Cleaning Up After Yourself

Airplanes generally are bastions of filth and germs due to their rushed schedules—one of those horrible constants of life we can all attest to. There’s often minimal time for crew members to scrub clean all the exposed surfaces during their brief layovers in-between flights.

And when you consider that once in the air, you’ll be trapped up there with countless other dirty, plague-ridden individuals and sharing the same polluted, recirculated air, it’s enough to make a germaphobe seriously contemplate jumping out of that emergency hatch in midair—parachute or not.

So it’s hardly a surprise that airplane manufacturer Boeing commissioned its engineers and designers to build an airplane bathroom that won’t become a pestilential petri dish of horror. Their researchers developed a restroom that cleans itself after every visitor uses it by killing 99.99% of germs with far UV light. With the eradication of germs in the lavatory, this also prevents it from developing any noxious, fetid smells.

Unlike the UV light used in tanning salons, far UV light only negatively affects microbes and germs. For safety reasons, the bathroom ensures through it sensors that the stall is unoccupied before activating the UV light—which is thoughtful, because receiving an unexpected dose of hard radiations would certainly be a nasty surprise to anyone hitting the head at 30,000 ft.

After an individual uses the lavatory and closes the door, the lights pulse and zap any germs that might have been left behind. The toilet cover automatically pops up to ensure that even the inside of the bowl is cleaned and that all surfaces are exposed. All in all, this thorough cleaning only requires three seconds.

A Hands-Free Experience
The lavatory in action. Credit: Boeing

To further minimize the risk spreading of germs within the toilet, almost every component inside is hands-free. A sensor detects hand motions to open or close the toilet cover and seat. Even the faucet, soap dispenser, hand dryer and trash receptacle utilize sensors and hand motions for functioning. The only exception is the door latch itself which will still require a user’s touch to open or close—so keep that Purell hand sanitizer handy.

Boeing’s team is looking to turn it into a completely hands-free process in the future by making opening and closing the door automated. They’re also planning to add a vacuum vent system to clean and remove any spills or dirt left on the bathroom floor to ensure a completely clean experience after every use.

Now if only they could make hands-free those unavoidably hands-on aspects of the whole disagreeable business…well, that would be a real coup for Boeing.

This new lavatory could benefit airline carriers by cutting their maintenance costs down the line. And eventually, it may not only encourage germaphobes to take to the air but also minimize the chance of spreading diseases on airplanes.

Which is something we can all appreciate.


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