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This paper presents the results of a study about hygiene in train toilets. The central problem is that with the existing train toilet design and the different groups of users it is impossible to keep the train toilet clean. In a conventional train, it is especially difficult for men to urinate without spilling urine outside the bowl while standing. This, sometimes invisible spray of urine drops on the toilet seat, smells strongly and feels wet. Therefore women and men are reluctant to sit on the toilet seat. It also causes women to hover while urinating and as a consequence they add to the soiling of the seat. To break this negative spiral, the solution for experiencing better hygiene in a train toilet is to divide the train toilet into two separate modules: a urinal for men (standing) and a family seated toilet for others.
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Abstract
This paper presents the results of a study about hygiene in train toilets. The central problem
is that with the existing train toilet design and the different groups of users it is impossible to
keep the train toilet clean. In a conventional train, it is especially difficult for men to urinate
without spilling urine outside the bowl while standing. This, sometimes invisible spray of
urine drops on the toilet seat, smells strongly and feels wet. Therefore women and men are
reluctant to sit on the toilet seat. It also causes women to hover while urinating and as a
consequence they add to the soiling of the seat. To break this negative spiral, the solution
for experiencing better hygiene in a train toilet is to divide the train toilet into two separate
modules: a urinal for men (standing) and a family seated toilet for others.
Keywords
Train toilet; hygiene; urinal; toilet seat; male urination; female urination.
Introduction
This paper is an introduction to the research project ‘Hygienic Train Toilet’, which started in
January 2009 in cooperation with the Dutch Railways (NS). NL Agency provided funding for
the first part of this project to support the research and development of a hygienic train toilet,
which will enhance the comfort and attractiveness of the train [1, p.5-7].
The project encompasses the research and product development of toilets with a focus on
the (un) hygienic experience of train toilets.
Considering train toilets in the Netherlands, it is striking that only one single design is
intended for a large diversity of users with different usage habits. All these users have one
thing in common: they experience the train toilet as non-hygienic. Public toilets in general
are not popular [2,3,4,5,6] and train toilets give rise to even more negative sentiments.
Male urination in the train
Marian Loth, Johan Molenbroek
m.loth@tudelft.nl;j.f.m.molenbroek@tudelft.nl
Delft University of Technology
Train travellers use the train toilet to fulfil two basic needs: urination and defecation [5].
They also want to visit the train toilet just to wash their hands and for other activities such as
adjusting contact lenses, taking medication and changing baby nappies [2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9,10].
All kinds of different postures are practiced in the train toilet.
This study concentrates on the hygienic problems connected with the standing posture of
male urination. The position of the toilet seat [11] makes it very vulnerable to soiling by men
urinating in this position. Men need to aim their urine into a horizontal plane from a great
vertical distance a, which is very difficult to achieve cleanly, especially in a shaking train, see
Figure 1. Although urinals for men are already commonly used, they have not yet been used
in trains.
Figure 1: Standing male urination
We conducted our investigation to determine the factors that cause spillage of male urine
outside the bowl in trains. The main research questions for our investigation are:
(1) Which aspects of the train toilet influence the experience of hygiene in a positive or
negative way?
(2) What do male train travellers do in train toilets?
(3) What problems occur related to the design of the toilet?
Research Methods
For the ‘Hygienic Train Toilet’ project, we applied the following research techniques apart
from the literature study: 1) the Dutch railways annual Omnibus survey, 2) an on-line
questionnaire, 3) an anthropometric data survey and 4) observational research with
particular focus on standing male urination. The results of these studies will be published in
separate papers and ultimately published in a PhD thesis
1) Dutch Railways Omnibus yearly research survey: To get input for an extensive
questionnaire, Dutch Railways gave us the opportunity to add two simple questions to
the 9 questions in its survey. The main goal of this survey is to conduct a quick scan of a
topic by asking simple and short questions to train travellers. 666 respondents, varying in
age from 15-83, with a 50-50 percentage division in gender answered these two
questions: (translated from Dutch):
1. How do you experience using train toilets?
A: I’d rather avoid it than to make use of it, or
B: For me it’s no problem to use the toilet in the train.
2. Could you explain your answer? If you can mention one thing that is dirty in the train
toilet and one thing that is clean, what would that be?
A: Dirty:
B: Clean:
2) Questionnaire: Via Internet, 3960 commuters from the panel of the Dutch Railways were
invited to fill in an extensive questionnaire with approximately 50 questions about their
characteristics, habits and needs in train toilets or public toilets.
3) Anthropometric survey [12,13]: This survey provides data regarding the standing male
urination position.
4) Observations [14]: Before participating in the observation, the participants signed a
consent form to guarantee their privacy. The observations were executed in two steps:
Step 1: The first was a general observation of about 30 train travellers (healthy adults
and students). The test occurred in a moving train in a city-to-city return trip with a total
duration of 3 hours.
Step 2: The second observation was in a moving train city-to-city return trip with a
duration of 30 minutes. Nine train travellers participated in the test and were divided into
two groups. The first group consisted of 3 representatives of a special needs population:
a stoma patient, a wheelchair user and a young child (a 5 year old girl). The second
group consisted of 6 male adults who represented the male urination group.
Results
1) Omnibus Survey: 1A: Approximately 80% of the 666 respondents avoid using the toilet in
trains, see Figure 2. Most respondents state that the main reason to avoid toilets in trains
is related to the hygiene of train toilets. Other less mentioned reasons are the movement
(shaking) of the train, limited space and lack of toilet paper.
The main reasons given by respondents for it not being a problem to use the train toilet (17%)
is that they do not need to use the toilet itself and that they are satisfied with the availability
of a toilet.
Figure 2: Percentage of respondents (n=666) of the Omnibus Survey that avoids toilets in trains.
The answers to the questions on the dirty and clean aspects of train toilets are presented in
Table 1. Most respondents mentioned dirty aspects.
Dirty aspects of train toilet
Number
%
Clean aspects of train toilet
Number
%
whole toilet
150
23
wash basin
59
9
toilet seat
104
16
toilet paper
25
4
toilet bowl
67
10
walls/ceiling
22
3
Floor
55
8
Cloths
19
3
Smell
46
7
Mirror
18
3
Table 1: Dirty and clean aspects of the train toilet
2) Questionnaire: 1267 people completed the full questionnaire, a response of 32%. Of
these, 1058 respondents, (Table 2) indicated that they were frequent train travellers
against 209 infrequent train travellers. Infrequent travellers use the train les than once a
month. The latter group completed the questionnaire about public toilets.
In this paper, we only discuss the questionnaire results that relate to urination in train toilets.
The main reason given for using the train toilet is urination. Of the users of a train toilet,
approximately 60% are male and 40% female. The majority of the men (75%) urinate in a
standing position and 60% of the women urinate in a hovering position. Of those who refuse
to sit on the toilet seat, 36% are male and 20% female. An interesting result of the survey is
that 41% of the women say that they avoid the use of a train toilet by not drinking before
travelling.
Female
Male
Total number
Dutch population (2010)
Source: www.cbs.nl [16]
8.3
(million)
8.2
(million)
16.5
(million)
51%
49%
100%
Train Travelers (2007)
age 4+, Source: internal report (NS).
4.8
(million)
4.2
(million)
9
(million)
53%
47%
100%
Panel Dutch Railways (2010)
age 16+, frequent travellers
545
513
1058
52%
48%
100%
Table 2: representativeness of participants Panel Dutch Railways, n=1058 [16]
3) Anthropometric data [12,13]: Within the male population who urinate in a standing position,
the distance between the position where the urine leaves the body and the position where it
arrives varies greatly. For instance, the variation in this distance ( Figure 1) is 50% between
a tall male (P99) and a small male (P1) see Table 3.
(Cm.)
Mean
stature
Mean crotch
height: Distance b
(mean), see
Figure 1.
P1 crotch height:
Distance b (small
male), see Figure 1.
P99 crotch height:
Distance b (tall
male), see Figure 1.
Male Dutch traveller
(20-60 years) [12]
181.70
b= 87.2
a = 44
b =78
a = 35
b = 96.4
a = 53
USA Fly PRSNL,
1967 [13] male
177.34
b =85.07
a = 52
b = 75.6
a= 33
b = 94.9
a = 52
Table 3: Variation in distances (cm.) within the male population, urinating in standing position. [12,13].
Men need to target the urine into the bowl from a great distance (Figure 1, distance a),
which is a difficult task. This distance (Figure 1, distance a) also causes a back-splash of the
urine [2, p.148-151] amongst other negative factors. These negative factors, such as bad
sight of the task, shaking the last drops, ‘spread’ of the urine stream, an unpredictable
‘spray’, nonchalance, back splash etc. also cause spillage of urine outside the bowl. These
factors are not included in this paper and will be published later in a separate paper.
The difference between the results from men and women is that women can control the
distance a better by bending through their knees, see Figure 3. Therefore, it is easier for
them to direct the beam of urine inside the bowl without spillage [15].
Figure 3: Women that hover can control the distance a better than men by bending through their knees.
4) Observations [10], see also one of the news items on:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gn4P_dB5INk
(NOS news aired on 23-03-2010): We observed that all participants raise the toilet seat before
urinating in a standing position, and that 50% do not wash their hands. In this first (Step
1) observation, the small drops of urine could not be observed.
5) For that reason, we performed a second (Step 2) observation. We placed a thin sheet of
paper on the rim of the toilet bowl, while the toilet seat was raised. The paper was also
placed on the floor. The urine drops falling on the paper were absorbed and coloured the
paper dark, see Figure 4.
After each participant urinated, a picture was taken of the paper and the toilet. The soiled
paper was then replaced by new clean paper for the following participant, see Figure 5.
The results were shocking; the whole toilet seat proved to be covered with a spray of
urine drops. See figure 4.
Figure 4: Spilled urine by men, n=6 Figure 5: Clean paper for each participant
Conclusions
This paper describes a part of the ‘Hygienic Train Toilet’ research project, which started in
2009 in cooperation with Dutch Railways (NS). The focus of this project is the (un)hygienic
experience of train toilet users in the Netherlands.
The main conclusion of the investigation is that public toilets are experienced as being
unhygienic [2, 3, 4, 5, 6] and train toilets even more so. The Omnibus survey demonstrates
that 80% of the train travellers avoid using the train toilet because of this lack of hygiene.
This works adversely to the aim of Dutch Railways to seduce commuters to leave the car
and take the train. The problem cannot easily be resolved, as the users of the train toilet
form a very diverse group, with diverse habits and requirements. The train environment also
complicates the usage of the train toilet.
In this paper we studied the standing posture of the male urination process in a train toilet,
justified by the fact that this is adopted by 75% of male train travellers, resulting in
(sometimes invisible) urine drops on the floor and toilet seat. One of the main reasons for
this spillage is that a man has to aim the urine from a great vertical distance into the
traditional train toilet bowl. As a result, women refuse to sit on the toilet seat and the majority
(60%) sit in a hover posture when using the toilet, with a great chance of soiling it even more
[2, p.232-233, 3]
We assume that the soiling of the toilet seat in the female hovering position is less than that
from men in a standing posture, because women have more control over the distance a of
the beam of urine by bending down through their knees, see Figure 3. [15].
There is no urine spillage when the user sits on the toilet as the urine goes directly into the
bowl. The backsplash of the urine [2, 148-151] cannot then reach the toilet rim because the
body and legs cover the toilet, see Figure 6. Furthermore, the train movement stimulates
women to use the toilet while seated, however 20 % refuse to do so even if the toilet is
hygienic. The soiling of the toilet in the hovering posture by women and the stimulation of
women to sit will be studied in another part of this investigation.
Figure 6: There is no spillage of urine when the user is seated.
As a result we suggest that the solution for experiencing better hygiene in a train toilet is to
divide the train toilet into two separate modules: A urinal for men and a family seated toilet [3,
p. 108] for people who need [2,3,5,6,7,8,9,10,17] or prefer to sit, which also includes men
who prefer to use the toilet whilst seated.
Discussion
When gender issues are discussed in relation to toilet habits, usually most of the attention
focuses on male urination [5, p. 12, 7, p. 271, 287]. This is also true for this part of our
investigation.
By offering males a separate urinal, female needs can be better met, especially in relation to
hygiene. By effectuating a functional separation, not only can women be offered a more
hygienic seated toilet, but also other functions of toilet use like childcare provision will
become more acceptable [3, p. 238]. In addition, we assume that the majority of men will use
the separate urinal and not the family seated toilet. Therefore the family seated toilet will be
less used and consequently will be more available to women users.
At the summit meeting in HaiKou, China, we will present the results of our investigation into
use of the train urinal and the family seated toilet.
Acknowledgements
This research would not have been possible without the financial support of NL Agency and
the professional support of Daan van Eijk of Delft University of Technology and Mirjam Meier
of the Dutch Railways.
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anthropometric database: www.dined.nl, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering
Dined (2004) anthropometric database: www.dined.nl, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft University of Technology. (Accessed September 2010).
Participants: who, possible selection, observational research ID 4225 reader
  • Kanis
Kanis, (1993) Participants: who, possible selection, observational research ID 4225 reader (2006), faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands.
User-Product Interaction: Users and the Design of Public Convenience Sanitary ware Products in The UK, doctoral thesis
  • E Y Williams
Williams, E. Y. (2009) User-Product Interaction: Users and the Design of Public Convenience Sanitary ware Products in The UK, doctoral thesis, Faculty Of Social Science And Humanities Department Of Design And Technology, Loughborough University.
Onderzoek Toiletten in de OV-keten
  • S T Gleave
Gleave, S.T. (2010) Onderzoek Toiletten in de OV-keten. Stated Preference research.
STREAM, Study on the Transport Emissions of All Modes, Delft, version 2.0, CE Delft; Available from
  • Den L C Boer
  • F P E Brouwer
  • H P Essen Van
Boer, den L.C., Brouwer, F.P.E. and Essen van H.P. (2008) STREAM, Study on the Transport Emissions of All Modes, Delft, version 2.0, CE Delft; Available from: http://www.ce.nl/index.php?go=home.showPublicatie&id=790 (Accessed June 2010).
Anthropometric Source Book Volume II: A Handbook of Anthropometric Data, Scientific And Technical Information Office, Ohio
NASA, (1978) Anthropometric Source Book Volume II: A Handbook of Anthropometric Data, Scientific And Technical Information Office, Ohio. http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19790005541_1979005541.pdf (Accessed January 2011)