I noticed on vacation that water would go straight down drains after bathing, rinsing, etc w/o swirls. Ideas?

I was in Ecuador's capitol for two weeks and this started to freak me out - anytime I used a lav, no swirls, but I didn't want to tell anyone, "Hey, there's something fishy with your plumbing." So, when I got back the (almost) first thing I did was fill my sink with water and watch it -along with the swirls- :) go down the drain. Anyway, what causes this and why the difference? Gravity?

6 Answers

  • Daniel
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Most people think that the Coriolis Effect is strong enough to affect the water in a toilet, and make it swirl in one direction, or the other depending on where you are. That is false.

    In the US, and most developed countries, toilets are designed specifically so that water swirls in order to cover a greater area on the toilet(so that it cleans itself). It so happens that engineers took in account the Coriolis Effect to get the maximum rotational speed possible - not that it really matters. And yeah, I bet you can actually find toilets in the US in which the water spins clockwise - that is, opposite from the direction the Coriolis Effect would give it(in fact, check yours, as there is really no standar as to which direction the water should spin)

    So if you were to bring that same toilet from Ecuador, you would notice water running straight down no matter where on Earth you are.

    Now on the sink it's different, the Coriolis Effect will be noticeable no matter what the design as long as you start with a big amount of water(the water is drawn towards the drain, so the radius from the water to the center of the drain get's smaller. Because Angular Momentum needs to be conserved, the rotational speed of the water -which was present from the moment you filled the sink with water- increases, and the drain from a sink should be small enough to make the spinning motion noticeable).

  • 1 decade ago

    The Coriolis Effect is supposed to cause this - that drain water spins clockwise north of the equator and counterclockwise south of it. Since Ecuador is along the equator (which is how the country got it's name), one could assume that drains there would drain straight down with no spin.

    However, the Coriolis Effect is actually that if something is moving due North-South, it will appear to drift off course, as the planet is spinning out from under it.

    The correct answer for what causes water to circle drains is angular momentum. "When the water is being drawn towards the drain, the radius with which it is spinning around it decreases, so its rate of rotation increases from the low background level to a noticeable spin in order to conserve its angular momentum (the same effect as ice skaters bringing their arms in to cause them to spin faster)."

    Of course, with angular momentum affecting water and drains everywhere, this would not explain a sink/bathtub in Ecuador not draining with swirls. If it was a toilet, it might be that the jets of incoming water were pointing straight down rather than at an angle.

    So, sorry I can't actually answer your question.

    Source(s): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriolis_effect Answers.com has the same explanation, verbatim.
  • 1 decade ago

    Ecuador is near the equator that is why the water didn't swirl. In America the water swirls the opposite way that it does in Australia for example. Cool that you noticed, most people don't.

  • 1 decade ago

    It has nothing to do with your geographic location..the spiralling you see at home is due only to the configuration of your plumbing fixtures. The centrifugal effect of the rotation of the earth is much too weak to counteract any effects of your plumbing configuration. My own sink drains clockwise sometimes and counterclockwise others, but I assure you that I am not on a ship crossing and recrossing the equator.

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  • 1 decade ago

    pluming and where you were. Did you know in New Zealand when you flush a the toilet its goes the opposite direction as say New York of Cali or where Im from Oregon yep my friends came to visit from New Zealand and that shocked them when they first came her to see the water swirl the opposite of what it does over or down there......

    So it can be gravity ... Happy flushing

  • 1 decade ago

    well, i dont know the physics of it, but i know water swirls opposite direction in Australia or anywhere south of equator, so i guess in equador it might not swirl cuz you are right on the equator

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