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Boeing Develops ‘Self-Cleaning’ Lavatory

Boeing Develops ‘Self-Cleaning’ Lavatory
Joe Cortez

Restrooms of the future utilize UV lights to kill lingering bacteria.

Frequent flyers may soon have one less worry when they take to the skies, as Boeing is working to create a lavatory that cleans itself between uses. In an article on their website, the aircraft manufacturer outlined a world where lavatories remain clean and bacteria-free throughout the duration of a flight.

The current “self-cleaning” prototype utilizes far ultraviolet (UV) lights throughout the lavatory to kill bacteria between uses. Lights are positioned to make contact with every surface a human would engage with, including toilet seats, sinks and countertops. Unlike UV lights used for other applications, the far UV lights are safe to humans and kill 99.99 percent of pathogens and odors when in use. As a result, the restrooms are continually “cleaned” between uses.

According to Boeing engineers, the process takes less than three seconds to complete. In order to minimize human exposure to the far UV lighting, the system is only set to clean when the lavatory is closed and unoccupied.

“The UV light destroys all known microbes by literally making them explode,” explained Jamie Childress, associate technical fellow and engineer for Boeing. “It matches the resonant frequency of the molecular bonds on the outside of the microbes.”

The lighting would complement a number of lavatory improvements that come with the “self-cleaning” lavatory. Designs for the prototype restroom include hands-free faucets and soap dispensers, trash flaps, and a hand dryer to cut down on paper towel use. As a result, flyers can expect a much more sanitary experience during their flight.

Future advancements to the restroom prototype might also include a hands-free door latch and a floor vacuum-vent system. Boeing has a patent pending on the “self-cleaning” lavatory, with no word on when flyers may see them on future flights.

[Photo: Boeing]

View Comments (4)


  1. BJM

    March 7, 2016 at 9:39 am

    They could easily expand on this to include in flight tanning.

  2. o mikros

    March 7, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Without meaning to be pedantic, I wish they would call these by their proper name of “self-sanitizing” bathrooms. Any mess of used paper products, spills (liquid or otherwise), etc. will be sanitized by the UV radiation but not cleaned up. Removal of debris will still require human intervention, so in spite of being sterilized the lav could still be a gross mess.

  3. sdsearch

    March 7, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Not so easily expanded to in-flight tanning. The article mentions how the ozone is carefully positioned to hit every surface that needs cleaning. That doesn’t mean it’s positioned right for a human.

    Meanwhile, it at most would only work for tanning while standing upright or setting down (no room on the airplane for a typical tanning bed). Who wants that?

    On a more serious note, I’m glad they mention hands-free door latch. I’d hate to see them get rid of paper towels yet leave door latches as they are. It’s been well documented that one of the most germ-filled places of all are door handles leaving lavatories (everywhere, not just on planes). There’s not much point washing your hands if you’re then going to use your clean hands to touch a super-dirty door knob!

  4. BJM

    March 8, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Given a 777 has about 11 lavatories I don’t see why one could not be converted to a tanning salon. I agree it could be more difficult on a 737. However, this could benefit passengers who spent a rainy week in Cancun for example, who would otherwise have to return without a tan. I just hope Boeing has the foresight to apply to patent this in flight tanning concept, before Airbus show up on flyertalk with a patent diagram.

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