THREE-SECOND RULE

Boeing’s new technology will disinfect 99.99% of gross lavatory germs in three seconds

Dread using airline lavatories near the end of a long flight, for fear of exposure to a host of vile germs? Boeing may have a solution for you.

The plane maker built a new self-cleaning toilet that it says can kill 99.99% of the germs coating airline lavatories in three seconds, the company announced on Wednesday (Mar. 3).

After each visit to the lavatory, the self-cleansing system will automatically lift the toilet lid and seat, exposing all dirty surfaces, and emit a flash of ultraviolet light Boeing says is capable of eradicating nearly every germ in the room. The ultraviolet sanitizers will only activate when the restroom is unoccupied and will be paired with hands-free faucets, soap dispensers, trash flaps, toilet lids and seats, hand dryers, and door latches to keep the room as clean as possible. The bathrooms will also feature a vacuum-vent system designed to disinfect the floors.

The light will even help eliminate odors, Boeing said. “We’re trying to alleviate the anxiety we all face when using a restroom that gets a workout during a flight,” said Jeanne Yu, head of environmental performance at Boeing, in a statement.

Boeing said the ultraviolet rays are different than those used in tanning beds, so they’re not harmful to humans.

The technology may be a blessing for germaphobic travelers. But, unfortunately, the cleansing flash of light won’t rid toilet seats of flecks of urine, feces or other residue, which are all too common in public restrooms, especially during long-range flights. Flight attendants, and unlucky passengers, will still have to wipe the residue away for a truly sanitary bathroom experience. At least they can take comfort in knowing said excrement will be nearly sterile.

The company said in the statement that the system was designed to keep the lavatory as hygienic as possible in between cleanings, not to replace them.

The system, which Boeing applied to patent, is still in the prototype phase, so don’t expect a spotless lavatory on your next international flight. Some of the hands-free features, however, are already available on flights.

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