Washroom Cleanliness Matters More Than Ever
By Angela Altass
If you have ever been on a road trip, you know that bathrooms are important. When you are road tripping, you often make a beeline to the washroom during a pit stop and if that washroom is dirty or not well-maintained, you make a quick exit out of that facility without making any of the purchases you were planning.
The pandemic has amplified the importance of cleanliness, especially in washrooms.
“Washroom cleanliness has always been important,” says Candice Raynsford, marketing manager, Cintas Canada. “However, now when patrons visit the washrooms, they do so with extra scrutiny and their perceptions contribute to their overall opinion of the facility. Business owners should step up their maintenance routine, keep hygiene products well stocked, and clean and disinfect high touchpoint surfaces, such as door handles and faucets daily.”
Some trends have emerged in washroom maintenance during the pandemic, says Raynsford.
“Recently, we’ve seen many businesses outsource their washroom deep cleaning,” says Raynsford. “Proper deep cleaning requires the right tools and machines to remove bacteria and soil from areas that daily cleaning cannot. Further, many businesses are understaffed. When a business outsources these services, it’s one less task on an employee’s plate. Services like this also used to be scheduled during off hours but we are increasingly seeing businesses schedule these services while their employees and customers are onsite and they’re asking us to park our Cintas truck in front of their facility. Seeing the service being done helps inspire confidence that they keep their facility clean.”
Facility managers should be sure they have lots of hygiene products and cleaning supplies on hand to keep their washrooms clean and inviting, says Raynsford.
“Hygiene products that a facility should not run out of include hand soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and paper towels,” says Raynsford. “It is also important to have plenty of cleaning chemicals, garbage bags and microfiber cleaning tools to help keep up with their increased cleaning routine.”
With heightened concerns about cleanliness, many businesses are implementing solutions to help reduce the spread of germs and limit direct contact with surfaces, says Raynsford. These include installing touchless features like automatic hand soap and sanitizer dispensers, replacing air dryers with automatic paper towel dispensers, and placing garbage cans next to the washroom exit, with people using paper towels so their hands don’t have to touch the door handle on the way out.
Cintas Canada holds an annual Best Restroom Contest that showcases the best public washrooms in the country and awards the winner with $2,500 in Cintas products and services. Five finalists are selected based on cleanliness, visual appeal, innovation, functionality and unique design elements. The finalist that receives the most votes from the public is crowned Canada’s Best Restroom.
Borden Park in Edmonton, Alberta was named to be the 2021 winner of the contest.
“We’re pleased to be recognized by Cintas for this incredible distinction,” says Nicole Fraser, general supervisor of planning and monitoring, infrastructure operations at the City of Edmonton. “We recognize the need to provide access to safe and clean washrooms to the public.”
Sweet Market Esso, also known as Gasoline Alley Esso, in Red Deer, Alberta was one of the 2021 finalists in the Best Restroom Contest.
“We were not surprised to be a finalist,” says Tim Anderson, store manager, Sweet Market Esso. “We were expecting to win. Unfortunately, there were some nice bathroom competitors and we had to settle for finalist. We would like to congratulate the winner and the other finalists as well.”
Anderson describes the gas station’s washrooms as having a fancy luxury hotel vibe.
“The women’s bathroom is slightly nicer than the men’s,” states Anderson. “It has beautiful tile work, chandeliers, and sinks with automatic taps with dryers built in. The handicap stall has a door that frosts over in the window section once closed. The men’s bathroom has the same features but the colours are darker and instead of tiled walls, they are a dark coloured concrete. Both bathrooms have beautiful granite countertops.”
Feedback from customers has always been very pleasant and Anderson says staff is often thanked for having such beautiful and clean washrooms.
“We usually hear a lot of loud wows and woahs coming from the entrance when customers are first entering,” states Anderson. “Almost all feedback from the washrooms has been positive. A large investment was made to have some of the nicest bathrooms in Canada because it is extremely important to us. The first task staff are trained on is how to maintain, clean and stock the bathrooms and to take pride in how beautiful they are. The washroom is usually the first place a large majority of customers go when visiting a service station so it is very important to get that first impression right.”
Sweet Market Esso has always had a rigorous cleaning and bathroom check schedule and therefore did not need to make many changes to it due to the pandemic, other than adding some signage from the government, says Anderson.
“We kept the washrooms open through the entire pandemic so we saw a large increase in use when other service stations were closing theirs down,” notes Anderson, who advises other gas stations to always make bathrooms the main priority. “It is usually the first impression a customer has of your site and how they feel about purchasing at your store or even coming back. You don’t need a fancy bathroom. I have managed gas stations in the past with very generic looking washrooms and have received many compliments on the cleanliness of the washroom. Make the bathroom as welcoming as possible with some décor as well. It does not have to be costly, just welcoming, Keep the toilet paper and soap stocked, too.”
Now in its 12th year, the Best Restoom Contest was not changed throughout the pandemic, says Raynsford.
“It continues to shine a light on facilities that offer an exceptional washroom experience,” says Raynsford. “With businesses forced to adapt to the pandemic, they can look to the Canada’s Best Restroom contest as a creative way to generate publicity. Although businesses may have less traffic to their facility due to capacity restrictions, we continue to evaluate the same criteria in our finalists and, as in previous years, public votes determine the grand prize winner. Everyone appreciates a business that goes the extra mile to create a positive washroom experience and this contest provides an opportunity for the public to recognize and support them.”
Dyson issued a global hand hygiene survey in 2021 and found public washroom concerns remain high, says Anthony Hall, lead design engineer, Dyson.
“Globally, 65 per cent of respondents said they were more concerned about visiting public washrooms in July 2021 than they were the previous year,” says Hall. “There are many possible explanations for this, including, but not limited to, the easing or increased disregard for measures like masks, or timing as some lockdowns lifted throughout the summer of 2021 prior to the dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases through the second half of the year.”
Survey respondents were asked a question about how concerned they were about the impact of single-use, disposable products on the environment.
“Asked to consider items such as face masks, gloves, disposable cups and paper towels, three in four expressed concern about the associated environmental impact, which could demonstrate an appetite for more sustainable solutions such as reusable cups, washable masks and hand dryers,” says Hall. “With this, we believe more organizations will consider moving away from single-use disposable products, such as paper towels in bathrooms.”
In general, people are more aware of the cleanliness of public washrooms and have higher expectations than before the pandemic, says Hall.
“Public spaces, such as convenience stores and gas stations, which have high foot traffic, should consider installing technologies, such as hand dryers, to reduce the amount of waste produced,” says Hall. “With entering the third year of the pandemic, many businesses are taking this time to make shared spaces, such as washrooms, safer and more hygienic. Technology solutions can negate these concerns. For example, ensuring hands are dried with clean air through the inclusion of air-cleaning filters and touchless technology.”
Effective high speed hand dryers are a great option for commercial washrooms, says Hall.
“Dyson’s range of Airblade hand dryers are touchless air dryers that dry hands with HEPA filtered air,” says Hall. “The survey found that 24 per cent of Canadians were worried about drying their hands with dirty air from dryers, which is why the Airblade is developed with HEPA filters that catch 99.97 per cent of particles as small as 0.3 microns, including bacteria and viruses. Hands are dried with clean air in just 10 to 14 seconds—four times faster than other dyers—to make sure you’re staying safe.”
In Canada, the top five frustrations when entering a public washroom are the lack of toilet paper, unclean toilets, no soap, empty paper towel dispensers and blocked toilets, says Hall.
“However, with the right equipment and a regular cleaning schedule, companies can alleviate many of these concerns, ensuring that public restrooms are safe, clean, and ready for visitors,” says Hall.