A slippery situation
November 19, 2019 4:13 PM   Subscribe

This slippery new coating could make toilets less filthy. A slippery new coating could make the crappiest place in your home a little cleaner. Developed by researchers at Penn State University, this two-part product promises to keep your toilet bowl clean, stink-free, and — potentially — set the stage for toilets to use less water in the future.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (68 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
The researchers estimate that the coating can last for about 500 flushes. Wong estimates that, for a family of four, that might require reapplying the second layer about every two weeks.

That's almost 9 flushes per person per day! Is that really typical?
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:18 PM on November 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


Smooth move, Hn.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:22 PM on November 19, 2019 [9 favorites]


I have often thought that some kind of non-stick toilet would be a good idea. Glad to see someone has gone past idle thinking to actually doing something.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:31 PM on November 19, 2019


I'm watching the video and freaking out a little. Are those what shits are supposed to look like? Mine are way darker than that. Also my piss isn't blue. Is this shits and piss from a lady woman? Is that why I always see the blue liquid in the lady products ads? Or am I dying. Please advise
posted by Greg Nog at 4:59 PM on November 19, 2019 [31 favorites]


Rain-X in the bowl works for me.
posted by benzenedream at 5:15 PM on November 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


what if the bowl becomes so slippery that when one excretes with tremendous force it wallrides back up to slap you on the ass

imagine the indignity
posted by poffin boffin at 5:35 PM on November 19, 2019 [38 favorites]


how long before you can use the toilet again if you accidentally get it on the seat and slide off every time you try and sit down?
posted by lefty lucky cat at 5:45 PM on November 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


what if the bowl becomes so slippery that when one excretes with tremendous force it wallrides back up to slap you on the ass

I just call this the first 15 minutes of every day after my first cup of coffee.
posted by loquacious at 5:51 PM on November 19, 2019 [13 favorites]


To test LESS, the researchers applied the coatings to glass and ceramic and then dripped and dropped dyed water and “synthetic fecal matter” — a mix of seven ingredients, including yeast, peanut oil, and miso — onto the coated surface.

Tell me the fake poop is edible
posted by invitapriore at 5:52 PM on November 19, 2019 [5 favorites]


Greg Nog: Methylene blue. Blue piss is a thing. Sorta glad I never tried that particular prank.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:53 PM on November 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


Don't forget November 19 is/was World Toilet Day. All joking aside, this shit is important.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 6:03 PM on November 19, 2019 [5 favorites]


Okay, but will introducing large amounts of the chemical into the sewers cause some kind of mutated monster situation, a la The Host?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:06 PM on November 19, 2019 [9 favorites]


it might help the fatbergs slip free and swim out to sea to their traditional mating waters and soon a new pod of young fatbergs will be seen majestically breasting the waves at play
posted by poffin boffin at 6:08 PM on November 19, 2019 [39 favorites]


I think maybe you mean Cresting? Like what happens if you squeeze an entire tube of toothpaste out at the beach at low tide?
posted by amtho at 6:14 PM on November 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


I heard a radio report of a similar coating, it sounded more permanent, but it was posited as a coating for things like ketchup bottles. The idea was to reduce the huge amount of wasted foods that is left in containers.
posted by Pembquist at 6:24 PM on November 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


I love this thread.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:25 PM on November 19, 2019 [8 favorites]


when one excretes with tremendous force it wallrides back up to slap you on the ass

Thanks for giving me a new thing to worry about in the wee early hours of the morning.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:31 PM on November 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


The idea was to reduce the huge amount of wasted foods that is left in containers.

We are but imperfect vessels.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:33 PM on November 19, 2019 [19 favorites]


I’ll put this right next the New Yorker’s recent bit on the Poo Pouri mogul.
posted by hwestiii at 6:38 PM on November 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


I can't unsee myself as a container now
posted by lefty lucky cat at 6:45 PM on November 19, 2019 [7 favorites]


Buy SLICKEMS digestive optimizer for that “clean as a whistle” feeling!
posted by mwhybark at 6:56 PM on November 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


Buy SLICKEMS digestive optimizer for that “clean as a whistle” feeling!

There's a downside to excessive internal lubrication; I am reminded of that fat substitute that was giving people "anal leakage" the other year, for example.

Slipperier toilet bowls sounds like a good idea, but as mentioned I would wonder about downstream ecological effects. Also, can this be applied under water, or does the toilet bowl need to be drained before application?
posted by Dip Flash at 7:11 PM on November 19, 2019 [5 favorites]


I remember they made a Soft Scrub™ with Teflon™ years ago and it worked great, but we stopped using it because we were afraid it would hurt the dog.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:16 PM on November 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


lefty lucky cat try thinking of yourself instead as one of those garlic peeling tubes. Food goes in one end, it gets rubbed around on the inside of tube, and then something else comes out the other end.

Wait, I meant do not try that. Don't do it.
posted by MarchHare at 7:26 PM on November 19, 2019 [7 favorites]


I am reminded of that fat substitute that was giving people "anal leakage" the other year, for example.

That was over twenty years ago, if you can believe it.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:30 PM on November 19, 2019 [8 favorites]


riiiiiiiight, because nothing's ever gone wrong with chemical convenience coatings. Sheeesh.
posted by hearthpig at 7:36 PM on November 19, 2019 [5 favorites]


That was over twenty years ago, if you can believe it.

Well, there’s my “you are getting old” moment for today.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:01 PM on November 19, 2019 [8 favorites]


Filed under other things about toilets I saw today: Bill Gates Talks Toilets
posted by bunderful at 8:19 PM on November 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


Really want to know the toxicity of something in frequent direct contact with human use and the water supply...
posted by radicalcraft at 8:42 PM on November 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


It’s a dessert topping and a floor wax!
posted by amanda at 9:46 PM on November 19, 2019 [10 favorites]


"Hey, you got your chemical convenience coating all in my water supply!"

"Hey, you got your water supply all over my chemical convenience coating!"

"Hmm..."

"Ahh..."

(V.O.) Two great molecules that react great together!

🎶 Reese's Poop Lube Water Slurps! 🎶
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:24 PM on November 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


Probably some potential applications in robotics as well.
posted by flabdablet at 10:30 PM on November 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


I just call this the first 15 minutes of every day after my first cup of coffee.

That’d make me feel downright lugubrious.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:32 PM on November 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


My literal IBS ass is actually excited about new toilet technology. However there are fascinating, chemical free improvements in flushing. Ask This Old House (SLYT) detailed how they're going with the new low-flow regulations but improving bowl cleaning to reduce build up by rethinking and redesigning the way toilets work. I happily beamed about it to my husband - who was less than impressed so I think you can tell which one of us also cleans the toilets most. (And yes, the natural logs with miso are standard for testing.)
posted by Crystalinne at 11:19 PM on November 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


I remember they made a Soft Scrub™ with Teflon™ years ago and it worked great, but we stopped using it because we were afraid it would hurt the dog.

I immediately also thought of this - or rather the small collection of similar products that briefly appeared and then quietly disappeared when concern about fluorosurfactants started hitting the mainstream.

The article says this one is silicone- based which might be better as far as toxicity goes but I thought some were fairly persistent in the environment (though the article suggests otherwise?)
posted by atoxyl at 12:47 AM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I am reminded of that fat substitute that was giving people "anal leakage" the other year, for example.

That was over twenty years ago, if you can believe it.


other things that can cause this unimaginably heinous predicament, right now, today, in your butt:

- eating a huge ton of nuts, i forget which kind sry
- a Fish Which Is Bad
- that weightloss pill Alli, whose sole purpose is to cause this as a fat-eating deterrant
- a mystery! i still don't know! it was the worst 3 days of my life! i would like to speak with the manager!
posted by poffin boffin at 1:35 AM on November 20, 2019 [9 favorites]


Seeeeeepage!
posted by flabdablet at 2:36 AM on November 20, 2019


what if the bowl becomes so slippery that when one excretes with tremendous force it wallrides back up to slap you on the ass

AskMetafilter says to apply a coat of this lubricant to your backside and that it isn't a doctor or your doctor, at least
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:33 AM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm watching the video and freaking out a little. Are those what shits are supposed to look like? Mine are way darker than that. Also my piss isn't blue. Is this shits and piss from a lady woman? Is that why I always see the blue liquid in the lady products ads? Or am I dying. Please advise

At the very least this adds an extra non-stick layer of meaning to "here in the blue".
posted by srboisvert at 3:56 AM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


what if the bowl becomes so slippery that when one excretes with tremendous force it wallrides back up to slap you on the ass

*Updates list of unlikely-but-terrifying scenarios with "own poop gleaming the cube"
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:07 AM on November 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


But is it septic-safe? Probably not, so no.
posted by jquinby at 5:15 AM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


riiiiiiiight, because nothing's ever gone wrong with chemical convenience coatings. Sheeesh.

A statement which applies pretty evenly to every technological advance at least as far back as flint knapping. It's correct to apply a precautionary principle, and to demand very high evidence of safety before allowing such products to be sold. And the US is woefully underserved by its regulators in every regard, so there are good reasons to fear negative environmental impacts. On the other hand there are exceptionally good reasons to look for any water efficiency saving we can find, given (a) the energy costs of processing waste water and (b) the fact that water is going to overtake fossil fuels as the most critical geopolitical resource within decades. Clean water is going to become increasingly precious for a range of reasons, and we need to be looking at every option for reducing waste.
posted by howfar at 5:23 AM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


Soooo.... what will the impact of this be on waste water? Will it be yet more toxic stuff that's fine in a small quantity, but will kill everything if everybody starts using it and flushing it out to the rivers and oceans?

I'm thinking about a recent article that showed that there's a ton of microplastics coming from laundering fleece and other synthetic textiles -- and fleece is becoming ubiquitous.
posted by amtho at 6:16 AM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


For some reason I’m thinking of how hilarious it will be once all rocks in all oceans, lakes and rivers are frictionless. The fly fishing videos will be terrific.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:33 AM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


This really seems like a solution looking for a problem.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:04 AM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


howfar, pretty much everyone on earth has residues of teflon production in their blood, including Inuit. [I suppose it's obnoxious to wave around supposed credentials but for what it's worth I work in the environmental industry, and for the last couple of years have been dealing extensively with the apparent consequences of our historical love of teflon and other fluorochemicals...it's bad shit.]

To wave away this potential risk with a blanket statement of "sure, but all technology has downsides" is deeply problematic at least to me. Introducing any new chemical that requires occasional surface renewal to function properly without a sky high stack of fate-and-transport and epidemiological study [which will probably not be done] seems frankly insane. Surely there is a long list of water saving improvements we can make as a society before something like this needs to be taken seriously.
posted by hearthpig at 7:09 AM on November 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


I swapped out toilets last year, replacing an old toilet from... the 80s? Whenever they last made grey toilets.

I've noticed a definite improvement in the new toilet, that it stays cleaner longer. I wondered if there was a difference in the ceramic coating which allowed for that. There were obviously other improvements between the two, with direction and force of flush on the walls of the bowl, but overall, I thought the actual surface of the toilet was slipperier, keeping the bowl cleaner longer passively.

Glad to know that scientists think about these things too.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:20 AM on November 20, 2019


We bought a run down old house and replaced the toilets with nice higher end ones from plumbing supply places as opposed to box home improvement stores and they work amazingly well. From what I've ascertained the higher end ones have much better glazing on the trap past the bowl and that makes a huge difference in getting stuff through more easily with far less water. They don't have the issues of the early gen low flow toilets that always felt like they needed two cycles. It seems like just getting well glazed toilets instead of dumping chemicals into the water system is a better solution for water conservation.
posted by Ferreous at 7:40 AM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


Toilets are "dirty" but not dangerously so unless your immune system is compromised.

Every other surface in the entire bathroom is just as dirty. Your toothbrush head is as dirty as your toilet bowl. The lid on your jar of face cream. Your bath towel. Your thermometer is as dirty as your toilet bowl.
posted by rebent at 7:59 AM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


You haven't seen my toilet bowl.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 8:15 AM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


Wasn't there an FPP recently about aspects of our lives that would be incomprehensible to people a few generations from now? One item that got a bunch of agreement was whisking our excrement away with the help of gallons of potable water. If this helps cut down on that...
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:41 AM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don't really have a problem keeping my toilet bowl clean? I mean it gets dirty but I just... clean it? It takes about 3 minutes? Am I missing something?
posted by Automocar at 8:54 AM on November 20, 2019


If you're that worried about keeping terlets clean, you can always do what the inventor of soylent did:

Stop pooping.
posted by anem0ne at 9:13 AM on November 20, 2019


Every other surface in the entire bathroom is just as dirty.

That's the thing - things like faucets and doorknobs are provably way dirtier, in terms of actual microbes being transferred from other people.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:20 AM on November 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


On the other hand there are exceptionally good reasons to look for any water efficiency saving we can find

Compost toilets.
posted by aniola at 10:56 AM on November 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


Every other surface in the entire bathroom is just as dirty. Your toothbrush head is as dirty as your toilet bowl. The lid on your jar of face cream. Your bath towel. Your thermometer is as dirty as your toilet bowl.

That's why the toilets get their own washrooms away from our toothbrushes, cosmetics and showers/bathtubs.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:00 AM on November 20, 2019


That's also why human bodies evolved to tolerate certain types and amounts of ubiquitous unavoidable bacteria.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:36 AM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


To wave away this potential risk with a blanket statement of "sure, but all technology has downsides" is deeply problematic at least to me.

Look up the term "precautionary approach" and then try to understand my comment.
posted by howfar at 12:13 PM on November 20, 2019


And the reason for looking at this as well as composting toilets as a method of water use reduction is that you might actually get people to use this. I'm a bit surprised that isn't obvious, except to those for whom environmental virtue is more important than actually achieving results.

Again, please look up "precautionary approach" and try to understand that I'm not handwaving risk, and that not every nation has environmental protection laws written exclusively by corporate lobbyists.
posted by howfar at 12:18 PM on November 20, 2019


But, depending on how the coating contaminates water downstream, it might not reduce water use even if it reduces water use per household.
posted by clew at 12:34 PM on November 20, 2019


Oh you mean Das Vorsorgeprinzip?

Jeez, "please look up . . . try to understand . . . " seems quite unnecessarily combative and condescending.

Like yes, we need to be looking for every possible solution for clean water problems like, yesterday, but
A. This only barely theoretically useful in that regard, even if you accept the basic premise, and;
B. Having to add an extra lubricant layer to your flush toilet's bowl seems kinda like the opposite of making things easier or cheaper, particularly when places that are already experiencing potable water scarcity are also experiencing various other infrastructure failures.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:40 PM on November 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


"except to those for whom environmental virtue is more important than actually achieving results."

That's when I knew you weren't actually interested in debate.
posted by hearthpig at 3:51 PM on November 20, 2019


Tell me the fake poop is edible

I mean if you want to get technical...
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 4:11 PM on November 20, 2019


Olestra jokes aside, Dip Flash, the composition of gut bacteria can affect the "slipperiness" of excrement. Inulin (soluble dietary fiber) not only promotes the growth of certain beneficial bacteria (which outcompetes "bad" bacteria, ones that are less/ differently efficient and produces more noxious metabolic breakdown products), some of these also helps "regularity" by lubricating the boluses.

I was in a rental with a 80's toilet - the rental sucked in just about every way imaginable except for the toilet. It was essentially self-cleaning. I have no idea how/ why.

My current toilet is really "clingy" and I have to clean it with bleach and a brush almost every other day.
posted by porpoise at 4:36 PM on November 20, 2019


Not everyone finds inulin to be a beneficial dietary fiber. It causes me painful intestinal cramps and apparently that is not uncommon. Sunchokes? No thanks.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:20 PM on November 20, 2019


human bodies evolved to tolerate certain types and amounts of ubiquitous unavoidable bacteria

Seems quite likely to me that there would have to be many strains of ubiquitous unavoidable bacteria that human bodies have evolved not so much to tolerate as to depend on, and that we should expect to experience more robust health in environments less obsessively dedicated to their destruction.

Germs = bad is a pretty good first approximation, but I do think raising it to the status of a universal truth is an error. Bleach isn't all that great for humans either.
posted by flabdablet at 4:37 AM on November 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


Tell me the fake poop is edible

A while back I read an article about a company that manufactures toilets, and regularly needs to test their flushing capabilities. The testers landed on a particular brand of tofu as an ideal medium, and began ordering it in quantity. The tofu-maker (in Japan, if memory serves) was pleased to have a large regular customer but got curious and finally starting making some inquiries about their new client. When they found out what was actually going on, they were horrified, but agreed to continue supplying the tofu provided that the toilet manufacturer keep their source absolutely confidential.
posted by jquinby at 7:20 AM on November 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's miso (WaPo), not tofu. Video.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:09 AM on November 23, 2019


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