Survey concept

While a public restroom is by definition “public,” a majority of U.S. adults want more privacy when they’re using the loo. According to the Healthy Handwashing Survey conducted by Bradley Company, 70 percent of Americans feel public restroom stalls lack sufficient “coverage.” Specifically, 58 percent would like the gaps around stall doors and walls eliminated.

In fact, survey respondents back up their thoughts with actions and preferences. Case in point, 40 percent choose the stall that’s furthest from the entrance and 35 percent are annoyed when someone selects the stall next to theirs, even though others are available. 

And, since they were asked, 45 percent say they’d appreciate stall doors that extend all the way to the floor. However, having full length doors would stymy the 74 percent of respondents who have used the gap under the door to determine if someone is already in the stall. To remedy the awkward under door look-see, 96 percent believe it would be helpful if there were visual indicators on stall doors to show if it is occupied.

15 Years of Restroom Observations

Bradley, a company that manufactures washroom accessories and partitions, executed its first survey in 2009, querying more than 1,000 U.S. adults about the state of public restrooms, their handwashing habits and concerns about seasonal viruses.

In 2024, the company asked Americans what they thought of restroom conditions, compared to 15 years ago when the survey originally launched. This year’s findings are encouraging because a good chunk (43 percent) believe the overall condition of public restrooms is better.  

However, not everything is picture perfect in public bathrooms.

68 percent of respondents say they’ve had a particularly unpleasant experience due to the condition of the facilities — a number that is similar to previous findings. 

When asked to share their restroom pet peeves, respondents pointed to used paper towels left on the floor or around the sink (62 percent), splashed water on countertops and floors (46 percent) and careless or reckless behavior that damages the facility (41 percent). 

Speaking of unfortunate circumstances, approximately one out of four adults have dropped their phone, keys, wallet or purse in a public restroom toilet, and 74 percent of women say they’ve had to use their foot to keep a non-working stall door closed.

For those who are looking for improvements, cleanliness, better stocking of soap and towels and touchless fixtures topped the request list. 

“The state of a restroom can have a measurable impact since we’ve found that consumers will avoid a business if it has poor restroom facilities,” says Jon Dommisse, vice president of marketing and corporate communication for Bradley. “Our goal with this research during the past 15 years has been to better understand handwashing behavior and identify restroom pain points to help facilities better serve the public.”

The annual Healthy Handwashing Survey from Bradley queried 1,003 American adults Jan. 4-9, 2024, about their handwashing habits, concerns about seasonal viruses and their use of public restrooms. Participants were from around the country and were fairly evenly split between women (51 percent) and men (48 percent). 1 percent of survey respondents selected other.