Tackling Restroom Hygiene Challenges

  March 5, 2012

I'm Steve Schuster, associate editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is restroom hygiene challenges.

Few issues in institutional and commercial facilities generate as much discussion as restroom hygiene. Increased concerns about hygiene have led to more scrutiny of restrooms and their relation to human illness, as well as general indoor environmental quality. In turn, many managers have revamped their approach to specifying restroom products.

How should managers address hygiene challenges?

The first step is to understand the role of disinfectants and key restroom products from floors to walls — including flush valves, paper and soap dispensers, fixtures, counters, partitions, light switches, and sink faucets. All restroom surfaces and even the air carry microbes, which can be the source of hygiene issues if they are not properly cleaned, maintained, and periodically upgraded to incorporate new technology.

Restroom hygiene involves both seen and unseen challenges. The visible category is a combination of trash on the floor and counters; overflowing waste receptacles; dirty towels in dispensers; and dirty floors, walls, partitions, counters, and fixtures.

These are not only unpleasant and carry germs, but they also can cause users to avoid tasks for proper hygiene, such as flushing toilets and urinals, using soap and water, and using dispensers because of cross-contamination concerns. Regular, frequent cleaning of these components can create a bright, sparkling restroom that is much more likely to invite good hygiene habits and good housekeeping from users.

Challenges include germs, bacteria, viruses, and fungi, which housekeepers should treat with chemical disinfectants and proper sanitizing methods.

Door handles and light switches can introduce staph infections. Wastebaskets can be sources of rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus. Flush handles can be sources of enterococcus and rotavirus. Faucet handles can be contaminated with rotavirus. Tissue boxes can contain rhinovirus. Dust anywhere can harbor a variety of germs, not just dirt.

The key weapon against these unseen challenges is a comprehensive restroom-sanitation program based on testing to identify specific needs and solutions. Flush valves, paper and soap dispensers, and sink faucets in many restrooms require visitors to touch them to use them.

The best way to ensure good hygiene is proper and frequent cleaning and disinfecting that kills all germs. The new range of touchless fixtures also can relieve some concerns about cross-contamination.


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