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Waterless Urinal FAQ: All You Wanted To Know And More About Waterless Urinals

Key topics for facility professionals. Keywords for this topic: Waterless Urinals

Compiled by FacilitiesNet Staff

How Does a Waterless Urinal Work?

Typically, waterless urinal bodies are constructed of vitreous china or porcelain, similar to standard flush urinals. Most waterless units use a liquid sealer and rely on a density differential between the sealant and the liquid waste. The sealant is less dense than water or urine, which pass through the sealant. The sealant creates a barrier between the liquid waste and the urinal bowl.

Are Waterless Urinals Code Compliant?

Unfortunately, it depends. The code compliance of waterless urinals varies among local jurisdictions. Some allow installation of waterless urinals, while others do not. The International Plumbing Code requires all plumbing fixtures have a water supply when it is required for proper operations and that water provides the trap seal.

Managers planning to install waterless urinals first should check with local code officials to determine if they will accept the retrofit as code compliant. If all else fails, code officials can sometimes be persuaded to consider a test with new technology on a limited basis.
Some local codes explicitly require fixtures to have a water supply and exclude mechanical traps. For the liquid-seal waterless urinals, the potential grey areas in the codes stem from using the sealer in lieu of water.

In the case of the dry waterless urinals, the urinals not only lack a water trap, but the local codes might consider the canisters to be mechanical in nature and, thus, subject to failure. Either requirement might preclude their use.

How Much Water Can A Waterless Urinal Save?

A waterless urinal that replaces a standard one-gallon per flush urinal can save 40,000 gallons of water annually, according to manufacturers.

What Kind Of Maintenance Do Waterless Urinals Require?

Success of a waterless urinal maintenance program largely depends on training of the facility management staff and how the building is used, experts say. For example, custodial staff should be trained not to dump wastewater down the urinals when cleaning because doing so could disrupt the cartridge seal. Unlike standard urinals, which are often washed down with water, the typical cleaning regimen for a waterless urinal consists of spraying the unit and wiping it down.

Are There Different Kinds of Waterless Urinals?

Yes. As it turns out, even urinals are subject to innovation. Liquid-seal urinals feature two different designs: cartridge and integrated drain trap. The cartridge design uses various types of disposable cartridge inserts that fit into the custom-designed urinal base. The cartridge might simply slide into the base, or it might require a special tool for insertion and removal.

The cartridge typically contains half a liter of water and is topped with a liquid sealant. This cartridge collects sediment and directs the flow of liquid waste to the drain while blocking odors.

The integrated-trap design does not use a cartridge. Instead, it uses a liquid sealant that separates the waste from the urinal bowl through a fixed basin trap or a trap built into the urinal body.

Yet another type of waterless urinal does not require a liquid seal to operate. This urinal uses a flexible silicone diaphragm or elastomeric, expanding check valve. Typically housed in a removable cartridge, the diaphragm or check valve allows liquid waste to pass through and then seals, preventing sewer gases from entering the restroom.