Deodorant cakes and urinal toys have generally replaced ice.
Dear All-Knowing One: Why is it that you sometimes see urinals filled with ice in public restrooms? Is the ice just dumped there to get rid of it, or does it serve a purpose? — A Friend in Need, @usa.net
A variation on yellow snow, a guarantee you’re peeing with the elite. Somewhere in the murky history of lounge-lizarddom — at least since the 1940s — the mark of a snooty lav was ice in the urinal. Entertainment value aside (cube-melting contests and the like), a chilled receptacle didn’t smell as bad as an un-iced one. Stench molecules, from whatever source, are less volatile in cold air. Spoiled fish, dirty socks, wet dogs, urine, all smell less revolting if we stick them in the fridge. These days, deodorant cakes and urinal toys (targets, spinners, sink-the-battleship games) have generally replaced ice, though restaurateurs with a sense of nostalgia still provide a mound of cubes for their valued customers.