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Author Topic: Why are toilet doors so badly designed?  (Read 10236 times)

Samuel Brown

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« on: 19/10/2008 13:16:58 »
Samuel Brown  asked the Naked Scientists:
Hello Chris & Co from Finland - all Autumn leaves and long faces; people preparing for the winter.

They reckon they'll be some decent snow this year which is nice. 2007 was the year of the great slush. I just wanted to comment about something I heard on last week's podcast - there was a mention that paper towels are the better, more hygenic method of drying hands
in a public toilet than, say a hot air blower. I totally agree with this - warmed up air which has been circulating in a tiny room can't be so nice either to breath in or to have on your hands. Paper towels are never in the room long enough (if the place is busy) to get bad, and you
throw them away when you're done. Much better.

 
One question i'd like to ask is this: Is there a body who enforce standards (or at least suggests them) when it comes to the architecture of buildings and particularly toilets. (Or restrooms as they like
to call them in the states - the reason being that resting is much more acceptable in polite society than doing any of the other things we occasionally need to do).

Every toilet in just about every cafe, fast food restaurant and even hospital (!) I have seen or worked in has a very bad design flaw in that the toilet doors need to be pulled to open them when you leave. It is a sad thing, but I would say more than half of people who use public toilets simply do not wash their hands when they are done - I can't speak for women, but guys it seems feel they are immune to the need.
It means when you are done, you wash your hands and then must grasp hold of the door handle or lock or whatever it is, to open the door - the last guy you just saw leaving didn't wash his hands and so you're putting back onto your skin the very stuff you've just washed off.

It would be such a simple thing to design doors in public toilets so you could just kick them open with your foot on the way out - you won't change human behaviour, and people will still not wash their hands when they should. Just something you have to live with. This would at least save the next person in line the problem of wrapping paper around everything.
 
Oh and another thing - perhaps more delicate to talk about - but ... stand-up urinals; it seems to be an assumption that guys don't need to really do anything except give a quick shake when they're done. Well I don't know about other people, but the best way to make sure there is nothing left to give you an uncomfortable walk down the corridor when you leave the toilet is a dab or two of toilet paper to absorb whatever might be left in the pipe-work so to speak. Standup urinals would be better if they provided little bits of paper from a dispenser you could use
and then drop into a binĀ  - rather than having to do some serious choriography to reach around the door to the normal toilet and grab some paper. Or is this just me? :)

Well you only have your own experience to go on, but maybe it could be mentioned on air because I can't be the only person in the world to think about these little problems...

Anyway once again i'd like to thank you for a wonderful show - really interesting and always  leaves you wanting more.

Take care and best wishes
From Helsinki
Sam

What do you think?


 

Offline JnA

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #1 on: 19/10/2008 15:15:45 »
Basic designs rules that doors swing into a room and out of a closet.

But you are right.. I would suggest that they put in doors that open both ways.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #2 on: 19/10/2008 16:08:55 »
Firedoor usually open outwards so there is a precedent for having doors that open in the "wrong" direction for health and safety reasons.
 

Offline yor_on

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #3 on: 04/12/2008 18:27:38 »
How about revolving doors for that quick hygienic 'drive through'?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolving_door.

Did you know that the mouth and Uranus have the same kind of content, eh, sort of?
(Could that explain Politicians:)

Anyway considering 'germs' and bacteria.
In one way you're absolutely right.

Hands do transmit a lot of diseases, but thinking of it:)
So do kissing?

And that can be quite enjoyable...

----

Eh, the kissing that was.
Btw: Some research suggests that our new 'hygienic' attitude also is what makes allergies thrive amongst our kids.
 
« Last Edit: 04/12/2008 18:32:16 by yor_on »
 

Offline LeeE

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #4 on: 05/12/2008 00:19:00 »
I'm sorry Samuel, but you're being a bit neurotic.  Piss and sh1t, apart from being chemically toxic, is not intrinsically unhealthy in terms of catching diseases and anything that comes out of a body is no more diseased than the body it comes out of.  If you have no diseases or infections your urine and faeces, while being toxic, are actually sterile.

If someone has an infection in their urinary or digestive tracts they may leave the relevant bacteria on a door handle, or whatever, but unless the bacteria has an airborne vector it won't survive very long outside of the human body and the risk of picking something up from a door handle is a lot lower than the risk of inhaling something totally unrelated but quite possibly more dangerous.

The reason that lavatory and restroom doors doors open inwards is because if they were to open outwards they would open in to a space where people would be likely to walk in to them and injure themselves.

Trying to fight bacteria, in an 'open' environment, is a battle lost - ignore the adverts.
 

paul.fr

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #5 on: 05/12/2008 13:07:02 »
Toilet doors are designed for modesty.
 

lyner

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #6 on: 06/12/2008 21:07:20 »
Quote
but unless the bacteria has an airborne vector it won't survive very long outside of the human body
How does the Broad Street Pump fit into that statement, LeeE, Eh?
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #7 on: 06/12/2008 22:21:13 »
"urine and faeces, while being toxic, are actually sterile."
Half right. Faeces are a long way from sterile though, for healthy individuals, the bacteria present are non pathogens.
Of course, if someone has a "waterborne" disease that's no longer true (which explains the Broad Street pump incident.
 

Offline LeeE

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #8 on: 07/12/2008 18:10:55 »
Ok - there'll be some digestive bacteria in the faeces, but not a large amount, and what is there won't be viable for very long because they need the conditions within the digestive tract to survive.  The digestive bacteria that does get expelled along with the faeces is going to it's death and only those bacteria that have developed a vector via the faeces i.e. some infections, will survive.

The Broad Street pump incident was a milestone in the science of epidemiology, if not it's real starting point.
 

lyner

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #9 on: 07/12/2008 22:42:42 »
It was surely an (extreme) example of the necessity of washing your hands, though.
 

Offline LeeE

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #10 on: 08/12/2008 16:23:56 »
That wasn't so much a case of not washing your hands but more a case of not drinking from the bowl.
 

lyner

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #11 on: 08/12/2008 18:06:47 »
Are you really saying, LeeE, that washing your hands is a futile exercise and that, if we all wore face masks, there would be no diseases spread?
The WHO could disband tomorrow, if that were true.

"It's OK darlin', you'll be alright: I'm wearing a face mask"
 

Offline yor_on

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #12 on: 09/12/2008 01:39:35 »
Washing your hand and then air-dry them is said to take away around 90% of the bacteria.
Doing it twice would be rather enough.
The bacteria you may catch from that door handle will infect you through the eye most probably, as we all tend to rub them at times.

Most bacterias die when exposed to air for a longer time-period but not all.
And there is a certain stress around public toilets as well as a certain untidiness too?
At least that's my impression :)
 

Offline LeeE

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #13 on: 09/12/2008 23:01:17 »
Are you really saying, LeeE, that washing your hands is a futile exercise and that, if we all wore face masks, there would be no diseases spread?

No.  You're just being silly now.
 

Offline LeeE

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #14 on: 09/12/2008 23:46:57 »
Ok - where does the bacteria on your hand come from?  Are people really incapable of urinating without doing it all over their fingers, and do they not bother with using lavatory paper and scrape their bottoms clean with their fingernails?  Are these bacteria so fast and agile that as soon as you just put your hand near one of your orifices they will quickly jump out and on to it?

Bacteria from inside the body, with only a few exotic exceptions, isn't viable outside the body, where the conditions are likely to be too dry and too cold for them.

Air-born bacteria, on the other hand, does need to be protected against as these obviously do survive outside the body and it is these types that you are most likely to be infected with, as likely as not, by being rubbed in to the eyes, as Yor_on said.  The point is though, that these bacteria are found everywhere, not just on toilet doors, and the emphasis that you should wash your hands after visiting the toilet is misleading because it implies a special risk where there is none.

This is, of course, unless you usually do pee or poo on your hands.

If it really bothered someone then perhaps they might feel better if they washed their hands before rubbing their eyes, but it would not stop bacteria from simply drifting in to them, or from being inhaled.

It does make sense to wash both your hands and the work surfaces you'll be using before preparing food but air-born bacteria will still drift on to them both during the preparation.  Obviously too, if your hands are dirty it makes sense to wash them, both for comfort and because some of the dirt might be toxic.
 

lyner

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #15 on: 10/12/2008 23:35:19 »
Are you really saying, LeeE, that washing your hands is a futile exercise and that, if we all wore face masks, there would be no diseases spread?

No.  You're just being silly now.
A 'reducto ad absurdum' argument and a bit silly, of course, but faecal bacteria, in some cases, are deadly. Why not try to reduce their impact?

A regime in which everyone washes hands after using the loo must help matters. Urine is not a problem but, when there's cholera (etc) about, it occurs in faeces and, by implication, on unwashed hands. Ordinary bog roll is pretty weak and we've all experienced a break-through, I'm sure.
 

Offline LeeE

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #16 on: 11/12/2008 13:56:13 »
I did add the proviso about existing infections in my first post.

Quote
Ordinary bog roll is pretty weak and we've all experienced a break-through

I don't want to appear to be spamming but I use some four-ply stuff I get from Lidl that's great - no break-throughs yet.  Recommended - I rate it four and a half (non-chocolate) stars.
 

lyner

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #17 on: 22/12/2008 11:20:33 »
Perhaps I'm over - enthusiastic in my cleanup routine?
 

lyner

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Why are toilet doors so badly designed?
« Reply #18 on: 22/12/2008 11:20:52 »
OH God - too much information Dad!!!
 

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