Understanding Urinal Splashback

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The idea and effect of urine splashback have haunted men whenever they wanted to relieve themselves in public restroom. After a moment in the restroom, men often experience shattered confidence as a friend or stranger sports a urine splashback on their pants.

Now, US physicists dived into the fluid dynamics of urine “splashback”, and have shared tips on how to prevent it.

“In response to harsh and repeated criticisms from our mothers and several failed relationships with women, we present the splash dynamics of a simulated human male urine stream,” reads the conference abstract of the Brigham Young University team.

According to a report by the BBC, the team used high-speed cameras to film a machine that jets liquid to toiler walls for them to study the resulting spray. Called the “Water Angle Navigation Guide”, this machine is a five-gallon bucket that has hoses connected to two types of synthetic urethra. The team said the splashback is low when the jet was fired close up with a narrow “angle of attack”.

Led by Prof Tadd Truscott and Randy Hurd of the “Splash Lab” at Brigham Young in Provo, Utah, he joked that they called themselves as “wizz kids”.

“People ask me, are you serious? I tell them yes, this may involve 12-year-old [humor], but it’s also a real problem,” Prof Truscott told BBC News. “We’ve all been in disgusting toilets with puddles on the floor – these places are a breeding ground for bacteria.”

The team used the machine to fire different colored water to different target “toilets” with the same pressure and velocity of how a human urinates. And with the use of the high-speed camera, the team was able to film every step and result in detail.

The splashback that happens is connected with the phenomenon called Plateau-Rayleigh instability. This phenomenon happens when the falling water breaks and becomes droplets.

“The male urine stream breaks up about 6-7 inches outside the urethra exit,” Mr Hurd explained. “So by the time it hits the urinal, it’s already in droplet form. And these droplets are the perpetrators of the splash formation on your khaki pants.”

As for advice, Mr Hurd said: “The closer you are, the better. If you can get stream impact with the porcelain, it’s a lot less chaotic.”

The study also examined the two positions — sitting and standing. Prof Truscott said that people kept on arguing which is better between the two. To test out the two positions, they gave rulers to their friends and sent them to the toilet.

“It turns out you are five times as far away when you stand up – and that’s a pretty significant difference in impact velocity for those droplets of urine,” said Mr Hurd. “You can see the droplets create a large cavity in the water, which then collapses, causing even greater splashback. The amount of splash is considerable.”

“It seems that sitting down is the best sure-fire way to avoid unwanted splashing in a traditional toilet.”

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