Urinals: They can cause such a stink!

Let’s face it, no one hears the word urinal and thinks pleasant thoughts. The first word that usually comes to mind is stinky. There are about 8 million urinals in the US alone and about 100 million people use those urinals. No matter which type of urinals your facility uses, a little care and proper maintenance can solve the issue. Below you will find, probably a little more info than you wanted to know about what causes odors in urinals, some pros and cons to each type, and tips on how to keep them odor free.

There are a few main causes of odors in urinals. When users do not bother to flush a typical urinal, uratic salt and uric acid settles in the trap and in a short time it solidifies. Uratic salts are a crystalline substance that can bond and become as dense as concrete. In waterless urinals, the odor issue comes from the cartridge not being replaced often enough. The cartridge is capable of capturing a small amount of these salts and if not changed out the excess becomes concentrated and can quickly block the drain line when it overflows the cartridge. And for both types, not keeping them clean and maintained results in a smelly situation.

No matter what type of urinal is in place, scratches or damage on the surface from using abrasive cleaners or course sponges can cause odors as well. Urine will begin to crystallize on the surface area that no longer contains the smooth coating. Cleaning professionals should be taught the proper products to use and what to avoid for daily cleaning.


Waterless systems have a vertical-trap design that incorporates a cylinder or trap filled with a thin layer of liquid sealant sitting atop the drain area of the urinal. Urine passes through the cylinder and sealant, and into the drain line – much the same way as a conventional trap in a water urinal works. As the urinal is used, small amounts of the sealant will be drained into the waste line and will need to be replenished, about 3 ounces of sealant after every 1500 uses.


Perhaps the biggest pro is the reduced water usage. Each unit can save 30,000 gal or more of water and sewage per year.

Less maintenance due to no flushing mechanisms, cisterns, or water supply pipes.

Since the urinal surface is dry, it helps inhibit bacteria growth and odor, makes the urinal easier to clean, and contains no water deposits or rust stains to build up.

Water used by conventional urinals gives germs in the restroom the moist environment they need to grow. Also, flushing tends to send germs airborne, spreading them throughout the restroom.


It is crucial that the cylinders/traps be changed when necessary and some trap/cartridge systems may cost more than $40.

Some cleaning professionals are reluctant to remove the cylinder/trap at the bottom of the urinal meaning they may not be changed as often as they should.

Generally speaking, this kind of urinal is more expensive than the regular ones and some restrooms may need some retrofitting to lower the drain pipes or replacement of copper drain pipes since they will corrode and may cause the pipes to leak.


Standard Water Urinals use a P shaped trap in the drain line. The bowl is kept filled with water to keep sewer gasses from coming up and the water is used to aid in the removal of the waste down the drain.


In extremely high traffic locations such as motorway service areas, train stations and airports, it can sometimes be advantageous to have water to wash dilute the urine due to the fact that the chemicals in urine are highly concentrated and may cause certain chemical reactions when coming into contact with pipes.

No waste from disposable cartridges

Urine’s chemical properties do not present a problem to flush urinal operation because the urine is heavily diluted by flushed water.


High water usage. While the federal standard for commercial urinals is 1.0 gallon per flush, some older urinals use as much as five times that amount.

Flushing mechanisms wear out and require maintenance or replacement regularly and provide a touch surface leading to cross contamination.

~ Too much water used in cleaning of waterless urinals or the use of certain cleaning chemicals can harm the cylinders/traps used in waterless urinals which can lead to additional odors.
~ Avoid abrasive cleaners on coated surfaces.
~ Regular use of Uratic Salt Removers in urinals can greatly reduce associated odors.
~ Use an enzymatic cleaner (commonly used on pet urine odors) to eliminate urine odors. These can be used on the floors and walls surrounding the urinal as well.
~ Use a scented urinal screen to help mask any new odors that may arise.

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