Why Do They Put Ice In Urinals

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Why do they put ice in urinals? This perplexing question has puzzled many, but the answer lies in a fascinating blend of history, hygiene, and practicality. Join us as we delve into the icy depths of urinal etiquette, uncovering the motivations and benefits of this curious practice.

From its historical origins in Victorian-era public restrooms to its modern-day applications, ice in urinals has played a significant role in maintaining hygiene and combating unpleasant odors. Let’s explore the science behind this unusual practice and discover its impact on our sanitary experiences.

Historical Origins of Urinals with Ice

The practice of placing ice in urinals has a long and fascinating history. The earliest known use of ice in urinals dates back to the Victorian era, when it was common for public restrooms to be equipped with urinals that contained a block of ice.

There were several motivations behind this practice. First, ice was believed to have a deodorizing effect, helping to reduce the unpleasant smell of urine. Second, the cold temperature of the ice was thought to be soothing and refreshing, especially during hot weather.

Third, the ice helped to prevent the formation of uric acid crystals, which could lead to the development of urinary tract infections.

The use of ice in urinals was also influenced by cultural and social factors. In the Victorian era, there was a strong emphasis on cleanliness and hygiene. The use of ice in urinals was seen as a way to promote a more sanitary environment.

Decline in the Use of Ice in Urinals

The use of ice in urinals began to decline in the early 20th century. This was due to a number of factors, including the development of more effective deodorants and the increasing availability of running water. Today, ice is rarely used in urinals, although it can still be found in some older public restrooms.

Hygienic Benefits of Ice in Urinals

Why do they put ice in urinals

The presence of ice in urinals offers significant hygienic advantages. It effectively combats odor and inhibits bacterial proliferation, fostering a cleaner and healthier restroom environment.

Odor Reduction

Ice plays a crucial role in reducing the pungent odor often associated with urinals. The low temperature of ice slows down the decomposition of urine, which releases ammonia and other foul-smelling compounds. By maintaining a colder environment, ice suppresses these chemical reactions, minimizing unpleasant odors.

Bacteria Inhibition

Bacteria thrive in warm and moist environments, making urinals a potential breeding ground for microorganisms. However, the addition of ice creates an unfavorable condition for bacterial growth. The cold temperature inhibits the replication and spread of bacteria, reducing the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and other health concerns.

Prevention of UTIs

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common bacterial infections that can cause discomfort and pain. Ice in urinals helps prevent UTIs by reducing the number of bacteria present. The cold temperature inhibits the growth of uropathogenic bacteria, which are responsible for most UTIs.

By maintaining a cleaner and bacteria-free environment, ice helps safeguard against these infections.

Deodorizing Effects of Ice in Urinals

Ice not only serves to cool and splash urine but also possesses remarkable deodorizing properties. Its effectiveness in neutralizing unpleasant smells in urinals stems from its physical and chemical interactions with urine.

Chemical Reactions

When ice comes into contact with urine, a series of chemical reactions occur. The primary reaction involves the hydrolysis of urea, a major component of urine, in the presence of the enzyme urease. This reaction produces ammonia (NH3), a pungent gas responsible for the characteristic smell of urine.

However, the presence of ice in urinals significantly alters this process. The low temperature inhibits the activity of urease, thereby reducing the production of ammonia. Additionally, ice acts as a physical barrier, preventing the release of ammonia into the surrounding air.

Neutralization of Odors

The deodorizing effect of ice in urinals is further enhanced by its ability to neutralize other unpleasant odors present in urine. These odors may arise from the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other organic matter.

The low temperature of ice condenses these VOCs, reducing their volatility and preventing their release into the air. Moreover, ice can absorb certain organic compounds, further reducing their concentration and the associated unpleasant smells.

Practical Considerations of Using Ice in Urinals

Why do they put ice in urinals

Incorporating ice into urinals presents logistical challenges that must be addressed to ensure effective and sustainable implementation. These considerations encompass the frequency of ice replacement, the required infrastructure, and the cost-effectiveness and environmental impact of this practice.

Maintaining an adequate supply of ice in urinals requires regular replenishment. The frequency of ice replacement depends on factors such as the ambient temperature, the volume of urine flow, and the size of the urinal. In warmer environments or during periods of high usage, ice may need to be replaced multiple times per day.

Infrastructure Requirements

To accommodate the regular ice replacement, urinals designed for ice use typically incorporate built-in ice compartments or dispensers. These compartments must be accessible for maintenance staff to replenish the ice supply as needed. Additionally, urinals with ice may require specialized plumbing to drain melted ice water effectively.

Cost-Effectiveness and Environmental Impact

The cost-effectiveness of using ice in urinals depends on the cost of ice production and the frequency of replacement. In areas where ice is readily available and inexpensive, this practice may be a cost-effective way to improve urinal hygiene and odor control.

However, in regions where ice is scarce or expensive, the cost of ice replacement may outweigh the benefits.

From an environmental perspective, the use of ice in urinals raises concerns about energy consumption and water usage. Ice production typically requires significant amounts of energy, and the melted ice water must be disposed of properly. Careful consideration of these factors is necessary to minimize the environmental impact of using ice in urinals.

Modern Alternatives to Ice in Urinals: Why Do They Put Ice In Urinals

In modern times, ice is no longer the primary method for deodorizing and sanitizing urinals. Several alternative methods have emerged, offering various advantages and disadvantages.

These alternatives include:

  • Automatic flush valves
  • Deodorizing blocks
  • Urinal screens
  • Enzymatic cleaners

Automatic Flush Valves, Why do they put ice in urinals

Automatic flush valves are a convenient and effective way to keep urinals clean and odor-free. They use a sensor to detect when someone has used the urinal and automatically flush it. This helps to prevent the buildup of urine and bacteria, which can cause odors.


  • Convenient and hands-free
  • Effective at preventing odors
  • Can help to save water


  • Can be expensive to install and maintain
  • May not be suitable for all types of urinals

Deodorizing Blocks

Deodorizing blocks are a simple and inexpensive way to keep urinals smelling fresh. They are placed in the urinal and release a pleasant scent that helps to mask odors.


  • Inexpensive and easy to use
  • Effective at masking odors
  • Can be customized with different scents


  • Not as effective as other methods at preventing odors
  • Can be messy and difficult to clean

Urinal Screens

Urinal screens are disposable screens that are placed in the urinal to trap solids and prevent them from clogging the drain. They also help to reduce odors by absorbing urine.


  • Inexpensive and easy to use
  • Effective at preventing clogs and odors
  • Can be customized with different scents


  • Not as effective as other methods at preventing odors
  • Can be messy and difficult to clean

Enzymatic Cleaners

Enzymatic cleaners are a powerful way to clean and deodorize urinals. They contain enzymes that break down organic matter, which can cause odors. Enzymatic cleaners are also effective at removing stains and scale.


  • Effective at cleaning and deodorizing
  • Can remove stains and scale
  • Biodegradable and environmentally friendly


  • Can be expensive
  • May not be suitable for all types of urinals