A recent survey of high school students shows that, when it comes to school restrooms, there’s room for improvement. One-half of students rate their schools’ bathroom facilities as fair or poor – an unwelcome increase of five percentage points since 2019. Only 18% view them as excellent or very good.

The fallout from poorly maintained restrooms can negatively impact students’ perceptions of school. The survey of high school students ages 14 to 18 found that 42% believe unclean restrooms reflect poorly on school management while 41% apathetically think there isn’t anything they can do about it anyway. 33% say messy restrooms lower their opinion of the school overall.

The findings are from the Healthy Handwashing Survey, conducted by Bradley Corp., in August. The company wanted to understand the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on school restroom perceptions, as well as handwashing behavior.

The good news is that 94% of high school students believe it is important to wash their hands to protect themselves from coronavirus. 62% make it a point to wash their hands frequently throughout the day and 55% wash their hands more than six times per day. Interestingly, almost half are concerned they won’t have enough time to wash their hands at school.

When asked where in their school they’re most concerned about coming into contact with germs, restrooms topped the list, followed by classrooms, the cafeteria, doorknobs and then hallways.

Students in search of cleaner and touch-free restrooms

Since students are becoming increasingly germ conscious, they’re paying more attention to their environment. According to the survey, students would like to have access to cleaner restrooms that are stocked more frequently with soap, paper towels and toilet paper, and restrooms that are equipped with completely touchless with reliable technology.

“While touchless fixtures in restrooms have been growing in popularity for a number of years, the coronavirus outbreak has accelerated that demand,” said Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development for Bradley Corp. “76% of high school students believe it’s important that school restrooms have touchless fixtures, while 91% of adults echo that sentiment for access to touchless fixtures in all types of public restrooms.”

Clean, sanitize and stock restrooms regularly

  • Organize restroom cleaning steps from cleaner surfaces to dirtier ones to minimize contamination of germs from area to another.
  • Pre-clean surfaces with soap and water. Remove debris and soiled matter first then disinfect surfaces using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered product that eliminates contagious and hard-to-kill pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), influenza, and norovirus, to disinfect surfaces.
  • Clean sinks, faucets, soap dispensers, mirrors, glass, knobs, levers, handles, switches, etc. Scrub away soap scum on sinks, countertops, and other surfaces with products specifically formulated to break it down. Don’t forget to wipe away water drips on walls, especially those near hand drying fixtures. Keep mirrors and glass shining by removing water marks, soils, and streaks with a general glass and surface cleaner.
  • Change cleaning cloths frequently and don’t use cloths used in one restroom in another location to minimize cross contamination.
  • Use microfiber cleaning cloths (versus cotton and rayon). Microfiber tends to provide better absorbency. 
  • Clean and dry floors. Make sure floors are mopped regularly and remove any standing water to eliminate slips and falls. Remove dirt and scuff marks on floors, and disinfect.
  • Make sure all fixtures are stocked regularly with toilet paper, soap, and towels (if using towel dispensers). This will facilitate proper restroom usage and regular handwashing.
  • Empty all trash containers several times daily. Keep waste baskets near sinks to avoid water dripping from wet hands onto the floor.

Reduce germ touchpoints – and vandalism – with touchless fixtures

Touchless fixtures in public restrooms are in high-demand because they reduce germ touchpoints in restrooms. These fixtures help users avoid touching restroom surfaces, reduce the transmission of germs and bacteria from users’ hands, and improve overall hygiene as users leave the restroom area and enter other parts of the building.  There are touchless faucets, soap dispensers, hand dryers, towel dispensers and flush valves, for example.

Aside from cutting down on touchpoints, touchless fixtures are also easier for building staff to clean and maintain, especially when compared with traditional fixtures’ handles, levers and buttons. Touchless fixtures, with their simplified design and hidden mechanicals, also tend to be tougher for vandals to manipulate and break. Sensored faucets with timers turn off so water is not left running.

(Bradley suggests its all-in-one completely touchless WashBar for school settings. The all-in-one WashBar® features touchless clean-rinse-dry smart sensor technology that eliminates touchpoints, reducing germ contamination and improving cleanliness. The soap, faucet and dryer functions will not accidentally activate a neighboring function so there are no soap “misfires” left in the basin. The maintenance friendly design eliminates the need for paper towels, frequent waste bin emptying, soap dispenser refilling and wet floor mopping.

Encourage hand washing by posting reminders

Speaking of germs, 57% of all students (63% of female students) say they are more likely to wash hands if there are signs posted in school restrooms. Don’t forget to post signs near hand washing areas. Also, as mentioned previously, make sure hand washing areas are fully stocked so hand washing is easy and convenient. Cleaning staff should also wash their hands regularly, particularly after emptying trash containers, touching used towels and tissues, or using the restroom.

Use sensored hand dryers

Paper towels can create problems when students fail to throw paper towels in trash receptacles, or even worse, when they put them in the sink or toilets. Using touch-free hand dryers eliminates the need for paper towels, which cuts out towel costs and need for restocking.