Check out our products at: https://www.spotlessmaterials.com/shop
Check out the full research article here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0421-0#citeas
Edit: Let me answer a few of the common questions here:
1. Is it easy to apply? We designed our coatings to be applied in minutes with just a spray bottle and a paper towel/cloth.
2. Regarding durability: Our coating consists of two parts - the first part is the formation of a nanohair layer, which is permanently bonded to a substrate (e.g., toilet surface or glass). This layer itself is very liquid-repellent and sludge-repellent and does not require replenishment as it is permanently attached onto the underlying substrate.
The second part is the lubricant, which is infused into the nanohair layer (like a nanoscale sponge absorbing the lubricant). The combination of the lubricant and the nanohair make LESS coating super slippery against liquid and sludge-like substances. The lubricant layer will wear off over time depending on the frequency of use. For typical use in a toilet environment, the lubricant will need to be replenished after ~500 toilet flushes and can be reapplied by a simple spray process.
3. Regarding the environmental friendliness of our coatings:
Our product is based on silicone. It has been shown in the scientific literature that silicone can be decomposed naturally in soil within 4-7 days. It breaks down in silica, water, and carbon dioxide.
Ref.: Graiver, D., Farminer, K. & Narayan, R. A review of the fate and effects of silicones in the environment. J. Polym. Environ. 11, 129–136 (2003).
"Based on silicone" does not mean "degrades like silicone." It also doesn't mean your coating will behave like the silicone "in the scientific literature." If I toss a silicone spoon in the ocean, it won't be gone in a week. You can make plastic out of wood. That doesn't make it biodegradable. There are different kinds of silicone. Some degrade quickly, some don't. Some is toxic as it degrades. It can accumulate in fish like plastic, etc.
Without knowing how the coating wears off (in chunks when toilet is cleaned, etc), it's hard to compare. Also, if it's not actually silicone, we shouldn't be pretending it acts like it is.
Have any independent environmental assessment been done? What happens when you drink it? What happens when you feed it to fish?
For example, is it 1oz or 20oz? Honestly, it looks like a tiny sprayer - maybe 1oz? How far will it go? Will that 1oz. treat 1 sink/toilet or 10? How long will it last?
I did see that the article says "...researchers also predict the coating could last for about 500 flushes". OK it "could" last 500, or it could last 1. The real question is how long "did" it last when you tested it and what should a normal person expect? Does urine affect it's longevity differently from poop? What happens if you use a toilet brush on it, or use various cleaning chemicals - will that shorten it's usable life?
e.g. from https://www.spotlessmaterials.com/store/p10/Sink_%26_Fixture...:
"Sink & Fixture Coating
Our Sink & Fixture Coatings are popular amongst our early users. These coatings can be applied to any ceramic surface and are specially formulated for high-touch ceramic surfaces like sinks, toilet exteriors, etc. After application, you’ll feel the difference. Our coatings are ultra smooth to the touch. It’s that same smoothness that makes the surfaces easier to clean. With these coatings, cleaning ceramic surfaces required less time, effort, and cleaning chemicals. Do not apply coating to floors -- it is slippery. This coating can be refreshed with our Maintenance Spray."
I have been dealing with neck/mouth cancer for a while and using a feeding tube for about half of my calories. My movements, depending on the alignment of the stars resemble the mortar used to join cinder blocks together. It is explosive and sticks to the bowl. I can flush ten times and it doesn't budge and I have to manually get in there.
So I am going to try this. It is cheap enough and even if it helps a little will be a huge quality of life improvement.
Three months into chemo it wasn't great dealing with every trip to the bathroom being a chore. And combine that with the fact that my immune system was basically non-existent. Lingering fecal matter was a health risk.
You might want to consider marketing to radiologists, oncologists, and nutritionists. Tons of fellow tubers out there.
Have you tried a space toilet?
And I know you mentioned a feeding tube, can they add fiber in your diet somehow? I used to get similar issues while not eating enough fiber.
Any forums of people with similar conditions that could recommend solutions?
Best of luck.
He was a bit more colorful, but in essence he said: With two liters of water you are not going to move 1kg feces far enough down the pipe, so it starts piling up. That's the reason why they get called there more often.
So no matter how you coat it (pun intended), what problem are you trying to solve? Also re-applying the lubricant after 500 flushes means I have to re-apply it after around four months with two people in a household using the toilet twice per day. With kids or more room mates, even more often? I think I'd pass and rather clean the toilet properly.
But maybe you mean only flushing twice per day, despite using it more frequently, in order to save water? That would beg the question of how this coating material would hold up when subjected for hours per day to the "toilet environment" you produce vs. a clean water environment.
I learned that from a former colleague when I worked as a gardener
Permanent nanohairs sounds very ... permanent, if this doesn't work well without layer 2.
I'm also curious about durability on a car, with windshield wipers and all. How permanent is permanent?
1) The price and quantity is a little bit off-putting. I'm not sure if that represents real costs (for many business models, the cost is a pennies, but the price goes way up to account for R&D, shipping, marketing, etc.). If this is expensive to produce, keep things as is. If it's dirt cheap, you may consider keeping price fixed, but notching up quantity a bit. If I can coat my whole car (rather than just windshield), or sink+toilet rather than just toilet, or even share with a friend, the economics become very different.
2) You really need online reviews. Few will risk a product like this unseen. Use Amazon or send review copies to someone.
I think it depends on how exactly one applies it. If it’s just pouring something from a bottle over the bowl, it is perfectly practical, as this is already what one usually does when cleaning the toilet.
So why doesn't the coating, if it is made of silicone, similarly degrade in 4-7 days?
My parents use roof water, which is a limited supply so this product would be a great help, but they would be sceptical of any product that could harm the microbiology of the septic tank or that could harm the soil from the overflow.
I imagine they would prefer some sort of scientific facts rather than just marketing blurb (they are quite biologically geeky!)
If not, what are the pros and cons of using LiquiGlide in a toilet vs. yours?
Smaller market but a good niche to start and spread from.
Typical holding tank volume is 20-30 gallons. This is maybe enough for a week? We have a composting head so I'm not sure. Solid waste goes in a dumpster once a month and I think most people end up "peeing in the water". Which is technically illegal and some people think is bad, some don't.
Edit: and bleach?
I think a little bit of silicone is a smart trade off to save a lot of toilet-cleaning chemicals and compared to a toilet brush this is an order of magnitude better.
It would be interesting to know how many hacker-news users actually clean a toilet regularly. I'm guessing not many if any but that is an outrageous assumption. I know you will still have to clean the toilet after a spotLESS application but it will be easier and use less detergent.
Does the silicone lubricant have to come in a spray application or could you license spotLESS lubricant to the likes of Toilet-Duck to incorporate into toilet cleaners? If councils treated their sewers with the nanohair layer would the silicone lubricant floating past keep it lubricated.
It's a shame that the swoosh logo is already taken.
I shared an office with an engineer who's got assigned to research the efficacy of toilets - we had some interesting brainstorming sessions on how to solve some of the experimental problems.
I even started to look at using neural nets to use image recognition to measure how efficient a design was, but as the base hardware cost was over £250,000 that went nowhere, a pity but it would have taken my career in a different direction
How do LESS and SLIPS compare?
I hope the sewer system doesn't need to just add water as a result.
Toilet water use doesn't seem like a big enough contributor to the problem that it's much use optimizing it in most places. But there are probably some where water is locally scarce and it makes sense.
But I can totally see this coating helping in regions like India, who have a real problem with open-air defecation.
There are definitely plenty of deserts in the world though, so it's not much of a nitpick.
Actually, irrigation uses less than 40% of water in the US. The largest use is thermoelectric power generation. 
The current PM of India campaigned on a "Clean India" effort to tackle open-air defecation by building millions of toilets. Now, you can argue the efficacy of this effort, but arguably, the entire scheme requires adequate means to actually flush the toilets, which requires water, which requires infrastructure. All I meant is that efforts to minimize the amount of water required (i.e. the coating in the article) could be helpful here.
Another place where this can be helpful is in areas that aren't covered by sewage infrastructures, like houses that are on septic tanks, or campgrounds/parks with outhouses.
I'm not an expert on this matter, I'm just suggesting that I can see how it might be helpful.
The vast, vast majority of these toilets are basically just holes in the ground. They do not flush.
When I first encountered this as a 4 year old, I was so disgusted with the idea of squatting over a latrine that my parents had to have a Western toilet installed in our house in the village. When I returned at 10 years old, I was more amenable to the idea.
Every time you had to go, you had to fill a bucket of water from the well, and carry it with you to the outhouse. Then you’d squat over the latrine, do your deed, and then use a cup (a lota) to pour water over your backside, using the other hand to help rinse. Heaven forbid you had to do all of this at night.
When I got back to Canada, it was the toilet that I missed the most. Now, I appreciate the sheer convenience and modern marvel that is modern plumbing and sewage.
When you only have restricted water, you shouldn't flush after peeing. There's even a saying to help conserve water this way:
"If it's yellow, let it mellow".
Sure, a flush is only 3-4 litres but that could make the difference in a dry summer.
This reminds me of a documentary about toilets, and one factoid was that American toilets were much worse at flushing than Japanese ones, and would block more frequently, and it turns out that American ones were tested with a small standardized rubber ball, while Japanese ones with the real deal, including big productions.
Of course I hide the bucket when guests come, it's too weird a thing - but in all honesty, I've wished many times for a system for capturing sink & shower water in a tank, for use in toilet. The standard practice is inefficient.
EDIT: I didn't know the term "greywater" before, and after reading https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greywater I'm having second thoughts about my scheme. If the city is actually treating greywater and water from toilets separately, then I guess it makes sense to let the sink water drain. But then again, that's a huge if. I'll need to take a closer look at my indoor plumbing and read up on the water treatment scheme in my area.
Unless you live in a very water constrained area, it's pretty unlikely. In the US, plumbing for reclaimed water is available in some areas (purple pipes), and seems like an easier intervention, it's often used for landscape irrigation, which has easily accessible plumbing to retrofit. It can be used for toilet flushing as well, if that is plumbed separately from other fixtures in the building.
California not long ago changed its laws regarding graywater handling in response to the sustained droughts. Now residents are permitted to divert graywater themselves for other purposes like irrigation and gardening. So it's become a little more common to find diverted graywater systems in response to this change, but they're often ad-hoc diy setups in drought-stricken regions.
You're right though, showers and laundry are huge wastes of water, at least relative to residential water use. Unlike toilets, they're also much harder/impossible problems to solve without the voluminous use of clean water. With toilets there are options like composting and incinerating, and in places with ocean access seawater can be used for flushing. Bathing and laundry don't really have alternatives.
I have a 10000L tank which is more than sufficient for a household of 4 and some garden. The minimum size is calculated based on your roof surface but normally people install a bigger tank. The extra cost for a few 1000L more really isn't that much and it can save you the cost of a fallback system in case the tank runs dry.
The overflow of the tank goes to a separate sewage system that usually ends in a local stream. This way it doesn't dilute the actual grey/black water which, incidentally, makes a water treatment plant more effective (or so they say). It also allows the water to infiltrate into the ground and there's less risk of flooding the streets during a downpour. At least, this is the theory. Work is still very much in progress to split the sewage systems but we're getting there.
The chlorination process is simple: just pass some current through the salt and voila, chlorine.
Admittedly, there is a bit of a psychological hurdle to washing your hands in the toilet, even though the water is isolated and perfectly clean. (This could be solved through clever plumbing, to separate the two fixtures.)
The reason so many 'amazing' idea never take off in houses and why cookie cutter housing rules.
There are big regulations, if you cross the piping you could theoretically contaminate the streets or larger water supply.
You now have two water systems in a house. Plumbing is not cheap, having two is more $.
You'll need a pump and holding tank, a place to run the pump and holding tank. It'll might me loud and can break down, will fail in blackouts. Can the tank get legionnaires disease?
(During the exchange with the aliens who live there, one
It's a neat idea - especially the fact the bowl remains white, unlike a coating of PTFE or similar.
I wonder if it's an idea they can develop further into a permanent coating?
But that said, what's wrong with a dark-colored toilet?
And presumably that's part of the contribution here - a nonstick toilet that doesn't look like the ones you get on planes and trains already.
Also, the current fashion in my country is for white toilets - you go to a bathroom showroom, ~95% of what's on display will be white. A design that doesn't require a change in fashions is simpler than one that needs tastes to change.
That depends entirely on where you live. Depending on the local situation, you might have almost no fresh water, way too much fresh water, or just the right amount of it. In these sort of conversations people often seem to forget that their local conditions are not universal.
Less water in the sewer is only going to create problems for the flow rates further down the line, Possibly blockages in the pipe on your property.
and i would prefer not to put silicone (if that is what they are using as it is "like hair conditioner") as some silicones can take 400 to 500 years to break down
Cleaning a toilet sucks, this product will sell well if it works as claims and makes it easier. They will get $, you will not.
Cleaning public buildings is a huge cost that takes manual labour, if this product has a good price point and works as they say, it will save $100 of millions yearly.
No one in the real world actually cares about saving water in the home and being afraid of new things is boring.
The only question is "The researchers also predict the coating could last for about 500 flushes " In the past the issue stopping these products being everywhere has been the fact they wear out quickly when abraised.
Getting people to save water is one of the simplest things in the world!
Water is the cheapest material that people have access to. It is so cheap it has been devalued to the extreme. Fill a backyard pool? That'll be less than $100...
Raise the price a little bit, all of a sudden people will use less water, they won't even notice any effect and have the same quality of life.
Framing a scientific breakthrough as "saving money on water" is ridiculous.
We already have a simple solution that works.
But really the problem is businesses and especially farmers growing non-essential crops, especially in California. The drought we experienced over the last several years was mainly exacerbated by farmers who were growing non-essential but expensive crops like almonds. I would rather the almond farmers go bankrupt than have them spend 1 gallon per almond in water.
Businesses should pay more for water, and if it causes inflation in prices, maybe that's okay if the cost of almonds double. The amount of money that Nestle pays to bottle water for free is far too low. If it drives bottled water out of service because the costs are too high, I also think that's okay.
Around half of California's agricultural water use goes to alfalfa, a fodder crop which may be grown anywhere.
Israel uses subsurface drip irrigation to grow almonds, which is more than ten times as efficient as California's flood irrigation system.
The problem is not inherent to the crop; it is political, and downstream (pun intended) of California's approach to water rights.
These are mutually exclusive statements in this context.
now does being motivated to fix a leaky toilet that otherwise you wouldn't have bothered to do count as a quality of life decrease?
How many people are living on the margins and that extra $10 represents the last meal to get to the end of the month?
Now all of a sudden that got turned into some poor family in an undisclosed location not being able to feed themselves because water is too expensive ... quite the logical hyperjump ...
I happen to agree that techno-industrial solutions are band-aids best addressed with social and self-growth.
However, your proposed method of social change is more complicated that you let on. People on the margins are not some hypothetical "poor family in an undisclosed location not being able to feed themselves because water is too expensive"
They are literally the set of marginal individuals, marginal as defined in Econ 201 (marginal rates, marginal profits ect). That is people who are not so poor that they are already skipping meals (or on food stamps), but they cannot save an extra $10/month either. At the end of the month the net change in their net value is zero.
If we expand the set to include people and families who are in the red or in the black by about $50/month, that includes millions of Americans. And, for these people, $10/month of added water bills hurts. A lot.
That's not to say raising prices is a bad idea. I happen to agree with it. I also happen to agree with raising gas taxes, levying road tolls, and, in general, attaching the externality cost to the first user as much as possible (I.e. the gas tax to transport the tomato you eat is paid by the shipping company whose job it is to find economic ways to ship).
However, I'm under no delusions that this tax scheme is regressive. Should the repressiveness be addressed or dismissed is another question.
You don't live in the American South. I actually suspect you live near one of the Great Lakes where the water is dirt cheap. My water bill is higher than my Internet bill.
Where I live, the two are bundled, and the total bill is also higher than our internet bill. (~$100 for water vs $75 for internet)
I live in Iowa, which doesn't have Great Lakes levels of water lying around, but we also have no shortage of the stuff.
line 1 - Water usage = X
line 2 - Sewage usage = X * modifier
My monthly water usage is usually something like $20 worth, but my "water bill" is usually around $60-$65 when combining water + sewage (2 adults, $ = USD).
So in some regions pulling water from wells will be perfectly sustainable and essentially free, while in others it's unsustainable and expensive.
And even then, tech to reduce waste is great and should be celebrated and is not mutually exclusive.
It seems manual application is likely to slow adoption IMHO. If automated, seems like a slam dunk for heavy use/commercial/public applications though.
Honestly how many Hacker News readers read this story and thought about ordering the product and having their weekly cleaning person be in charge of applying this even monthly in their homes?