Trough urinals are common in environments such as sports venues, bars and nightclubs, and we’re sometimes asked whether we supply waterless troughs. The answer is no. Ecoprod deliberately do not supply waterless trough urinals as our mantra is to make the entire washroom visit a good experience, and troughs never offer a pleasant user experience. So, what are the issues with trough urinals and why are individual urinals better?
It’s almost impossible to eliminate odour with trough urinals
Urine has a tendency to sit in the trough and thus causes the horrible smell that’s so common in washrooms that use troughs. Measures taken to address this problem either involve masking the smell with chemical air fresheners, or running a continuous flush through the trough which massively increases water usage so is both inefficient and bad for the environment. In contrast our Urimat waterless urinals are guaranteed to be odour-free as long as they’re maintained correctly.
Troughs are much less hygienic than individual urinals
As every man who’s used a trough urinal knows, issues with splashback, odours and general unpleasantness are common. It’s much easier to keep individual urinals clean and odour-free. The special traps used in our Urimat waterless urinals prevent any odour so with bowls you end up with a far more pleasant environment. The bowls are also shaped in such a way as to eliminate problems with splashback, keeping the whole environment around the urinal much cleaner and fresher, improving life for your cleaners as well as for urinal users.
Troughs are less efficient than individual urinals
Troughs are generally installed in environments where there’s a high throughput of users and speed is of the essence, in the mistaken belief that troughs enable more men to urinate in a given period of time than would be the case with individual urinals. We recently conducted a trial for Spurs football club as part of the development of their new stadium, to demonstrate that individual urinals could cope with the same level of traffic as troughs. In fact, the results showed that the individual urinals were actually more efficient than the troughs.
In principle the same number of people can individual urinals as can use a trough covering the same space (see the graphic below that illustrates this), but in fact the study showed that men do not use the trough to the same level of efficiency as the individual urinals as they’re reluctant to squeeze into a gap once there are a number of users already at the trough. For this reason, individual urinals encourage more people to use the facilities simultaneously. Installing trough urinals overlooks privacy concerns and other vital aspects of human psychology.
Troughs do not offer any privacy and hence are extremely unpopular with users
Every man knows that there’s a set of unspoken rules that govern urinal usage. First and foremost, users always select the urinal that offers the most privacy in the form of distance from other users. Users will never select a urinal next to another person if they can possibly avoid it. This reluctance to urinate in proximity to others can significantly slow down user throughput in trough urinals as the protocol that determines where to position oneself is much less clear and users understandably tend to err on the side of caution, meaning that even if the trough can in theory accommodate six simultaneous users the chances of it doing so in practice are slim as users will generally tend to wait for more space to open up or elect to use a stall instead, rather than fill up an open space at the trough.
Individual urinals reduce the instances of users suffering from ‘stage fright’ and so speed up throughput
Avoidant paruresis, or ‘shy bladder syndrome’ is the fear of urinating in public. In extreme cases people with this condition can only urinate when home alone, but many men suffer from some level of anxiety that sometimes affects their ability to urinate in public. This is a social anxiety disorder related to lack of privacy so can be a particular issue in washrooms with trough urinals that offer no privacy at all.
Research conducted in the 1970s showed that proximity to other users causes anxiety which can slow down the onset of urination significantly. The researchers found that having someone else at the adjacent urinal slows down the onset of urination by 8.4 seconds, compared to 6.2 seconds if you’re separated by one urinal, and 4.9 seconds if there’s no one else around. Trough urinals offer no privacy at all and so result in slower onset of urination which, at high usage times such as during half time at the football, can result in longer queues and a less efficient use of the space.
Individual urinals are better for users, cleaners and facilities managers
In summary, troughs are less efficient than urinals, less hygienic and much harder to keep clean and odour-free, as well as being extremely unpopular with users. We’d never recommend that anyone installs troughs as urinals offer a much more pleasant user experience along with the key benefit of faster throughput of users, thus cutting down queues (which also improves user experience). It’s for these reasons that the developers of Spurs’ new stadium elected to install 1,000 of our waterless urinals rather than troughs.