The hallmarks of a good school: brilliant professors, rich traditions, strong job placement rates – and clean, well-stocked restrooms? According to a new survey commissioned by Cascades Tissue Group in advance of the upcoming cold and flu season, 65 percent somewhat or strongly agree that restrooms help shape the perception of the quality of schools they’ve attended over the past 15 years. In fact, 60 percent of those participating in the 2015 U.S. School Restroom Survey recommend prospective students inspect restroom quality at schools they’re visiting before making decisions to enroll.

Ninety percent of those polled agree hygiene was important to them as a student, and 93 percent say they washed and dried their hands every time they used the restroom. And while students generally gave their schools high marks for cleanliness (73 percent said the lavatories were at least somewhat clean), the majority – 57 percent – felt their schools didn’t do enough overall to support on-campus restroom hygiene.

Still, the respondents weren’t exactly paragons of sanitation and wellness themselves. More than 57 percent admitted to using mobile devices in the bathroom, and 6 percent said they’d worked on their laptops there. More than 14 percent had studied or read in their restroom while nearly 12 percent say they’d eaten in the bathroom. In fact, a notable 7 percent of recent students said they’d knowingly drank hand sanitizer when attending schools, corroborating with recent reports of increased calls to U.S. Poison Control Centers over fears of alcohol poisoning.

“The data suggests that restrooms are really important parts of school experience,” said Thierry Trudel, Cascades Tissue Group vice president of marketing and communications. “If people don’t feel the restrooms they’re in are clean and healthy, their natural tendency is to cut their cleaning time short — yet that’s precisely when they ought to be spending more time on hygiene.”

Other key findings of the survey:
    •    More than six out of every ten survey takers reported having at some point avoided school restrooms altogether despite needing to use the facilities.
    •    More than 14 percent went so far as to clean a restroom at a school themselves because it wasn’t up to their standards.
    •    When asked to cite their top complaint of restrooms at the schools they’d attended, the number one gripe was restrooms being out of hand towels or toilet paper – 39 percent indicated such.
    •    More than two thirds of the former or current students said they prefer paper towels to air dryers.

Environmentally preferable products mattered as well; 88 percent of students agreed it was important to them while enrolled. In fact, 84 percent said they’d be okay with using beige-colored toilet paper if they knew if was perfectly hygienic and environmentally friendly.

“It’s validating to see that students value single-use paper products in the restrooms,” said Trudel. “We’re constantly educating people on the benefits of paper towels, which are efficiently made from recycled contents and remain the World Health Organization’s recommended tool for drying hands.”