The many benefits of a touch-free public restroom

Public restrooms are a necessity. Whether in an office building, restaurant, stadium, school, shopping mall and any other place where people congregate, we need public restrooms. But just because we need them doesn’t mean we like them, even if they appear clean on the surface. Many of us think of them as dirty and germ infected.

This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s even more true now.

As the public begins to emerge from Stay-At-Home-Orders and venture back out to into the world, we will eventually need to use a public restroom. And when we do, we need to feel assured that they are clean and safe so we can visit them with confidence.

As a building owner, you want to provide that assurance. But how?

Thankfully, there are solutions to help make your public restroom as touchless as possible; we’ll get to those in a minute, but first, let’s look at how germ-infested public restrooms really are.

Bacteria in the Bathroom

It is true that restrooms have many hot zones where bacteria tend to linger: faucets, soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers, the door and even the walls, but the biggest culprit is probably the toilet.

When you flush the toilet, germs found in feces can be propelled into the air and land anywhere, including on your body and hands. So in a public restroom, it makes sense to leave the stall immediately after you flush to keep any microscopic airborne mist from landing on you.

But, it’s not just bacteria from fecal matter that is found in bathrooms and thus potentially found on you. In fact, there are all kinds of bacteria.

In a study taking place at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a team looked at 12 public bathrooms across the campus, swabbing stall handles, soap dispensers, toilet seats, toilet flush handles, the floor and more.

From this, they found thousands of species of bacteria present, which they grouped into three categories: gut species, skin species and floor species.  First, gut species were found on toilet seats and toilet handles, meaning they were probably sprayed onto the object or the user’s hands when they flushed the toilet. Skin species were found on door handles, faucets and other surfaces touched by hands. And, floor species found in the bathrooms included many rare species indicating that we brought them in through our shoes.

So, although some of the bacteria in public restrooms arrive via the toilet flush, we also bring in a lot of it in ourselves when we enter a restroom. And still some of the bacteria is just there, thriving in the environment.

In fact, researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson found that the greatest reservoir of germ colonies in public restrooms occur in the sinks, thanks in part to the accumulation of water that becomes breeding grounds for tiny organisms.

Where the germs are

Along with sink basins, there are eight other key areas where bacteria roam in a public restroom. They are:

1. Faucet Handles: Think about it. You emerge from a stall and turn on the water with dirty hands. And while you may turn off the water with your freshly-washed hands, there is still a lot of bacteria on that handle.

2. Hand Dryers: These have caused a lot of debate but the truth is, they are germ spreaders. They suck in ambient air in the restroom and then spew it out at a high velocity, exposing the user to a high level of germs. Researchers at the University of Westminster in London found that jet air dryers spread 190 times more virus that paper towels. Paper towels not only dry your hands faster; they also cause friction when you use them, removing any bacteria that might be present.

3. Toilet Flusher: Again, a no-brainer. The handle is usually the first thing people touch after they go to the bathroom and their hand is dirty. That said, many people also use their foot to flush the toilet, leaving germs on the flusher that they picked up from walking on the floor.

4. Floor: The floor has a lot of germs, primarily fecal bacteria that can spread when the toilet is flushed.

5. Soap Dispenser: A manual soap dispenser is oftentimes the first thing people touch after they emerge from the stall, pumping soap on their germ-infested hands even before they turn on the water.

6. Stall Door Handle: After people use the bathroom, they need to open the stall door. In fact, the stall door is constantly coming in contact with unwashed, germ-covered hands.

7. The Walls: Although it’s not pleasant to think about, the walls of a public restroom are essentially covered with lots of bacteria including the particles that become airborne when a toilet is flushed. And the thing is, walls don’t regularly get cleaned.

8. The Bathroom Door: Although there are some who use a paper towel to grab the door handle when they leave the restroom, the majority of people don’t even wash their hands after going to the bathroom.* These people then grab the door handle with their unwashed hands…enough said.

That’s a lot of surfaces not to touch, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Touchless Bathrooms

Restrooms can easily and cost-effectively be outfitted with touchless toilets, urinals, sinks, soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers. And, there are many benefits for doing so.

1. Provides peace of mind for the user: Eliminating the many surfaces people are forced to touch in a public restroom also eliminates anxiety people may have about the spread of germs when using the restroom. What’s more, it helps to cut down the transmission of communicable diseases like COVID-19.

2. Saves water: Sensor-controlled faucets, toilets and urinals reduce the amount of water with each use, delivering the right amount of water needed before turning off. Plus, the lack of handles to turn on and off water reduces the number of leaky faucets you might have.

3. Reduces waste: Just like faucets, toilets and urinals control the amount of water used, touch-free soap and paper towel dispensers control the amount of product each user gets. This helps prevent waste of each product.

4. Requires less maintenance: Converting to a touchless bathroom reduces the number of parts on toilets and sinks, so there are fewer moving parts to have to repair or replace.

5. Sends a message of caring: Putting in sensor fixtures sends a message that you care about the users’ health and safety, something that is critical during this time of COVID-19.

6. Is very cost-effective: Switching over to a touchless, sensor-driven bathroom is less expensive than you might think, and it can be done quickly on your timeframe.

Who needs a touchless bathroom?

Any building with a public restroom can benefit from a touchless bathroom, whether it is an office building, restaurant, school, church or gas station. The process to switch out the manual fixtures and replace with touchless is quick, easy and cost-effective.

At Diversified Plumbing and Heating, we have been converting public restrooms to touchless well before the COVID-19 pandemic, and we continue to work with several clients, including schools and churches, to do the same with their restrooms.

rocess is easy: we’ll come to your building and look at all of your public restrooms before we give you a quote. Then, we’ll change out all of the fixtures on a schedule that makes sense for you, whether that’s during the day, after hours, on the weekend or overnight. The goal is to have as little interruption as possible.

And when we are done, you will have an efficient, sensor-powered bathroom that is safe for users, something that is critical as a result of COVID-19.

Want to learn more? Give us a call at 952-800-7343 or email us, and if you mention this article, we’ll give you 10% off of the labor costs.

* One more thing before we go – remember, one of the best ways to stop the spread of any infectious disease, is to wash your hands.

Researchers at Michigan State University observed and collected data on people’s bathroom behavior and found that 95% of them failed to wash their hands long enough to kill harmful bacteria after using the toilet.

On average, bathroom users washed their hands for six seconds, and only five percent washed their hands for 15 seconds or longer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds.

Please, don’t be one of these statistics. Wash your hands after using the restroom, for your safety and the safety of your loved-ones.

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