By Don Totten
Published in the April 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Asatisfactory level of restroom cleanliness can be difficult forfacility managers to achieve on a regular basis. The more traffic afacility receives, the more expensive it is to maintain and the moredifficult it can be to provide service throughout the day. Eventually,this can lead to depletion of supplies.
Other common issueswith restrooms can be the quality of the products installed, odors, alack of ventilation, and appearance, which sometimes deterioratesbecause of paper towels left on the floor or clogged, leaking soapdispensers at the sink. Another area of growing concern among users ofpublic restrooms is cleanliness and sanitation. Individuals who aresick and contagious can potentially spread their germs by touching suchthings as faucets, sinks, paper towels, and soap dispensers.
Facilitymanagers have always spent a great deal of effort on restroommaintenance. But now, because of these concerns, many are beginning tofocus on these areas as more and more people become concerned about thespread of serious disease. From lobby and waiting areas, to corridorsand offices, there are numerous opportunities for employees andvisitors to pick up or pass along germs.
In this day and ageof virulent flu strains, SARS, and the threat of other infectiousdisease outbreaks, it should be no surprise that the public isconcerned about cleanliness and hygiene. In fact, people go to suchgreat lengths to avoid germs that they perform like contortionists inpublic restrooms—flushing toilets with their feet, pushing doors openwith their shoulders, dispensing towels with their elbows, and doinganything to avoid germ laden surfaces.
Fortunately, manymanufacturers and suppliers in this area are responding with newrestroom product solutions and cleaning technologies. These can helpmake the task of using and managing the restroom easier, moreefficient, and more cost-effective, while providing improved hygieneand sanitation features.
Touch Free Technology
Oneway facility managers can help to reduce the spread of germs is throughthe installation of touch less products and systems in the restroom. Byminimizing the user’s need for direct skin to surface contact, touchfree dispensers can help reduce the transmission of illnesses andgerms. In restrooms with these systems, users do not have to touchhandles, levers, or buttons in order to flush toilets, turn on water,or dispense washroom products.
Some public restrooms evencontinue the no touch philosophy by installing door less entryways.This automated initiative prevents the need for freshly washed hands tograb dirty door handles as the user leaves the restroom.
Someno touch systems are relatively simple to use. There is a toilet papersystem, for example, that holds individual, inter-leaved sheets ofpaper. With this system, users can easily reach inside for the sheetsthey need without being forced to search around a potentially dirtydispenser. This may provide a cleaner and more hygienic delivery systemthan conventional toilet paper dispensers.
Other no touchsystems employ more high-tech methods like sensor activated devicesthat control water faucets and lights. No touch technology can also behelpful when incorporated into hand towel dispensers, since hand towelsare typically used once hands are already cleaned.
Touch less systems don’t have to be electronic. Simple, no touch hand towel dispensing systems are also available.
Forinstance, a low cost hygienic option dispenses the towelsone-at-a-time, and users only have to touch the towel they need. Thereare also mechanical dispensers without levers to pull or battery powerto replenish. These devices can provide the same hygienic benefits assensor activated dispensers.
Another way to minimize the itemstouched in the restroom is to install automatic toilet flushingmechanisms. There are two primary types of systems: one flushes theunit after each use, and another operates at regular intervals to keepfresh water in the bowl at all times. In either case, the addition ofautomatic dispensing of a disinfectant with each flush can helpminimize bacteria formation in the bowl and reduce odors.
Withthese devices, hand contact and germ transmission is reduced, andmaintenance teams have an easier time cleaning flush valves andhandles. Both users and facility managers can benefit from thisapproach.
Touch Less Cleaning
As restroomproduct manufacturers have moved to touch less restroom products, sohave manufacturers of cleaning systems. Touch less cleaning productsare designed to allow housekeeping professionals to clean withouttouching any surface in the restroom with their hands.
Thesecleaning systems are also easy to operate, since they consist primarilyof electrical pressure mops and buckets. As a result, they can providebetter ergonomics versus bending over a bucket.
Since thesystem is self-contained, touch free cleaning equipment may releasefewer odors. Highly pressurized devices can help deliver deepercleaning ability as well. Touch less systems also help ensure that thecleaning chemical or fluid in the bucket is not dirtier than thesurface being cleaned, which can sometimes be the case with bucketwater.
High Capacity Restroom Systems
Maintainingan adequate supply of personal care products in the restroom is anotherimportant aspect of creating and maintaining a sanitary restroomenvironment. Nothing says “unhygienic” more than the absence of toiletpaper, hand soap, or hand towels in a restroom.
One way tohelp ensure an adequate supply of product in the restroom is to selecthigh capacity systems. High capacity systems reduce product depletionby lasting longer and offering less frequent product change outs.
Thesesystems also reduce usage through controlled dispensing. Hands freetowel dispensers and those that control usage by dispensing one towelat a time help ensure that towels will be there when people need themand that people will touch only what they take.
When selectingtoilet paper, one high capacity option is a coreless jumbo roll tissuesystem. Because this system contains no hole in the center and nocardboard core, it provides the equivalent in length of nearly sixstandard rolls of bath tissue.
Tomake sure soap is there when people need it, facility managers canconsider a wall mounted replaceable system that provides a new, cleandispenser with each refill. Counter mounted systems with disposablecartridges are also desirable. Both will last longer and help eliminatedrips, leaks, and clogs.
Restocking, cleaning, picking uptrash, and repairing broken or malfunctioning dispensers and fixturesall cost money. High capacity dispensers may reduce costs, because theydon’t have to be checked, repaired, and restocked as often.
Withthe continued interest in preventing the spread of germs, enthusiasmfor no touch and high capacity systems for restrooms will probablyincrease. These systems may present a cleaner restroom and deliver thebest overall possible impression of the facility.
Totten is commercial real estate marketing manager for Kimberly-ClarkProfessional, based in Roswell, GA. For more information, visit www.kcprofessional.com.
Is the restroom an area in your facility that’s high on the complaint list? Share your experiences by e-mailing [email protected].