest of Metro Manila as well.
During the Korean War, Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm etc., "piss tubes" were used as makeshift urinals. To make one, soldiers would affix an inverted water bottle on one end of a rigid tube, burying the other end. Removing the base of the bottle made a funnel which would be left at the proper height. Deposited urine simply soaked into the ground. When the area became saturated, the device was relocated.
Urinals designed for women
In the Western world, women are generally taught to sit or squat while urinating. Many therefore do not know how—or even that it is possible for a woman—to aim their urine as would be required to use a male urinal. Thus, several different types of urinal have been designed for women that do not require the user to aim her urine stream. Additionally, few urinals are marketed as unisex. They are generally more conventional male designs, but perhaps with wider bowl and lower mount. A typical female user could thus approach such urinal squatting backwards over it without necessarily trying to aim her stream.
From 1950 to 1974, the American Standard company offered the mass-produced "Ladies' Home Urinal". It did not provide significant advantages over conventional toilets, because it used just as much floor space and flushing water. Its main selling point was that it was specifically designed for women to use without touching.
Several other designs have been tried since then, but they required the user either to hover awkwardly or to bring her genitals into close contact with the fixture. Most have not caught on. Current clothes fashions such as panty hose and slacks inhibit women from using them because they do not want their garments to touch the urinal or the floor. Often, women have little experience with them and do not know whether to approach them forward or backward.
More recently, models that use a specialized funnel have been introduced, with some success, at outdoor festivals such as Glastonbury (to reduce cycle times and alleviate long lines). In 2011, a portable female urinal—the Pollee—was introduced at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark and was embraced by female festival visitors.
"Kisses!" is a controversial urinal designed by the female Dutch designer Meike van Schijndel. It is shaped like an open pair of red lips. In early March 2004 the National Organization for Women (NOW) took offence to the new urinals that Virgin Atlantic Airways decided to install in the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse at JFK Airport in New York City. After receiving many angry phone calls from female customers, Virgin Atlantic Vice President John Riordan called NOW to apologize. Protestors surmised a connection to oral sex or urolagnia, and based their complaints on the urinals being sexist. A McDonald's restaurant in the Netherlands removed them after a customer complained to the head office in the United States.
Interactive urinals have been developed in a number of countries, allowing users to entertain themselves during urination. One example is the Toylet, a video game system produced by the Japanese company Sega that allows users to play video games using their urine to control the on-screen action.
In popular culture
- Marcel Duchamp's Fountain (1917), an influential pieces of modern art, is a urinal which Duchamp signed "R. Mutt".
- Police in Nassau County, New York adopted talking urinals in an anti-drunk driving initiative. Using Wizmark, a talking urinal screen, police can provide bars with free pre-programmed urinal screens urging patrons not to drink and drive.
- Ernest Hemingway converted a urinal from Sloppy Joe's bar into a water fountain for his cats. The fountain remains a prominent feature at his former home in Key West, Florida, a popular tourist destination in the town.
- Pissoir, retitled Urinal in some countries, was the first feature film directed by John Greyson. It was released in 1980 and takes place in a toilet.
- Gabriel Chevallier's 1934 satirical novel Clochemerle deals with the ramifications of plans to install a new urinal in a French village.
- As of 2008[update], the aircraft manufacturer Airbus offered its customers the option of installing urinals in its A380 aircraft.
- "http://web.archive.org/web/20030604104917/http://restrooms.org/standing.html". Archived from the original on 4 June 2003.
- With public sit-down toilets, users often kick the flush lever to avoid the perceived or real possibility of infection from touching it.
- Waterless Survey Investigates No-Water Urinal Systems. Green Lodging News (24 June 2008).
- XLerator Hand Dryer – Top Ten
- "Going Green Pays Off", Buildings magazine, July 2004, www.buildings.com
- WaterSense Labeled Flushing Urinals
- Michael Zennie, "Students step over 'rivers of urine' after green bathrooms plan turns a high school yellow... and it will cost $500,000 to fix". Daily Mail (30 January 2012).
- Joshua Davis (22 June 2010), Pissing Match: Is the World Ready for the Waterless Urinal?, Wired
- Saffron, Inga (Inquirer Architecture Critic) (5 April 2006). "Phila. no-flush standoff unclogged, with a catch". The Philadelphia Inquirer. pp. A1, A10.
- Cal/EPA headquarters flushes waterless urinals. news10.net (22 February 2010).
- California Environmental Protection Agency, "CAL/EPA Issues Statement on Waterless Urinals", April 1, 2010 (pdf)
- Harvey A. Levenstein, We'll Always Have Paris: American Tourists in France since 1930, Chicago: University of Chgicago, 2004, ISBN 9780226473789, p. 31.
- Kisses!. Bathroom-mania.com.
- "Tell Virgin Atlantic: There's Nothing 'Fun' About Exploiting Women". National Organization for Women. 18 March 2004. Retrieved 23 April 2006.
- "Outrageous Interruptus: NOW Cheers Decision to Abandon Sexist Urinals" (Press release). National Organization for Women. 19 March 2004. Retrieved 2006-04-23.
- Geere, Duncan. (6 January 2011). Sega Installs "‘Toylet’ Games in Japan’s Urinals". Wired UK. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
- "Duchamp's urinal tops art survey: A white gentlemen's urinal has been named the most influential modern art work of all time". BBC News. 1 December 2004. Retrieved 2006-04-28.
- "NY Police Use Anti-DUI Talking Urinal Messages". Police Magazine.
- Home. hemingwayhome.com.
- Aimée Turner (April 10, 2008). "A380 male urinals to become 'bog standard'". Flight International.
- Kranakis, Evangelos; Krizanc, Danny (29 May 2010), "The Urinal Problem", in Paolo Boldi and Luisa Gargano, Fun with Algorithms, Lecture Notes in Computer Science 6099, Springer Berlin, pp. 284–295, doi:10.1007/978-3-642-13122-6_28, ISBN 3-642-13121-2
- Paul, John (2006), ""Flushing" Out Sociology: Using the Urinal Game and other Bathroom Customs to Teach the Sociological Perspective", Electronic Journal of Sociology
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Urinals.|
- Collection of urinals worldwide (e.g. Berlin wall, flowers and at the South Pole)
- Urinals in Public Houses, Restaurants and Bars (e.g. Pub Urinals in Manchester (UK) and in Dublin (Eire))
- Urinal etiquette, classification and typology from urinalology.net.]
- Urinals for women from The Straight Dope.