#184 Hands-free-everything bathrooms

It’s known as the Paper Towel Pile.

Germophobes, you know what I’m talking about. It’s that filthy stash of crumpled wet paper towels sitting in a pathetic heap behind public bathroom doors. Bacteria conscious citizens aren’t above using paper towels like gloves to avoid touching the pee-stained bathroom door handle. With no garbage can nearby the towels hit the floor where they serve as dark reminders of our big preference for hands-free everything.

Bathroom designers, listen up: Most people don’t like touching rusty urinal flushes, crusty soap pumps, and bacteria-covered sink faucets. Nope, that’s why the Holy Grail is the hands-free-everything bathroom, ideally featuring all these family favorites:

1. Angled bathroom entrances. Top marks are awarded for bathrooms that don’t even have a door. Paper Towel Piles and pee-hands are non-existent because a simple Hallway 180 keeps bathrooms private and entrances hands-free.

2. Self-flushing toilets. I remember when I first met a urinal that flushed on its own. “Clever little fella,” I thought to myself, as the auto-flush waterfalled down and got ready for its next customer. Ladies, it may surprise you, but urinals that require manual flushing don’t always get flushed. Anyone’s who waited with a lineup of sweaty guys during the basketball game halftime will agree that self-flushing urinals are the dawn of a new day. And actual self-flushing sit-down toilets are almost beyond mind-blowing. They’re a sign we’re becoming The Jetsons.

3. Hands-free faucets. Gold standard here is a highly-sensitive faucet that delivers warm water in high volume. Unfortunately, it’s more common finding faucets that require non-stop herky-jerky hand spasms to keep them going, after which they deliver thin, wildy-shooting sprays of ice-cold water. Hey, we’ll take what we can get.

4. Automatic soap dispensers. If all the automatic bathroom machines were sitting down for family dinner then the soap dispenser would definitely be the crazy uncle. He’s unpredictable, shoots his mouth all over the place, and frankly, just cannot be trusted. Pink sink smears and foam explosions on the mirror show his wild side. But he’s part of the family and we love him for who he is.

5. Automatic paper towel machines. Swipe once for some paper towel, swipe twice for more, or stick your hands in the Insanely Loud Hand Dryer for some quick-style cleaning.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, it’s time we delivered a clean cracking high five to all the hands-free-everything bathrooms of the world. After all, when we get back to hands-free-everything we’re getting back to our roots. Squatting off the side of a cliff, our ancestors probably had a no fuss, no mess, no problems attitude to getting the job done. Now here we are in the future and it’s fun finding occasional mall, airport, or restaurant bathrooms who pay tribute to the past with their hands-free-everything ways.

The only thing left to invent is auto-unzipping and cyber wiping.


Photos from: here, here, here, and here

71 thoughts on “#184 Hands-free-everything bathrooms

  1. Yes! I love the mention of things ideally being “highly sensitive” … definitely true. It’s kind of irritating to have to wave your hand fifteen times in order to figure out the machine’s sweet spot that will get you 3 inches-worth of paper towels, but hey … sometimes you make sacrifices to go germ-free.

    Ellen does a piece in her “Here and Now” stand-up segment about automatic things in a bathroom … and it’s HILARIOUS. :D

    1. Speaking of hilarious (lame segue):

      I finally got around to seeing Mean Girls this weekend and it was totally fetch! I went back to the post where everyone suggested I see it (below) to read all the quotes you guys had included, so I finally felt in on the jokes. Now, thankfully, I won’t feel out of place when you guys drop the Mean Girls quotes (unlike Laura who will still feel out of place when we use When Harry Met Sally quotes).


      Ok.. that’s it for now.. I’m off to go and try to make fetch happen. I think it’s going to happen! ;)

      1. When Harry Met Sally was on tv this past weekend and I recorded it. It is now on my DVR ready to watch whenever I get time to do so, then my homework assignment will be complete!

      2. I’m so glad you watched it! I’m also glad you linked to the post discussing you watching it, or I would have done some searching myself. I’m happy to know that you will be included in our Mean Girls quoting fun! Not only will you understand them, but you’ll probably be able to throw some in yourself. Oh, the fun we will have.

        And yes. I suppose I’ll still feel left out of the WHMS loop :( Now that you’ve completed your assignment (jdurley, seen Remember the Titans yet???), I’ve GOTTA do mine! Eeeek! Especially since Bekah has, too!

        P.S. Freddo, that’s why your hair is so big … it’s full of secrets (about WHMS). :)

          1. Yay! Bekah – I’m so glad you watched it (and more importantly, liked it! I would’ve felt pretty silly if you thought it was terrible!)..

            My wife and I have seen it together at least a dozen times, and quote it to each other constantly..

            “You’re right.. you’re right.. I know you’re right..” (obviously, this is me usually saying this to my wife.. :))

            “Reese.. Rice.. right.. that’s what I said..”

            “Ehhhh. I’m sorry. I need the judges ruling on this. “Days of the weeks underpants”?”

            And obviously:
            “Waiter.. there is too much pepper on my paprikash, but I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie..”

            Yay! I want to go home and watch it again! :)

            1. Love it!
              “They don’t make Sunday”
              “That is just like you, Harry. You say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you.”
              “I’ll have what she’s having.” ~ That whole scene had me rolling!

        1. Ack! No! I have not done my assignment yet! In my defense, I’ve been looking for it on TV, and it is never on.

        2. Mean Girls is ultra quotable.. (it reminded me a lot of “Heathers”, without the Christian Slater character, unfortunately).. Definitely a good recommendation..

          And it wasn’t just all the girls.. I really liked the principal’s line near the beginning of the movie:
          “My apologies. I have a nephew named Anfernee, and I know how mad he gets when I call him Anthony. Almost as mad as I get when I think about the fact that my sister named him Anfernee”

  2. Um, I might take a pass on the cyber wiping. Seems like too many things could go wrong with that… 8/

    But automatic-pretty-much-everything-else is great! I love taps that turn on automatically and provide a steady stream until your hands disappear – none of that 10-seconds-and-you’re-out crap.

    My university has automatic lights that turn on when the door opens and turn off when you leave, to save power. It’s no automatic soap-dispenser, but we’ll take it!

  3. the blade!!! have you experienced the amazing insert-your-hands-into-it-and-watch-as-the-air-moves-the-skin-over-your-bones dryer?? Buuuhhhhamazing. Google it!: dyson airblade. TRULY jetsons-esque.

    1. Yes! The first time I used a Dyson Airblade was the only time I’ve ever felt like the damn air-blower was actually doing anything! From now on, it’s paper towel, Jetson-esque air-blower, or nothing!

        1. I am freaked out by those super-powered dryers that make your hand skin go all G-Force. My alternative is to wave my hands in the air like I’m preparing for take-off.

          1. Yes, both those methods can be filed under my “nothing”.

            But – OH!! Awesome day, because I went into my uni library and found that their toilets have just had the Dyson Airdryer installed!

            Now if only they could make it a wee bit, um… Quieter.


            …All dry. :)

  4. I once used a toilet in Germany that had a rotating self-cleaning lid whenever it flushed. It was amazing. My life has never been the same since.

  5. I was seriously thinking this the other day!! I’m not a fan of the automatic potty though. It tends to flush a million times. The slightest movement can make it flush. I don’t mind toilets that I have to flush myself since I push the handle with my foot everytime.
    The toilets in the mall are automatic and they are so… strong(?) that when they flush, water splashes all over the seat. So, I try not to use the mall bathroom.
    I love the automatic soap dispensers. We have those at work. Very wonderful invention, along with the sensored faucets. Love them!

    1. Oh, how could I forget about this?? There’s only one place that I’ve been that have had these. They are automatic hand dryers with powerful air. The air is so powerful it moves your skin!! Yes, its a little loud, but its fun!

    2. I’m with Bekah on the water spray soaking the seat. Yuck. One is never quite sure if it’s from the spray or the previous occupant. Doesn’t matter, though; sitting on a wet toilet seat is just gross. There’s also nothing quite as unsettling as an automatic toilet that flushes WHILE one is still sitting on it.

      1. I never, ever, never sit on public toilet. Squatting is the way to go. Besides everyone should wipe the toilet seat when they’re done just out of habit.

        1. This is where I would previously have told a very funny story about the geekteen as a toddler involving toilet training, international travel and wierd toilet seats, but I’m DEFINITELY not allowed to tell any such stories on the internets any more…so you’ll just have to use your imaginations.

            1. What she should be afraid of is that your imaginations are so much BETTER than the real story! ha ha ha!

    3. I love it when everything in the bathroom is handsfree, and when it’s sensitive enough to pick up your movement and you are not standing there under the sink/towel dispenser/soap dispenser/hand dryer waving your hands around like a wack-a-loon getting it to work. But- yeah, i don’t like when the automatic flushing toilets are super sensitive. I’ve had them flush while still sitting there, and that water come flying up onto my backside! Can we just say…eeeeeeeeeeeeeeew!!!
      I also have to take my daughter into stalls with me periodically and I don’t like her anywhere near the vicinity of a flushing public toilet. So I frantically am trying to get her out before the damn thing flushes!

      1. When my daughter goes to use a toilet that automatically flushes, I try to get a paper towel or something and put it over the sensor, that way it doesn’t flush while she’s on it. I’m too lazy to do that for myself.

  6. The 180 door is awesome! There’s no need for autoflush toilets or soap dispensers though because unless you’re a neanderthal slob, you WASH YOUR HANDS after touching both of these. Furthermore, auto toilets waste more water than conventional manual flush toilets because the flush everytime you move while in the stall. I carry my own tiny hand towel to avoid wasting precious paper and electricity resources drying my hands. Because you know what’s even more awesome? SAVING the PLANET

    1. The most important aspects of a public restroom, to me, are the faucets, hand-drying, and the exit. As long as I don’t have to touch anything after washing my hands, I couldn’t care less about the rest of it.

  7. I have never actually encountered a COMPLETELY hands free public washroom. There always seems to be one element missing. For example, automatic flushing, water, soap and towel dispenser with a swinging door. Or no door, automatic flushing, and soap but manual faucets. The hunt for the completely hands free public washroom continues…….

    1. I was just about to make a comment about this.
      But last month I found one at the mall in my city, and it was heaven!! :D
      I was expecting something to be non-automatic… but EVERYTHING WAS.
      Now, for everyone else to follow that example.

    2. I do believe most of the BC Ferries fleet has them, and I’m very positive they are in the waiting areas for when you walk on the ferry. The only thing is that on the ferry you do have to push a door, but the waiting areas have the ‘hallway”. Oh, and I just remembered, Woodgrove Mall in Nanaimo BC, I’m very sure, has all the elements of the handsfree washroom.

  8. They recently upgraded the bathrooms at my office, so we now have all of these features (minus the angled doorway, so I still need to use paper towels to open the door on exit), but it’s pretty great.

    Unlike the mall toilets that Bekah describes above that are super strong, I tend to find that these new toilets sometimes need a second flush to really finish the job… (Gross when the person before you didn’t realize this). I’m sure they are some sort of hippie California based toilets that use very limited water to flush or something.

    1. I was camping and celebrating at a Folk Festival with a friend this weekend so, in fact, plastic portable toilets became something of a theme! I noticed three things. First, right or wrong, the soap dispensers in the porta potties shoot straight as an arrow so it’s best to ‘feed’ them with a clear, organic soap if you want to avoid a mess, especially when you’re dealing with more modern, idealistic types (we like to stay clean, and to know what really goes into things). Second, one flush is generally enough even for hippie toilets. I’m sorry that you needed a second, rather aggressive tug on the handle Freddo. Third but related, yes, it’s true, there are places shit doesn’t belong and public places is one of them. Sorry guys, last poo story :)

  9. I have mixed feelings about this issue. On one hand: I like the cleanliness aspect of the hands-free features. On the other hand, all of these features (except the non-door hallway) require a power source. Power goes out = bad things happen.

    This is one reason I have a certain nostalgia for old-school manual appliances and clever design that works with the laws of nature. Yes, you may be called upon to do a little work, but the technology is not going to fail you.
    Toilet that flushes using gravity – awesome!

  10. I hate automatic bathrooms. I understand that touch-free appliances are ideal for germaphobes, but I do not mind the pile of paper towels on the floor. I am not haunted by the germs that live on the sink handle. What bothers me about autmatic bathrooms is how wasteful they are. First, they take electricity to power the motion sensors (manual appliances do not need this). Secondly, motion-sensored toilets often flush multiple times while you are in the stall because it can see you moving. Manual toilets will only flush when you want it to. In countries where this luxurious technolgy is available, there is a much, much smaller chance of any kind illness outbreak to occur, so really, do we need these annoying luxuries, or are we just getting to spoiled by waht modern technology can offer us. So come on, flush the damn toilet yourselves for christ’ sake and get over the germs you pansy.

  11. I don’t mind flushing toilets when they have that long handle that sticks out the side, because I can just use my foot. In fact, I prefer manual flush because automatic ones sometimes flush while you’re sitting on them, causing toilet water to splash up on you, and you can’t wash THAT part with soap in the sink when you’re done.

    The worst feature of public bathrooms is the fact that the doors usually open IN, which means you have to touch the handle to leave. This is especially annoying when the rest of the bathroom is hands-free, because it negates any benefit you gained from not touching anything else, AND there are sometimes not paper towels with which to grab the handle. It really disturbs me when restaurant bathrooms are this way, because there’s a good chance that at least one of the people making and serving my food has touched that handle.

    You know what’s awesome, though? When someone enters the bathroom just as you’re exiting, saving you from having to touch the door. :)

        1. lol.. I like jdurley’s use of the term “officially”, as if something isn’t truly awesome until it’s been covered here..

          Not that I don’t agree.. I just like that it’s like getting the 1000awesomething.com seal-of-approval!

                  1. That’s exactly what I was thinking! Germ hand doesn’t stand a chance against bedhead baby, though.

  12. At a couple Of the malls and costco around my area we have the dyson hand dryers holy crap they are so damn loud. The one mall the washrooms are situated at the end of the food court, if your sitting at the other side of the food court you can hear the dryers because the design of the building and the material used

  13. About those Automatic hand dryers… the first time i used one, it was so loud i screamed! Of course, my mother freaked out. i felt so dumb! but now i appreciate their true awesomeness!! :)

  14. This post makes me think of Demolition Man, the swearing tickets and the seashells Sly Stone couldn’t figure out. I love a clean bathroom, and the automatic ones are the best :)

  15. Jdurley, I guess this is yours…
    I was at Scitech the other day (an awesome science-for-kids dome in Perth, WA)… or was it Claremont Quarters? Anyway, the toilets had censor taps but I had to wave a few times and look a bit lost. But they also had this amazing thing stuck low on the wall, you put your hands in a narrow slot and it was like putting your hands in a mini tornado (not that I have any experience…) but yeah it was cool :) And we need more angled doorways in this world. You should see how much paper is wasted opening the doors of the bathrooms at school, never mind the complete and utter retards that pull about 30 paper towels out of the dispenser ‘for fun’. I hate waste!

  16. I was in a bathroom in the airport in Chicago. That baby had automatic toilet seat covers. I couldn’t believe it. I waved my hand over its little robot seat and a new ring of clean plastic came out and around my toilet seat. There’s no need to touch it and out it in the toilet to flush it away either. When you’re done, it simply rolls away out of sight! AWESOME!

    1. I’ve experienced those toilets in the Chicago airport!!! They are AWESOME! :) I also love the toilets at Disney World – there are always seat covers available. Inquiring minds want to know: how many seat covers does a Disney resort use each day?

  17. When I read the title of this post ….I was like YES…you are sooooo right…the washroom makes or breaks a place for me….so if a place (like say a theatre) has a nice hands free washroom…I would go back there over a closer alternative….I know it sounds kinda obsessive…
    I also love it when there is no door to the washroom…I hate trying to come up with unique ways to open a door of a public washroom after just washing my hands…anyways…awesome post :D

  18. Love this! My daughter and I call it the ‘quadrifecta’ when the toilet self-flushes, the faucets turn themselves on (ooh la la), the soap self-squirts, and the towels self-produce. It’s rare, but becoming more common.

  19. My favorite part was your description of the automatic soap dispensers. I was cracking up laughing because more often than not, the soap does not land in your hand. If you’re lucky, you’ll see someone else get soap and you’ll know where it’s going to go, so you can try to aim for it.

    I want to see automatic doors, too! Because, after all, now that your hands are all clean from the “automatic experience”, do you really want to touch the door handle to open the door? Let’s be real… not everyone washes their hands the way you do.

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