Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Resolving Toilet Trouble

September 19, 2010

When low-flow toilets were first introduced, consumers and facility managers complained about having to flush twice to clean the bowl.

This defeated the entire purpose of selecting a more water-efficient toilet fixture.

Additionally, there were complaints that small water spots developed inside the bowl, making it harder to keep the toilet bowl clean and sanitary.

Similarly, when low-flow and no-flow urinals became commonplace, users often complained about malodors.

And, facility managers discovered that the tray/cylinder system found on most no-water urinals, which are typically serviced by cleaning professionals, had to be replaced frequently, resulting in higher maintenance costs than anticipated — eliminating any cost savings for building owners.

Many of the initial problems with low-flow and no-flow fixtures have been resolved.

However, cleaning these systems can still be a problem because it is often the water and the power of the flush that helps keep them sanitary.

And, as more fixtures — especially high-efficiency toilets — are introduced that use less and less water, cleaning professionals may find it a real challenge to keep them clean, fresh smelling and sanitary.

Stepping Up To The Bowl

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 mandated that all toilets installed in the United States use a maximum of 1.6 gallons of water per flush (GPF).

New toilets have already been introduced that use approximately half this amount of water.

Referred to as pressure-assisted toilets, which compress air at the top of the tank to increase flush velocity, these use as little as 0.8 GPF.

Initial reports indicate they have been well-received and perform to expectations.

The increased pressure in the tank is designed to also help keep them clean.

However, in a busy location with heavy use, such as a school, large office building or other commercial facility, this may not be enough.

In response, manufacturers have been developing tools and systems that help make cleaning these, as well as more conventional toilets, a bit easier.

One of the most effective ways to keep high-efficiency toilets clean is through the use of touch-free cleaning systems.

These not only address cross contamination issues but also reduce the time required to clean the fixture by more than half.

For toilets cleaned manually, a variety of ergonomically-designed tools have been introduced that help custodial workers clean deep inside the bowl, under the rim and in other hard-to-reach areas.

Because they are designed ergonomically, workers tend to experience less back, shoulder and wrist strain.

Many of these new tools have extra-long handles, which keep workers'' faces away from the toilet bowl containing cleaning chemicals and their possible fumes.

As to cleaning chemicals, the same types of products, including green cleaning chemicals, used to clean conventional toilets should work with low-flow toilets.

Because some of these high-efficiency toilets have more highly polished bowls to help expedite waste removal and prevent staining, the use of powder or abrasive cleaners should be avoided.

Standing Up To Odors

Not only may waterless urinal systems have highly polished inner walls, abrasive cleaners may cause the trap insert, placed at the base of the waterless system, to function improperly.

However, the big concern about no-water urinals, at least before installation, is odors.

In fact, a common theme found on some online facility manager blogs and message boards is that they like the water and cost savings of no-water urinals, but not the smell.

There are different reasons why odors may be present, some of which have nothing to do with the fact that a waterless urinal has been installed.

The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) conducted a study to determine if odor problems differed between waterless and traditional urinals.

The researchers found that urinal odors in general were more a function of urine on floors and surrounding surfaces than the type of urinal installed.

In most cases, when there are odor problems with waterless urinal systems, it is because they are not being maintained properly, according to Douglas Yon, a project manager with Facility Engineering Associates (FEA) and David Cosaboon, a staff engineer with FEA.

This is usually because custodial workers have not been taught how to properly clean them.

Some of the areas to check and ways to prevent odor problems include:

  • Look to see that the trap insert is correctly placed and seated in the drain. This helps prevent sewer odors from being released.

  • To perform correctly, most urinal systems require a sealing liquid to be poured into the trap. Check to see if this needs to be replenished.

  • Many waterless urinal manufacturers will advise using certain cleaning chemicals and products for their systems. It is best to follow their instructions.

  • Wipe clean all areas of the urinal. If disinfectants are used, allow for proper "dwell" time before wiping clean.

Because the inner surface of a waterless system stays dry, it actually minimizes the possibility of bacteria to develop.

It is the growth of bacteria that causes odors in most water-based urinal systems; this makes proper cleaning and maintenance all the more important.

Further, in studies conducted by Julius Ballanco, president of JB Engineering Sales Company Inc. and Code Consulting Inc. in Munster, Indiana, waterless systems produce no unusual odor problem as long as the manufacturer''s recommendations for maintaining the urinal are followed.

Ultimately, for both high-efficiency toilets and no-water urinals, proper training is the key to keeping these systems clean, sanitary and free of odors and problems.

And, just as introducing green cleaning products to a facility has proven to be an opportunity to retrain workers on proper cleaning procedures, the introduction of water-efficient toilets and urinals can be an opportunity to fine-tune restroom cleaning skills.

Klaus Reichardt is founder and managing partner of Waterless Company. He is also a frequent author and presenter regarding water conservation issues. He may be reached at