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Making a Positive Impression
By Dave Mesko — posted 04/03/2012

Dirty restrooms generate building complaints and unsatisfied patrons, and are often a common cause of lost business. In fact, a recent Harris Interactive survey revealed that 94 percent of U.S. adults would avoid a business in the future if they encountered dirty restrooms. Similarly, it’s estimated that over 50 percent of complaints about buildings concern the upkeep of restrooms. With a high level of issues surrounding restroom cleanliness that can easily lead to lost business, facility managers must establish a comprehensive restroom cleaning program to generate a pleasant environment and keep businesses thriving.

To create a comprehensive restroom program, facility managers must determine the source of the issues. With germs and odours lingering throughout restrooms, building occupants have several reasons to be concerned with the cleanliness of surfaces throughout restrooms.

Factors that can lead to a negative impression of restrooms include:

  • Lack of supplies. Restroom supplies present a common source of frustration for restroom visitors. Empty toilet paper holders, paper towel, or soap dispensers prohibit visitors from using the restroom for its intended function. In fact, 85 percent of respondents in an independent survey listed full toilet paper dispensers as the top measure of restroom cleanliness. Lacking essential supplies gives guests the impression that facility managers do not care about the cleanliness and upkeep of their restroom and facility.
  • Wet floors. Whether it’s a puddle surrounding the sink or wet floors in restroom stalls, people are automatically deterred from a restroom with wet floors. Ranking just behind empty toilet paper dispensers, 84 percent of respondents in an independent survey stated that no visible puddles on the floor is a direct measure of cleanliness. Wet floors leave visitors with the impression that the restroom is not properly maintained and detracts from the overall cleanliness of the restroom.
  • Unappealing odours. Unpleasant smells are no stranger to restrooms and patrons are quick to judge the cleanliness of a restroom—or entire facility—based on its smell. As visitors and guests base opinions around smells, one poor experience can lead to negative reviews and lost business.
  • Dirty surfaces. It’s no surprise that restrooms are commonly associated with bacteria and germs, and visibly dirty surfaces reinforce that notion. A recent study by the University of Colorado at Boulder found 19 different types of bacteria commonly found across all restroom surfaces, including toilet handles, soap dispensers, door handles, and sink faucets. The bacteria can be classified into three groups of microbes: bacteria that live on human skin, bacteria from outdoors that people likely brought in on their shoes, and bacteria that live inside humans and are passed in urine or feces. The locations of bacteria found were mostly as one would expect: skin bacteria were mostly found on touch surfaces, floors were commonly contaminated with soil bacteria, while gut and urine bacteria were found on seats and handles of toilets, sink faucet handles, soap dispensers, and door handles.

Steps to Success
While effectively combating the challenges associated with dirty restrooms may seem like a difficult task, success lies in the development and execution of a comprehensive restroom maintenance program. The following tips help facility managers target problem zones, establish a daily cleaning schedule, keep essential supplies available, attack odours, and eliminate lingering dirt and bacteria.

  1. Provide the essentials. A clean restroom requires the availability of essential items. Make sure restrooms are regularly stocked with soap, paper towels, and toilet paper to keep restroom users satisfied. To avoid complaints surrounding the lack of essential supplies, establish periodic times throughout the day to restock restrooms. Be familiar with peak hours when restroom use increases, and check supplies more often. Identify all areas that are common touch points, including door handles, toilets, sink faucets, and soap and paper towel dispensers—and clean them frequently.
  2. Protect. Several products and systems help take restroom cleanliness to the next level. Given the potential negative impact of odour, facility managers should implement an odour maintenance system and toilet/urinal cleaners into their restroom cleaning programmes.

    Air fresheners provide a clean scent throughout the restroom by counteracting unpleasant odours. By neutralising odour-causing bacteria, fragrances last longer and eliminate odours rather than simply masking them. Select air fresheners made with essential oils that deliver the highest quality fragrance for consistent performance. Several systems operate on a 24-hour basis and provide continual odour protection. Also, be sure to choose fragrances that complement each other to avoid creating an unpleasant environment for restroom users filled with competing scents.

    Urinal screens help reduce lingering scents associated with urine. Use urinal screens that contain an adequate amount of fragrance to keep malodors at bay. In addition, automated drip and inline systems release cleaning chemicals and fragrance to automatically clean fixtures and neutralise odours. Install automated flushing systems to ensure toilets and urinals are free and clear of odour causing debris. By preventing cross-contamination associated with touching toilet handles and other fixtures, no-touch operation reduces the level of bacteria in a restroom.
  3. Utilise daily maintenance. Everyday cleaning ensures restrooms maintain a visibly clean state and reduces germs on surfaces and touch points.

    Follow a checklist to ensure the following tasks are performed on a daily basis:
    • Clean and sanitise the floor to minimise puddles and remove visible dirt
    • Clean and sanitise toilet/urinal areas
    • Clean and sanitise sink areas, mirrors, and all dispensers
    • Confirm that the odour management system, toilets/urinals, sink faucets, drains, and lights are functioning properly
    • Clean and sanitise door handles, toilet handles, faucet handles, and light switches
    • Remove any trash
    • Clean and sanitise baby-changing areas.

    When completing daily cleaning tasks, be sure to use clean tools and equipment to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination.
  4. Establish a deep cleaning schedule. Daily cleaning helps maintain a visibly clean environment, but over time, dirt and germs accumulate in restrooms. To remove the dirt and germs and to establish an exceptional level of clean, facility managers should schedule deep cleanings on a periodic basis. Deep cleanings sanitise restrooms to revitalise fixtures and floors and remove lingering bacteria and dirt.

    Using a high-pressure cleaning method, service technicians break down buildup on restroom walls, floors, toilet and urinal areas, sinks, and mirrors. All surfaces are then treated with disinfectant, followed by a fresh-water rinse and extraction to completely remove contaminants from the building. After deep cleanings, restrooms are sanitised, surfaces look like new as old dirt and grime are eliminated, and day-to-day cleaning becomes easier.

Restrooms are a critical component of a patron’s impression of a facility. Developing a comprehensive restroom program can quickly create favourable impressions that lead to customer satisfaction and retention.

Dave Mesko is Senior Director of Marketing for Cintas with more than 16 years industry experience. For more information, please visit