Fail Of The Week: Toilets And High Voltage Do Not Mix

Imagine if you will that you are enthroned upon the porcelain, minding your own business while doing your business. You’re catching up on Hackaday on your phone – c’mon, admit it – when a whir and a buzz comes from behind you. You sit up in alarm, whereupon your lower back suddenly feels as if someone is scrubbing it with a steel wool pad. Then the real pain sets in as super-hot plasma lances into your skin, the smell of burning flesh fills the bathroom, and you crack your head on the towel bar trying to escape this torture chamber in a panic.

Sound good? Then [Vije Miller]’s plasma-powered toilet air freshener is a must-build for you. We’re not entirely sure where this was going, but the name of the project seems to indicate a desire to, ahem, clear the air near your derrière with the power of ions. While that might work – we’ve recently seen an electrostatic precipitator for 3D-printer fumes – the implementation here is a bit sketchy. The ball of steel wool? It was possibly intended as a way to disperse the ions, but it served as nothing more than fuel when touched by the plasma. The Contact-esque gimballed rings? Not a clue what they’re for, but they look cool. And hats off to [Vije] for the intricate 3D-printed parts, the geartrain and linkages, and the DIY slip rings.

It may be a head-scratcher of a build, but the video below is entertaining. Check out some of [Vije]’s other projects of dubious value, like his licorice launcher or the smartphone back scratcher.

Thanks to [Vije]’s friend [Amanda] for the tip.

23 thoughts on “Fail Of The Week: Toilets And High Voltage Do Not Mix

  1. Okay, here me out. :) The premise is that the gyroscope creates a vortex of dirty butt air enclosed within the bowl which is then vaporized by the high voltage stream (pun intended) between the rotating rings .. c’mon it’s science!

    Any who – the FAIL is that the high voltage leaked in to the rest of the electronics despite being as “isolated” and seized the gyroscopic effect – so – poo.

    Per the 40,000 volt sit down alarm clock – there is a mercury tilt switch that prevented this. Hypothetically .. I mean unless the quirky Arduino rebooted and flipped the relay which .. yeah so death is like 40/60. It would aide in the evacuation. Oooh, turn this in to a laxative. I’m on it.

  2. High voltage, water and bare skin what can possibly go wrong? Instant electric chair.
    Ozone will attack plastic and likely the insulation on the crappy wires. Long term there is also the maintenance issue of cleaning the exposed circuits from bacteria etc.
    It is a hell lot easier to use bleach. It does everything ozone does and useful as a cleaning agent. Judging from the grey inside of the toilet bowl, it could use some.

  3. For the love of all that is holy, why doesn’t it have a low-power DC circuit (meaning 3-5V) that makes CERTAIN that the damn seat is down, and if it’s not, engages a PHYSICAL relay to cut off anything resembling high power/voltage? As tekkieneet said, “high voltage, water and bare skin – what can possibly go wrong?” He is lucky he wasn’t (posthumously) awarded a Darwin.

  4. I have seen mold grow on the underside of the lid, on the seat it comes off on butts though. I remove the lid period. Less stink, mold, and cleaning. Never are they seen in a public restroom. A bottle of Poo-pourri is all you need for toilet stink.
    Enjoy the go.

    1. I saw a video of an experiment to determine the distance “toilet” water would be sprayed as a consequence of flushing the toilet with the lid up. They used a special UV reactive dye to track the spray. The spray travelled some twelve feet and covered things such as toothbrush and towels!!! Track down and watch the video, you’ll never leave the lid up again.

  5. I think it would have worked except for the HV supply is supplying too much current. There is too much energy in the arc that allows it to heat the wool to combustion. All that’s needed is a high voltage resistor to drop the current from the HV supply so that it won’t create a hot arc between the ground connection and the wool. HV resistors are easy to find and cheap- here’s one:

    I like the mechanism that spins the ball of wool, but it’s completely unnecessary. Once the particles in the air have been charged, they will be repelled from the wool and you’ll get a continuous mixing of the air around the device without any moving parts.

  6. When I was a (very) little kid I recall the ladies room had some kind of HV sanitizer in the toilets. This was in its heyday a high-end department store (Higbee’s) in Cleveland.

    Recall playing with one, hearing the HV transformer, and smelling ozone. Can’t recall what the device was but imagine a wall mounted green thing from the 1930s that looked like a monster.

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