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Checklist For Improving Restroom Hygiene

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With heightened public awareness of dangerous infections such as H1N1, the contributions to these diseases associated with institutional and commercial restrooms has become a matter of public scrutiny. The reality is that no one wants to touch what others have, especially in a restroom environment.  A recent survey found that 94% of adults would avoid a business in the future if they encountered dirty restrooms. Clearly, your restroom contributes to your reputation.

Here’s a simple checklist to help ensure you are providing the most hygienic restroom environment possible that can only serve to bolster your facility’s reputation.

• Touchless fixtures:
Are your faucets, soap dispensers, hand dryers, and toilets  hands-free to reduce cross-contamination? This may require an investment, but fixtures or devices with motion sensors have the added benefit of  offering  energy-efficiency and the ability to reduce costs by only turning on when someone is using them.

• Antimicrobial surfaces:
Some hand dryer manufacturers offer antimicrobial technology to shield against the build-up of bacteria on the device, making them 99% effective against E. coli and MRSA.  The use of antimicrobial wall paint and flooring add additional protection against the spread of germs.  Countertops, tiles and grout, and toilets are also available with an antimicrobial additive for a germ-free, mold-free restroom.

• Restroom stalls:
Do your accessible restroom stalls provide enough space for a wheelchair to properly turn and adjust so patrons are able to use the facilities in the cleanest manner possible? This may be accomplished by leaving a clear floor space 60 inches in diameter or by creating a T-shaped space 36 inches wide.   Additionally, consider that parents with children often use accessible restroom stalls because they need the space.  Remember to position in-stall trash receptacles so they don’t interfere with a wheelchair’s or multi-person user’s maneuverability.

• Removal of paper towels:
Used paper towels can make for overflowing trash cans, which scattered them onto the floor. This not only provides the potential for serious bacterial growth, but it also gives the appearance of an untidy, unclean restroom which actually discourages hand-washing.  Automatic hand dryers not only keep a restroom appearing cleaner and eliminate the user frustration of trying to pull a paper towel from a jammed-full dispenser, but they also reduce the need for maintenance. With motor life of some hand dryers now 2-3 times longer than ever before, this could mean 10-15 years of worry-free service and a cleaner looking restroom.

• Soap dispensers:
Akin to paper towel mess, soap mess on the countertop can offer a negative regarding perception of the cleanliness of your restroom.  Consider using foam dispensers which drop soap drip-free into the hand from an automatic dispenser, rather than liquid dispensers which can leave a soap string that may pool onto the countertop or in the sink as well as clog, forcing the user to omit soap essential to a hygienic hand-washing routine.

• Restroom design:
In order to make your restroom as functional as possible be sure your countertops, toilets, and urinals are at the proper height and distance from the wall for the age of people who will be using them.  For instance for adults users, countertops should be 34 inches high; toilet seats 17-19 inches high; and urinals 17 inches high.  Make sure hand dryers, soap dispensers, toilet paper dispensers, and trash receptacles are placed where movement flow and logical usage dictate their optimal use.  

Paying attention to these simple considerations will foster a greater level of proper usage for a more hygienic restroom environment—and a better reputation for your facility.

By Dan Storto, senior vice president for Berkeley, IL-based World Dryer, a global manufacturer of hand dryers.