Odor Eating Bacteria Could Snuff Out Unpleasant Bathroom Smells

A bacterial “bio-weapon” developed by researchers with the Chinese Academy of Sciences could soon make smelly bathrooms a thing of the past. Cheap, natural and non-toxic, the unique strain of waste-eating Lactobacillus promises an “ultimate” cure to an “urgent” national issue.

Though Lactobacillus itself is quite common, being found in yogurt, cheese, beer and chocolate, researchers participating in the “smell-free toilet” study were seeking (a) a strain that feeds on human waste, and (b) released lactic acid as its own waste product. Since lactic acid effectively compromises the growth of most odor-making bacteria, such a strain would work to reduce concentrations of both human waste and the odiferous bacteria that feed upon it.  

The researchers went to the heart (or reasonably nearby) of the matter in search of their microscopic smell-fighter, spending years isolating candidate bacteria from human and pig intestines. Eventually, just over 100 promising strains were cultured,  studied, and tested in real world situations.

Those grueling tests succeeded in weeding out the pretenders in favor of the ultimate bacterial bathroom odor-eater, which can be applied wet (dissolved in water) or dry (as a stable powder).

According to Dr Yan Zhiying, the lead scientist on the project and a bacteriologist with the academy's Chengdu Institute of Biology (above), applying the microbial mix can reduce offending odors by up to 75 percent, leaving what he calls “a natural, pleasant fragrance.”

On the downside, the bacteria can only work their wonders when the ambient temperature is above 26 degrees Celsius (78.8° F) or above, making it impractical for use in unheated toilets during the winter. All things considered, one would imagine the need would be far greater in warm bathrooms.

In addition, the microbes need to eat. “The effect will be limited in a flush toilet,” states Dr Yan. “The more waste in a toilet, the better the result.” Before you wrinkle your nose, note that many toilets in China's less-developed regions are not of the familiar flushing variety, which means waste can accumulate for months, even years... a true nightmare for tourists, especially.

Thus, the Smell-Free Toilet study will be introducing the new biotech bathroom smell solution at public toilets in several Sichuan province tourist attractions such as Jiuzhai Valley National Park. “They will get a refreshing experience,” said Dr Yan. Moving forward, the institute announced it's able to produce 1,200 tons of the powder annually if the biotechnology is approved for nationwide application. (via South China Morning Post)