Studies have shown surfaces in restrooms — toilets, floors, sinks, soap and towel dispensers, door handles — can harbor a veritable witches brew of contamination that includes everything from the common cold to E. coli and hepatitis A.

As public health issues make headlines with increasing frequency, people are demanding some assurance that they won’t catch the latest bug just by using the toilet. While thorough cleaning and disinfecting are part of any janitorial routine, they are not enough anymore to keep the public at ease.

Innovations in automatic restroom fixtures can offer the general public the assurances they demand. These systems allow them to use the toilet, wash their hands, leave the room, and not touch a thing.

This technology is something that should be a part of any thorough restroom program, says Travis Turner, general manager of Green Sky Cleaning Supply, Fenton, Mo.

“In a public restroom, no one wants to touch anything. No one wants to touch that towel dispenser. No one wants to touch the soap dispenser. And certainly no one wants to touch the urinals or the flush handle on the commodes,” Turner says. “We’ve taken the perception the public has, which is a very real problem in terms of cross-contamination, and turned it into a selling feature for touchless technology.”

Green Sky quotes every account on toilet tissue, facial tissue, hand towels and soap, but the company’s Total Restroom Management (TRM) program takes the restroom sales process a bit further. This program puts together a package of touchless fixtures, including soap and paper dispensers, air-freshening systems, touch-free faucets, feminine hygiene receptacles and automatic urinal cleaners. Customers can pick any and all of this recommended technology to fashion a restroom that fits their situation and budget.

“We are in an extremely competitive marketplace,” says Turner. “We have to differentiate ourselves and our TRM program is one of the ways that we do.”

Louie Davis Jr., senior territory manager at Central Paper Co. of Birmingham, Ala., agrees. He says Central Paper helps firms go touchless through an agreement with suppliers that returns part of a dispenser’s cost to them upon proof of delivery.

“I may pay $55 for the dispenser but upon proof of delivery, the manufacturer credits $50 of that $55 so my net cost is $5,” he says. “Then if it’s an account of any volume, we eat that $5. Even if we pass the cost onto the account, it’s $5, which is not a big investment. The drive is so much toward hands-free these days that people are often willing to pay that extra few dollars.”

Both Turner and Davis agree, automatic restroom technology is where it’s at: from soap and towel dispensers to automatic flushers and touchless doors. In a perfect world, a restroom would be equipped with all of them.

“By using touchless technology, we’re reducing the potential for cross-contamination. We’re improving hygiene, reducing odors, and giving the restroom an improved image and more of a modern look,” says Turner.

From the toilet to the door, distributors can equip the restroom experience to be automatic and touch-free from start to finish.

“From a public health standpoint, touchless restrooms are a no-brainer,” Davis says.  

Ronnie Garrett is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.