10 Interesting Facts About Waterless Urinals

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There are approximately 8 million urinals in the United States alone, used by around 100 million people in various buildings and arenas, consuming about 160 billion gallons (605 billion liters) of water annually [source: Waterless]. However, waterless urinals can significantly reduce this water consumption. If the amount of water used could be cut in half or eliminated altogether, it would make a huge difference.

Despite the potential benefits, waterless urinals have not yet become mainstream due to misconceptions about their effectiveness and sanitation. Many people wonder whether they smell bad, are unsanitary, or what happens to the urine if it is not flushed away. This article aims to answer these and other common questions related to waterless urinals.

10: The Functioning of Waterless Urinals

Although it may seem that a urinal without water would be complicated and require extensive machinery, waterless urinals are relatively simple. They typically use gravity and a trap chamber filled with a liquid called sealant to effectively dispose of waste [source: Waterless]. The sealant may differ among manufacturers but is usually a lightweight fluid that does not evaporate and is partially made from oils such as vegetable oil [source: Waterless].

If you look at a waterless urinal, you will see a dome-shaped trap with small channels for urine to flow through. The trap is a detachable cartridge that enables waterless drainage. The waste enters the trap through circular slots on the top of the cartridge and filters through the sealant, which stays on top since it is lighter than water [source: Reichardt]. The urine then flows into a central reservoir and is drained through a pipe leading to the bathroom’s waste line, the same as in traditional urinals. As more urine flows in, the old waste drains out, and the cycle continues [source: Reichardt].

Some waterless urinals use alternative methods for disposing of waste, such as solid blocks containing microbes to neutralize bacteria and filter urine downward or bursts of compressed air to push out the waste [source: Stumpf].

9: Odor-Free Waterless Urinals

The development process of waterless urinals faced a major challenge in controlling unpleasant smells. Sewers contain various kinds of odors and gases that could pose health hazards if released. The solution was to use a sealant that floats on top of the urine in the trap cartridges of waterless urinals, which prevents any foul odors from escaping through the pipes. The sealant stays on top of the urine in the trap, creating a barrier that stops the smell of urine sitting in the trap for extended periods from escaping. Waterless urinals also have ultra-smooth bowls designed with a steep slope to ensure that all liquid flows down directly into the reservoir without pooling up, eliminating the need for a flush and the possibility of urine pooling in the bowl. [source: Waterless].

8: Lower Bacteria Levels in Waterless Urinals

Urine is mostly sterile when it leaves the body. In a regular toilet, it is the combination of urine and water that encourages bacterial growth and spread. When the particulates and minerals in urine react with the minerals and chemicals in water, bacteria begin to thrive. Waterless urinals do not introduce water, reducing the growth of bacteria. The sealant in a waterless urinal also prevents exposure to air, where bacteria travels and spreads. Additionally, flushing urinals can send small water droplets into the air, spreading bacteria throughout the bathroom and onto your hands or clothes. Waterless urinals do not create this problem. However, like any bathroom fixture, it is essential to clean waterless urinals regularly to prevent bacteria buildup. Cleaning them is relatively simple, using a household cleaning solution and a sponge or cloth to wipe down the exterior surfaces [source: Zero Flush].

7: What is the water usage of old urinals?

Replacing a urinal with a waterless one can save an equivalent amount of water to the amount used by the old urinal. Most urinals use between 1 and 3 gallons (3.7 to 11.3 liters) of water per flush, but this can vary depending on the age of the urinal. Older ones tend to use more water, while newer ones use less. Urinals produced during the 1990s and ’00s use closer to 1 or 1.25 gallons per flush, while some low-flow fixtures use even less. The amount of water used can also depend on the volume of use the urinal gets. In a workplace with a few dozen employees, a single urinal can save around 45,000 gallons (about 170,000 liters) of water per year.

6: Replacing traditional urinals with waterless ones

Most waterless urinal manufacturers design their fixtures to be compatible with conventional plumbing systems, making it easy to replace traditional urinals. They usually fit standard 2-inch drainage lines or can be adjusted to fit 1.5-inch lines. Since waterless urinals don’t require any water, there is no need for a second line for potable water supply. When installing waterless urinals, the unused water supply line needs to be capped, and the pipes leading from the urinals to the waste line need to be sloped for easy drainage. If the pipes aren’t sloped enough, they will need to be modified by replacing the few feet of pipe leading to the waste line.

5: Maintenance Requirements for Waterless Urinals

Compared to flush urinals, waterless urinals require less maintenance. Manufacturers claim that their urinals hardly ever leak and do not require replacement of valves or handles [source: Waterless]. Although this is true, they do require regular maintenance to function correctly. The sealant liquid used in waterless urinals should be replaced every 1,500 uses (two to four times a year) [source: Reichardt]. The sealant depletes over time as a small amount of it seeps down the drain with urine. Some waterless urinals have removable trap cartridges that need cleaning or replacement depending on the brand of the urinal. These cartridges become clogged with sediment from urine over time. If the urinal doesn’t have removable cartridges, cleaning with a plumbing snake is necessary when sediment build-up forms obstructions [source: Stumpf].

4: Legalization of Waterless Urinals

Waterless urinals were invented in 1991, but their widespread adoption only began in 2006 when they were accepted as an alternative specification in the Uniform Plumbing Code and the International Plumbing Code [source: Davis]. Prior to this acceptance, only a few local governments had made waterless urinals legal. The plumbing industry argued that they were unsafe as toxic sewer gas could escape through the drainage pipes. However, once improvements were made to the technology, and the plumbing industry was convinced of their safety, states began to rewrite their plumbing codes to permit their installation [source: Davis].

3: Cost of Waterless Urinals

Waterless urinals started to become more common in the 2000s as a means of conserving water [source: Davis]. Today, many manufacturers produce them, and they come in various shapes, sizes, styles, and colors. The price of waterless urinals varies depending on the model, with basic white models starting at $250 each [source: Reichardt]. More expensive designer models with sleek designs and colors can cost up to $1,000 [source: WaterWise Technologies]. Waterless urinals are not more expensive than traditional toilets. Furthermore, some municipal water systems offer rebates of up to $400 per urinal for installing them as an incentive to reduce water demands [source: WaterWise Technologies]. Rebates of $60 are available in Los Angeles and other areas.

2: Waterless Urinals for Home Installation

Waterless urinals can now be installed in homes, offering the same benefits as those found in big companies and large facilities. Homeowners can save money on utility bills and conserve water by using these urinals. Each flush can save between 1 to 3 gallons of water, and they are relatively affordable to purchase and install. For a household with two men, a urinal can save up to 3,250 gallons (approximately 12,302 liters) of water per year [source: Wilson]. However, it is important to note that a waterless urinal is limited in its potential for conservation because only men can use it. Therefore, if you decide to install one, it should be a second toilet and you must leave the old toilet bowl for female guests or other bathroom needs. Before installation, make sure that your bathroom has enough space for both fixtures.

1: Popular Users of Waterless Urinals

Waterless urinals have gained popularity among government agencies, school districts, and municipal government buildings due to their cost effectiveness and water efficiency. The U.S. Army has mandated that all new military facilities be equipped with waterless urinals since 2010 [source: Davis]. San Diego’s public schools have been using them since 1997, and other large attractions and public facilities like the L.A. Coliseum, the Georgia Aquarium, and the Taj Mahal in India have also started switching to waterless urinals [sources: Georgia Aquarium, Cutraro]. Since waterless urinals count towards LEED certification points, businesses and individuals have also installed them to help green their buildings.

Lots of Additional Information

Related Articles

  • How Waterless Toilets Function
  • How Toilets Function
  • How Tankless Toilets Function
  • How Dual Flush Toilets Function
  • How Low-Flow Toilets Function
  • How Environmentally Friendly Is a Self-Contained Composting Toilet?

More Useful Links

  • Waterless Urinal “Cost Saving Analysis” Tool
  • Waterless Urinal Savings Chart
  • Waterless Urinal Rebates


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  • Davis, Joshua. “Pissing Match: Is the World Ready for the Waterless Urinal?” Wired. June 22, 2010. (April 12, 2011)http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/06/ff_waterless_urinal/
  • Falcon. “Checking and Adjusting Pitch/Slope.” (April 27, 2011)http://www.falconwaterfree.com/pdf/029-Pitch.pdf
  • Georgia Aquarium. “Water Conservation at Georgia Aquarium.” 2008. (April 15, 2011)http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/conservation/waterConservation.aspx
  • Jarvey, Natalie. “Falcon Flows into the Mainstream.” Los Angeles Business Journal. Nov. 22, 2010. (April 14, 2011)http://www.labusinessjournal.com/news/2010/nov/22/mainstream/
  • Kohler. “Kohler Waterless Urinals.” (April 14, 2011)http://www.us.kohler.com/onlinecatalog/waterlessurinal.jsp?sect=3&section=2&nsection=2&nsubsection=2&category=30&nitem=cat30
  • Reichardt, Klaus. “Five Fast Facts about Waterless Urinals.” Buildings. Sept. 13, 2010. (May 14, 2010)http://www.buildings.com/ArticleDetails/tabid/3321/ArticleID/10532/Default.aspx
  • Reichardt, Klaus. “How to Clean and Maintain Waterless Urinals.” Buildings. June 28, 2006. (May 14, 2011)http://www.buildings.com/ArticleDetails/tabid/3321/ArticleID/3188/Default.aspx
  • San Diego Unified School District. “Waterless Urinals.” 2007. (April 14, 2011)http://old.sandi.net/energy/Page.asp?CategoryID=5&PageID=146
  • Stumpf, Annette L. “Waterless Urinals A Technical Evaluation.” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center. January 2007.http://www.cecer.army.mil/techreports/ERDC-CERL_TN-06-03/ERDC-CERL_TN-06-03.pdf
  • Wilson, Alex. “Is America Ready for a Home Urinal?” Green Building Advisor.com. Aug. 24, 2010. (April 15, 2011)http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/water/america-ready-home-urinal
  • Waterless. “Advantages.” (April 14, 2011)http://www.waterless.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11&Itemid=78
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1. What are waterless urinals?

Waterless urinals are a type of urinal that does not require water to flush away urine. Instead, they use a special type of trap that allows urine to pass through while blocking odors. This means that waterless urinals are much more environmentally friendly than traditional urinals, as they do not waste water.

2. How do waterless urinals work?

Waterless urinals work by using a special type of trap that is designed to allow urine to pass through while blocking odors. This trap is made up of a liquid that is denser than urine, which means that the urine passes through while the liquid remains in the trap. The liquid then seals the trap, preventing any odors from escaping.

3. Are waterless urinals more hygienic?

Yes, waterless urinals are more hygienic than traditional urinals. This is because they do not require water to flush away urine, which means that there is less chance of bacteria and germs spreading. Additionally, many waterless urinals are made from non-porous materials, which makes them easier to clean and less likely to harbor bacteria.

4. Do waterless urinals save money?

Yes, waterless urinals can save a significant amount of money over time. This is because they do not require water to flush away urine, which means that they can save up to 40,000 gallons of water per urinal per year. Additionally, waterless urinals require less maintenance than traditional urinals, which means that they can save money on cleaning and maintenance costs.

5. Are waterless urinals difficult to install?

No, waterless urinals are not difficult to install. In fact, they are often easier to install than traditional urinals, as they do not require water or plumbing connections. Most waterless urinals can be installed using basic tools and can be up and running in a matter of hours.

6. Do waterless urinals require special cleaning?

Yes, waterless urinals do require special cleaning. This is because they use a special type of trap that requires regular maintenance to prevent odors from escaping. Most waterless urinals require a special cleaning solution that is designed to break down the liquid in the trap and prevent any odors from escaping.

7. Are waterless urinals suitable for all types of buildings?

Yes, waterless urinals are suitable for all types of buildings, including residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. They can be used in both new construction and retrofit applications and are available in a variety of styles and designs to suit any building’s needs.

8. Do waterless urinals require any special maintenance?

Yes, waterless urinals do require some special maintenance. This includes regular cleaning of the trap and the use of a special cleaning solution to prevent odors from escaping. Additionally, the sealing liquid in the trap will need to be replaced periodically to ensure that the urinal remains odor-free.

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