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Stainless Steel in Bathrooms

Bathrooms may be glamorous spas or very utilitarian, but stainless steel’s cleanability, durability, and attractive appearance often make it a logical material choice.  The applications span from soaking tubs and hammered sinks in residences to basic toilet and sink units in prison cells, to partitions, urinals, and dispensers in larger public restrooms to practical, self-contained outdoor units.

Whether they are referred to as a water closet (i.e. W.C), toilet, restroom or bathroom, these facilities fundamentally exist to safely dispose of human waste and to prevent environmental contamination and the spread of disease.  Any discussion about an application that significantly affects the health, safety and welfare of humans and our environment is inevitably about sustainability. The materials need to be highly cleanable, long-lasting, and capable of withstanding graffiti and other deliberate damage.

Several factors can contribute to material deterioration in these environments: corrosive, bleach-containing cleaning products, urine concentration (i.e. no regular or periodic cleaning of exposed surfaces), and for outdoor stand-alone units, exposure to coastal or deicing salts or corrosive pollutants. Type 304 stainless steel and others with similar corrosion resistance are most commonly used for interior bathroom applications.  Type 316 and other more corrosion-resistant stainless steels are typically the best choice for less frequently cleaned indoor bathrooms and outdoor units in corrosive environments.
Please see IMOA’s stainless steel Selection and Specification pages for more information.

Indoor Bathrooms
A simple web search immediately provides many examples of stainless steel sinks, toilets, bathroom partitions, dispensers and even bath and soaking tubs. These brochures provide both design ideas and practical design information.

Private Washrooms (Euro Inox)

Public Washrooms (Euro Inox)

Stainless Steel in the Home (ISSF animation)
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Standalone Public Restrooms
Mobile and free-standing stainless steel units have been in use around the world for many years. Officials in Portland, Oregon, U.S., knew that they needed to provide good public toilets but were also aware of facilities in other cities with many problems. After four years of careful research, they developed and patented a unique stainless steel toilet design in 2010 and have subsequently sold units to other cities. These units are very popular and even have Facebook and Twitter pages. In the summer of 2017, Galveston, Texas, U.S. began installing a modified version of these “Portland” stainless steel public restrooms along the beach near new bus stops. There are flush toilets and hand sanitizers inside and hand washing stations and showers on the exterior.

Stainless steel restrooms are also an economical solution for solving sanitation problems in less wealthy countries. More than half of Indian households do not have access to toilets. The problem is particularly acute in slums  where  it presents considerable public health problems.  Eco-friendly, sustainable GARV toilets use stainless steel for the superstructure, toilets, and washbasins. They are vandal-proof, easy to clean and do not rust. They use smart technology to control lights, fans and automatic floor and toilet washing. The first 198 units have over 20,000 uses per day and are performing well.

Not all outdoor public toilets are so utilitarian in appearance. In Spain’s Basque region, French architect Robert Latourd’Affaure designed a public bathroom called the “Anchored Mirror” for the entrance of Saint Sebastien Bay.  It is anchored into the stone and the mirror polished Type 316L exterior panels beautifully reflect the surroundings.

Cleaning, Sanitation & Health
Stainless steel and glass are inherently the most hygienic materials, which is why they are required for industrial, medical and food handling applications, where this is a critical characteristic. IMOA has a webpage on Cleaning and Maintenance.

The following brochures provide information about stainless steel’s inherent cleanability from the perspective of bacteria removal.  Unlike some other materials used in public bathrooms, simple steam cleaning can quickly and effectively kill bacteria without damaging the material or adding chemicals to the environment. While some of it is geared more toward kitchens and food handling, the information is equally applicable to bathrooms: