How To Pee Without 'Splashback': Study Of Fluid Dynamics Unveils Best Tactic For Men

By Ben Wolford on November 8, 2013 11:17 AM EST

A pair of physicists at Brigham Young University are exploring excretory system from a slightly different angle.
A pair of physicists at Brigham Young University are exploring excretory system from a slightly different angle.

Physicists in Utah are looking into the science of urine excretion so you don't have to. And they say they've discovered the best way for men to minimize the mess.

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Some of their findings might be intuitive to most men: If you attack a urinal at 90 degrees, you'll bear the evidence of your folly on your pants every time. Narrow the angle, and you'll be much better off.

But the researchers, two physicists from Brigham Young University's Splash Lab, toyed with different surfaces and strategies that you might not have considered, according to a recent report on their work from the BBC. To get a sense of the problem, watch this video they made that shows how much ruckus falling pee can cause. 

The interesting thing here is that a urine stream isn't really a stream. It's more like a machine gun. After about six or seven inches, says the Splash Lab's Randy Hurd, the continuous pee flow breaks up into droplets. Those droplets gather velocity as they hurtle toward the tranquil surface of the toilet bowl water. On impact, the spray goes high and far as each droplet bores deeper into the water. Then the channel collapses like a swimming pool punctured by a cannon ball dive. Except the cannon balls (pee drops in this case) keep coming.

"People ask me, are you serious? I tell them yes, this may involve 12-year-old humor, but it's also a real problem," Professor Tadd Truscott told BBC News. "We've all been in disgusting toilets with puddles on the floor — these places are a breeding ground for bacteria."

The BYU Splash Lab guys will reveal their work at the upcoming 66th annual meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics. (There's a conference for everything.) In the abstract of their work, they write: "In response to harsh and repeated criticisms from our mothers and several failed relationships with women, we present the splash dynamics of a simulated human male urine stream impacting rigid and free surfaces. Our study aims to reduce undesired splashing that may result from lavatory usage."

Their article is called "Urinal Dynamics."

It's funny, but it's also serious. They can get away with making a career out of experimenting with pee because clean bathrooms save lives. In hospitals and workplaces, it's actually a real health issue. Separate reseach from Harvard Medical School looked at the spray coming off of flushing toilets in hospitals to reveal how it sends potentially lethal bacteria into the air, according to the Physics arXiv Blog. Clostridium difficile, which spreads through feces, kills 14,000 people a year.

Suggestions from Hurd and Truscott, which can be found in this helpful YouTube video, boil down to getting closer to the urinal or toilet so that the stream doesn't break up into messy droplets. When in doubt, do as the ladies do and have a seat.

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