The Night Loo

A Better Way to Go: In Gallery Experience

February 20, 2024
the night loo box powder being poured out onto a table.

The Night Loo

To prevent attacks on refugee women and girls, Anna Meddaugh designed a toilet that can be used privately at night.

A Pacific Northwest native, Anna Meddaugh started out in public health before deciding to work “upstream” on health equity issues by using the tools of design to improve lives.

A course in product design gave Meddaugh a challenge: to design for people who are displaced. Many peers approached the assignment through the wildfires that disrupt life on the West Coast, but Meddaugh turned to the refugee crisis. (At the time, 68.5 million people worldwide experienced forced displacement. The figure now stands closer to 110 million people.)

Meddaugh read that sexual assault in refugee camps is so pervasive that women are often afraid to use a community latrine at night. To prevent attacks, Meddaugh began designing a portable toilet that could be used at night and emptied the next day.

Drawing on human-centered design, Meddaugh defined criteria to ensure it would be safe, hygienic, and discreet. She explored structures for the toilet before turning to plant-based materials and polymers to absorb liquid. After several iterations, Meddaugh chose a super absorbent polymer called instant snow that could transform urine into a dry, odorless powder. To make it easy to use, the toilet’s construction features “legs” that stabilize the toilet during use and then convert into handles to ease the task of carrying the toilet for emptying.

Her design, called the Night Loo, has been recognized with a Core77 Design for Social Impact Award and a Gold Driven x Design NOW Award. Meddaugh was also a runner-up for the James Dyson Award.


Hear Anna Meddaugh explain her inspiration and design in her own words.
Watch the absorbent polymer soak up liquid in real-time.

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