The rapid spread of COVID-19 has made an unprecedented and indelible mark on how our society responds to potential germ exposure, raising new questions around the hygienic and safe usage of public restrooms.
In a matter of weeks, the pandemic caused a major uptick in hand washing, taught us the virtues of social distancing, and elevated our awareness of hand-to-surface contact.
“As businesses and public establishments reopen and Americans return to using facilities, all eyes are on public restrooms,” says Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development, Bradley Corp., a global manufacturer of restroom equipment. “Today’s commercial washroom will be of paramount importance in providing hand washing systems and supplies, and mitigating sickness-causing germs.”
Dommisse offers several considerations for keeping restrooms clean, maintained, well-equipped, and prepared for a healthy hand washing experience:
1. Post signage. Reinforce cleanliness with friendly reminders about washing hands for 20 seconds per Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, maintaining safe distances between users, throwing away paper towels, etc. The Healthy Hand Washing Survey by Bradley Corp. shows that 40% of Americans increase hand washing when signs are posted.
“Posting updated cleaning schedules in restrooms also goes a long way in helping to reassure customers the facility is taking steps to ensure a clean environment and cares about keeping them safe,” Dommisse said.
2. Offer touchless fixtures. Cross contamination of germs in restrooms can be reduced by using touch-free fixtures for everything from soap, faucets, hand dryers/towels, doors and flushers. Public health experts agree: “Under any circumstance, using touchless fixtures helps to inhibit the spread of germs in restrooms and buildings,” says medical microbiologist Michael P. McCann, Ph.D., professor of biology, Saint Joseph’s University. “The more we avoid restroom touchpoints, the healthier and easier our operations will be. Hands-free washrooms are a win-win for consumers and businesses.”
Research shows that consumers are highly in favor of using touch-free fixtures. “91% of Americans believe it’s extremely or somewhat important that public restrooms are equipped with touchless fixtures,” Dommisse said. “In fact, making everything touchless is Americans’ most requested improvement in restrooms.”
3. Increase cleaning, sanitization, and restocking. Proper and frequent cleaning and disinfection is key for restrooms, especially for high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, faucets, sinks, toilets, stall door openers and paper towel dispensers. According to the CDC, daily cleaning with soap and water reduces germs, dirt, and impurities on the surface, and should be done frequently, especially if there is high traffic.
“It’s also important to disinfect surfaces to kill germs at least once daily, and more often if the restroom is busy,” Dr. McCann said. Finally, be sure to check and restock supplies regularly. Experiencing unclean low-stocked restrooms are pet peeves for restroom users.
4. Provide trash cans and hand sanitizer near exits. “Our research shows that 65% of Americans use paper toweling to avoid contact with restroom doors and faucets,” Dommisse said. “Keeping paper towels and waste containers near doorways can be helpful so people can throw them away upon exiting.”Installing hand sanitizers outside restrooms is another way people can sanitize their hands upon entering and leaving the restroom.
5. Prop open doors to increase visibility and minimize contact. To limit the number of people in restrooms and encourage social distancing, a propped open door can give people a small window into seeing how many others are already inside. In addition, a slightly opened door allows people to maneuver the door with their elbow, as opposed to their hands.
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