Toilet Trivia

4. Sinks. Just as faucets are problem areas, sinks can be reservoirs of germ colonies. The moisture in the sink helps keep germs alive, and some studies indicate sinks are the first or second most-pathogen-concentrated areas in a restroom.

5. Sanitary-napkin dispensers. A survey released by the American Society of Microbiology found that the outside lids of a typical sanitary-napkin receptacle are among the most contaminated spots in the ladies’ room.

Addressing The Problem

According to Dancer, there are really only two ways to keep restroom surfaces (as well as all other surfaces) clean, hygienic and safe for users–effective and frequent cleaning. For effective cleaning, she recommends using scientifically evaluated cleaning products and chemicals.

For instance, some studies have found that spray-and-vac systems, also known as high-fluid-extraction systems, are more effective at removing surface contaminants than more conventional systems, such as traditional mops, microfiber flat mops, and microfiber/terry cloth cloths. And as to frequency, instead of cutting back on cleaning, as has occurred in the United States for the past five decades, the frequency needs to be increased substantially. Dancer suggests some restroom areas may need to be cleaned three or more times per day, depending on use and other factors.

In addition, because sanitary-napkin receptacles are such a problem area, some facilities have turned to hygiene services. These organizations install touchless, foot- or sensor-operated disposal units, which technicians replace with cleaned and sanitized units on a set schedule. “These sanitized units tend to be safer, not only for users but for cleaning professionals as well,” says Calvert. “Essentially, they break the chain of cross-contamination.”

The Importance Of Hand-Washing

Even if facility managers incorporate more effective cleaning, increase cleaning frequencies, employ hygiene services, and take other measures to make restrooms more hygienic, all can be lost if users, including restroom-cleaning professionals, fail to follow proper hygiene methods. “Hands should be washed using soaps and solutions at approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 20 seconds,” says Jim Glenn, CEO of Meritech, which manufactures automated hand-washing systems. “Unfortunately, many people, including cleaning professionals, simply do not clean their hands as thoroughly and as frequently as necessary. As a result, they can pass contaminants from their hands onto other surfaces and people.”

According to Glenn, “Hand washing is just as important as proper and frequent cleaning of these [restroom surface] sites.” Because of this, some facilities have automated cleaning to make it more thorough, convenient and fast.

Touch-free hand-washing systems wash, sanitize, and rinse hands using non-alcohol disinfecting solutions in as little as 10 seconds. These systems kill nearly 100 percent of pathogens present on hands, protecting the cleaning worker and preventing cross-contamination.

Ultimately, keeping public restrooms clean, healthy and hygienic comes down to education–for both users and cleaning professionals. Knowing that the problem exists, where it exists, and how to handle it is key. As Dancer says, “We just need to be more clever [than the germs], knowing which sites need cleaning, with what frequency … and how to protect ourselves in the process.”

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