Restroom Products Evolve to Meet Changing Demands

Manufacturers of restroom products, from faucets and flush valves to soap and paper towel dispensers, have responded to the changing conditions in restrooms.

By Antonio Delise, Contributing Writer  
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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted countless aspects of people’s lives and daily routines for nearly three years. Manufacturers of restroom products, from faucets and flush valves to soap and paper towel dispensers, have responded to the changing conditions in restrooms. 

Redesigned products now aim to meet the changing demands of restroom users, as well as maintenance and engineering managers responsible for selecting products and ensuring their long-term performance. 

Eye on hygiene 

The name of the game in restrooms is to limit the need for visitors to touch surfaces, including doors, fixtures and flush handles. Automated sensors activate soap dispensers, faucets, flush devices, hand dryers and towel dispensers, eliminating the need for restroom users to touch them. As a result, many users view them as must-have restroom technology. New fixtures combine a soap dispenser, faucet and hand dryer conveniently into the sink basin, minimizing their footprint and promoting touch-free hygiene. 

Multiple studies have found that paper towels are the preferred method of hand drying, so managers should consider specifying them for use in spaces where hygiene is critical, such as healthcare facilities or where there is a need to reduce germs in the environment. Hand drying is critical in eliminating germs and should be promoted as a part of a facility’s handwashing policies and education, as germs are more likely to survive on a wet surface than on dry hands. 

With the increased frequency of handwashing, managers also need to perform a review of restroom cleaning practices to ensure facilities are well maintained and well stocked with supplies. Increased handwashing drives up the use of soap and paper towels, so managers need to adjust restocking frequencies accordingly. Providing clean, well-stocked restrooms has proven to increase the comfort level of occupants returning to the office. 

Copper alloys are attracting greater attention from managers seeking to protect the health of restroom users. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified that “products containing these copper alloys can now be sold and distributed with claims that they kill certain viruses that come into contact with them. This is the first product with residual claims against viruses to be registered for use nationwide. Testing to demonstrate this effectiveness was conducted on harder-to-kill viruses.” 

Changes in chemical use and handwashing frequency will have an impact on restrooms. Managers need to select durable surfaces that can stand up to the increased disinfection and cleaning chemicals, a crucial step in extending the performance life of restrooms and reducing maintenance. Additional handwashing will most likely result in more wet countertops and floors, which can be breeding grounds for bacteria. Locating towels and hand dryers close to the sink can prevent excess water dripping onto surfaces. 

Installing foot and arm grabs on new and existing restroom doors is a simple modification to that can reduce the need for users to touch surfaces when leaving the restroom after washing hands. Antimicrobial coatings can be applied to restroom hardware and fixtures, including door handles, faucets and toilets. 

Combined with a routine cleaning schedule, this step minimizes the growth of bacteria on these surfaces. Commercial fixture manufacturers have their own anti-microbial coatings, which inhibits the growth of stain and odor-causing bacteria, mold and mildew on surfaces, so managers are not limited to one manufacturer or price point. 

Ensuring proper ventilation in restrooms is critical to ensuring healthy indoor air, with recommended air exchange rates of eight per hour or approximately one CFM per square foot of space. Having an exhaust fan run continuously during normal hours of operation will limit additional touch points of turning a local exhaust fan on and off. Routine preventive maintenance of exhaust fans ensures they operate properly. In colder months, birds and other animals are inclined to build nests near exhaust fans, which can provide additional heat, so make sure technicians physically inspect these areas routinely. 

Antonio Delise is a senior project engineer with FST Technical Services’ commissioning division. He has experience providing commissioning services for facilities throughout the New York City area. 

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Restroom Products Evolve to Meet Changing Demands

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  posted on 2/8/2023   Article Use Policy

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