Friday Funny: The Dirty Truth About Public Bathrooms

Posted by Heidi SchwartzRestroom cleaning survey infographic

How clean are your public bathrooms? Do they just LOOK clean? Or are they really clean—deep down? And does your staff really know how to handle the need to get rid of the down and dirty? According to a recent survey, many public toilets are not as clean as they should be.

Restroom maintenance is an important daily task with which most facility management professionals are familiar, since restrooms are a frequently used area in any facility and their upkeep can affect public perceptions. But in the survey, conducted by ISSA and Clorox Professional Products Co., it’s difficult for some managers to uncover what it takes to keep this critical area in top shape.

“These survey results underscore some of the restroom cleaning challenges that are often neglected and show that industry professionals may not understand as much as they think they do,” said ISSA Sales Director Anthony Trombetta.

Visible Dirt And Unseen Germs

When it comes to public restrooms, there are two important jobs: cleaning for appearance and cleaning for health. Maintaining a visibly clean restroom is important for influencing consumer perception, but harmful microorganisms, such as Shigella, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, E. coli, and norovirus are routinely found in restrooms and are associated with outbreaks of illness.1,2

“Keeping a restroom disinfected can help prevent the spread of illness-causing germs to building occupants and the community at-large, especially during the winter months,” said Clorox Professional Products Co. Associate Marketing Director Jennifer Case.

According to survey results, most professionals (85%) are fully aware of the importance of this dual relationship of cleaning for appearance and health. The vast majority (95%) also believe that restroom cleaning has an impact on overall public health by helping to prevent the spread of disease.3

However, this understanding may not trickle down to all employees; only one-half of respondents (49%) believe their staff is aware of all the risk associated with the spread of germs in the restroom.3 The survey also found that:

  • One in five respondents (20%) believe the general public may think their facility’s restrooms harbor germs.3

  • Many facility professionals believe that restroom handles harbor the most illness-causing germs and bacteria, particularly restroom door handles (65%), faucet handles (38%), and toilet or urinal handles (36%).3 However, secondary research shows that this is false and that door handles pose the least risk for germs.4 The feminine hygiene trash can, which only 12% of professionals believe to be germy,3 has one of the highest concentrations of germs.5

  • “Cleaning for aesthetics” tasks are viewed as tougher than “cleaning for health” (disinfecting) tasks.

  • Only 29% of supervisors reported instructing their staff to disinfect surfaces most often.3

Turning A Blind Eye To Clean Training

Keeping on top of restroom cleaning needs can be demanding, and although only 15% of respondents report a lack of education or training as a challenge to performing optimal restroom cleaning, far more (68%) say their staff does not understand or only somewhat understands the differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting.3

When it comes to educational tools, professionals said the following:

  • Almost all (94%) rely on product usage instructions to train staff, but 43% of those think these tools could be improved.3
  • Nine in 10 (90%) of professionals use restroom cleaning protocols or guidelines, but 45% believe these tools could be improved.3

ISSA and Ketchum Global Research & Analytics designed and analyzed this online survey of 375 cleaning industry professionals. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4.9 percentage points.

1 Barker J, Jones MV. “The potential spread of infection caused by aerosol contamination of surfaces after flushing a domestic toilet.” Journal of Applied Microbiology 99(2005): 339–347.

2 Boone SA, Gerba CP. “Significance of Fomites in the Spread of Respiratory and Enteric Viral Disease.” Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology 73.6(2007): 1687-1696.

3 Clorox Professional Products Co. and ISSA and ClearVoice Research. (May 2014 and June 2014). Cleaning Industry Professionals Public Restroom Survey. (Survey of 375 cleaning industry professionals).

4 “Restroom Germ Myths And Realities Revealed.” (2013, June 13). Retrieved from:–15689.

5 Kravitz, R. “Restrooms: Where Are the Germs Really?” (2009, Sept. 28). Retrieved from:


  1. Its a really informative and helpful article. I think it’s a vital fact to cleaning public bathroom and you discusses here about this. I hope after read this article people knowing how to clean a public bathroom and they are getting careful about this. If you had more insight it i will greatly appreciate it. Thanks foe the sharing a helpful article.

Comments are closed.