A restroom with sticky, grimy floors or a lingering bad odor is sure to leave an impression on all who enter. Unfortunately, it’s not the impression a building owner would like to make. Too often, maintenance managers and cleaning crews forget that a restroom is more than a place to do necessary business — it’s a reflection on the entire building.

“Because the restroom is seen as an expense that doesn’t generate income, it’s probably one of the most neglected areas in a facility,” says Mark Sholl, corporate sales manager for The Janitors Supply Co., Inc., Ft. Wayne, Ind. “To me, that’s shortsighted. If you walk into a facility and the restroom is dirty, your first impression of the facility is the whole place is dirty.”

Distributors can help their customers understand the importance of attractive and sanitary restrooms and then help them achieve that goal by breaking down restroom maintenance into three easy steps: cleaning and disinfecting, odor control and hand washing.

1.) Cleaning And Disinfecting
If a restroom is heavily soiled, it must undergo restorative care before routine cleaning can begin. The walls, partitions, counters, and floors should be scrubbed with a heavy-duty cleaner to remove soil and buildup. This is also a good time to impregnate the grout.

“Doing this allows you to start from the best possible place,” says Michael Liscio, division president for Clark Products’ Paper Plus Division, Carteret, N.J.

In a typical restroom, begin by dust mopping to remove all dirt and debris.

“Any dust left behind has a tendency to attract the airborne bacteria and it becomes a nesting place,” says Bob Mogge, sales specialist for Allied Eagle Supply, Detroit.

Next, clean from top to bottom. Pull the trash, and then use a disinfectant to wipe down the walls and clean the toilets, and use a glass cleaner on the mirrors and stall dividers. Finish by mopping the floors with a bacterial-enriched floor cleaner.

The key to a thorough cleaning is hitting all the spots that are sometimes overlooked. Janitors may clean the inside and rim of a urinal or toilet, but they often miss the bottom side. The vanity panels next to the urinals, which are splash areas, are also neglected. Touch points, such as light switches, doorknobs and faucets, are also breeding grounds for germs.

“You can go into a restroom with a black light and see every place people miss when they clean,” Sholl says. “People clean what they can see, which means they sometimes skip common touch areas that don’t look dirty.”

To ensure a deep clean, distributors can sell their customers a machine that sprays the bathroom from top to bottom or a wet vac that makes mopping easier. These products may be helpful, but it only takes a few essentials to make a bathroom sparkle.

“We talk about using as few products as possible to still get the job done,” says David Sikes, president of Sikes Paper Co., Atlanta.

In addition to a mop, bucket, and sponge or rag, every janitor should have a neutral disinfectant for all surfaces, glass cleaner (or a combo disinfectant/glass cleaner), and a floor cleaner with enzyme digesters, which soak into the grout and kill odors. Distributors should educate customers who use floor cleaners that include pine oil that bacterial-enriched cleaners also have a pleasant odor and are a safer option.

“Pine oil is too strong. It can leave a film that acts like a dirt magnet,” says Mogge. “It actually does the exact opposite of what they want.”

Reducing product needs is a key selling point from both training and environmental standpoints. Using fewer products, particularly those that can perform multiple tasks, is a key element of “green” cleaning. Employing a small roster of easy-to-use products also makes educating new employees a quick task.

2.) Odor Control
A clean restroom is an odor-free restroom. Eliminating odors starts by thoroughly disinfecting all surfaces, especially splash zones and touch points. Another key step is to flush the restroom’s drain weekly.

“Pour the remaining mop water into the drain, which will get into the trap and eat any bacteria that could cause odor,” Sikes says. “If you don’t do that, a 6-inch drain line will become a 1-inch drain line as junk grows on the sides.”

While cleanliness is essential for long-term odor control, there are other factors that can make a bathroom smell. Supplemental products can help reduce odors caused by poor air circulation, odors that immediately follow bathroom usage, or short-term odors that may persist between cleanings.

“Many end users say, ‘If my restroom is properly cleaned by my maintenance staff, I don’t need [odor-control systems],” Sikes says. “But they can clean and have it perfect and then someone goes in there with an incident that causes odor and their cleaning is gone and there is a less-than-desirable odor for the next visitor.”

Although odor-control products shouldn’t be considered cure-alls, they can provide a valuable service by masking temporary odors. Three popular options include:

• Urinal and commode mats trap urine that splashes onto the floor, preventing it from seeping into the grout. “Especially in high traffic areas, mats capture and seal a lot of spillage,” Mogge says.

• A urinal screen with a deodorizing block prevents clogged drains, fights bacterial growth, and emits a slight fragrance. “In very high-use restrooms like stadiums, I think the blocks in urinals provide some immediate odor control,” Sholl says. It’s important to instruct users that submerged blocks are ineffective. “I see that all the time,” Sholl says. “They are wasting their money.”

• Battery-operated metered aerosol systems emit perfume into the air at set intervals to ward off foul odors. “To have a pleasant area, an aerosol or pump mist will always help,” says Liscio. “It’s really not addressing the problem, but it does dress it up a bit.” A newer product in this category is a dispenser that uses hydrogen technology — it requires no batteries and emits no VOCs.

3.) Hand Washing And Drying
Hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of diseases. Although 95 percent of people claim to always wash their hands after using a public restroom, a 2000 study conducted by the American Society for Microbiology found that only 67 percent actually do.

Distributors can do their part to encourage healthy practices by selling stickers and plaques that remind people to wash up. In buildings where this is unacceptable, try selling a hand-sanitizing dispenser, which are becoming increasingly popular, especially in schools.

Of course, “there’s no substitute for hand washing,” Sikes says. Perhaps the most effective way to get people to wash their hands is to equip the restroom with familiar, user-friendly products.

“The easier the vehicle you give them is to use, the more likely [it is that] they will wash,” Liscio says. “Also, products they can relate to their own home will give them more incentive to wash.”

The current hot-ticket item for washrooms is foam soap. End users love it because it feels good on the hands and it rinses off quickly. Facility managers appreciate that the product can reduce soap costs by 30 percent or more. Users can get a heaping pile of foam in their hands and still not use much real soap — the lather requires about 25 percent less water than traditional liquid soap.

“It’s hard for us to sell big volumes of soap anymore because it takes so little foam to get the job done,” Sikes says. “It’s going to run the jan/san distributor out of the soap business.”

Foam is not ideal for every facility. For example, factory restrooms should be stocked with heavy-duty pumice cleaners and operating rooms still use antibacterial soap.

Hand drying is also essential to the hand washing process. Rolled towel systems are more cost effective than multifold or c-fold dispensers. They reduce waste by 30 percent and require less labor for refills because the capacity is two to three times larger than a c-fold dispenser. Folded towels are still popular, however, because they take up less wall space, which some customers find more aesthetically pleasing.

Whichever soap and towels a facility chooses, they should consider touch-free dispensers, which are preferred by most users.

“People don’t want to touch anything anymore,” Sholl says. “We are becoming a touchless society in the restroom.”

Don’t Forget Training
Telling customers how to clean isn’t always enough — sometimes you have to show them. Offering in-house or on-site training to customers puts you in the role of expert and encourages loyalty.

“I firmly believe that our products are only as good as the people who use them,” Liscio says. “If they use them properly they’ll get the best results, but if they use them improperly they will get poor results. People are very receptive when you show them that you know what you are talking about and you can help them select products and put procedures in place to accomplish their goals.”

Becky Mollenkamp is a Des Moines, Iowa-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor to SM.