Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Toilets

We began our first brainstorm discussing daily actions that are clumsier or more obnoxious than they need to be, and the conversation made its way to the topic of toilets. Bathrooms in general are a bane to clean, so the fewer corners involved to collect moisture and dirt, the better. The toilet alone is responsible for much friction (lid up or down, seat up or down?), and has multiple interfaces that present corners or cracks.

To begin we focused on eliminating these cracks. A major cleaning area is the base of the toilet where it meets the floor, and behind the base. Wall-mounted toilets have eliminated this problem, and are a tested, elegant solution. So far, so good.



Our next area of concern was the hinges where the lid connects to the seat. I had the dubious honor of changing a couple of toilet lids recently, and man, nothing has cemented the difficulty of properly cleaning the hinges as well as removing them and viewing the attendant scunge left behind. 

So we began to ask:

Do we need a lid? The answer is yes for the following reasons.

Lids are critical to keep things from falling in when the toilet is not in use, to hide the toilet bowl if it isn’t clean, and to act is a functional surface on which to place clothing, etc. when closed.

So, where can the lid go when the toilet is in use, but employs a mechanism that leaves all surfaces easy to clean?

As we brainstormed, I sketched a number of ideas, but one of our favorites involved sliding the lid to the side of the toilet.



Looking at standard wall-mounted toilets, which can be mounted in a 6” or 4” deep wall, adding the sliding lid would mean that from the user’s perspective, the lid moves in a thin slot in the wall. All top areas of the lid and toilet bowl are made available to clean - no corners to collect grime! Surfaces presented to a user are smooth and accessible from both sides for cleaning, potentially, closing the lid could actuate a flush - encouraging users to close the lid.

If a seat is desired, this could slide away in the same slot as the lid, and if bathroom space allows for a wall slot twice as wide, the lid could slide smoothly and then catch the seat and slide it away smoothly in succession. Otherwise, the slot in the wall could extend as little as the width of the toilet. The lid could be supported in the whole depth of the wall when it’s off to the side of the bowl (and therefore cantilevered), so the lid material only needs to be stiff enough beyond the wall to support applied torques (similar to what drawers experience). 
The lid’s bearings also contribute to supporting these loads, but drawer slides are already designed for this kind of loading scenario. Once the lid moves completely off the side of the bowl, it probably needs no more than a standard door width of wall free of studs, which is reasonable from a structural perspective. And finally, when the lid is off the bowl, it can function as a shelf, perhaps with a combined “handle” for toilet paper.



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