Given the choice between using a public restroom and doing anything else, some people will always choose the latter. Regardless of the urgency or however pristine it’s reported to be, the space often comes with an ick-factor that is hard to shake even in normal times. Perhaps more than ever before, people are holding the public places they visit, particularly public bathrooms, to a much higher hygiene standard. In fact, 86% of participants in a recent study said they expect public restrooms will provide a safer hygiene environment now than before the COVID-19 crisis.
As cities around the world navigate the reopening of restaurants, offices, and other businesses, more and more people will also need to use public or shared restrooms. So, as reopening continues, business owners and facility managers are faced with navigating the complexities of a new “normal”. This includes reassuring employees and visitors of proper hygiene practices, minimizing the spread of germs within a facility, and complying with rigorous cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
Whether you’re opening a brand new brick-and-mortar business in the era of COVID, reopening your doors to the public, or welcoming employees back to the office, rest assured there are actions you can take to give your employees and customers peace of mind that your facilities are as clean and germ-free as possible.
Public Restrooms: A Common Environment for Pathogens
Between having multiple people using the facilities each day, and the sheer amount of high-contact surfaces, public bathrooms have been a major germ zone long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Not to mention, public restrooms with lidless toilets have another uniquely terrible hazard: the dreaded toilet plume. Yes, it’s as gross as it sounds. With every high-pressure flush, the toilet launches an invisible army of microbes into the air, where they land on walls, the toilet seat, garbage receptacle, door handles, stall doors, the floor, and other bathroom surfaces. Additionally, a 2014 study of microbiomes in four university restrooms found that within an hour of normal use, there were 500,000 bacterial cells per square inch on the bathroom surfaces, on average. Yikes!
Here are our top tips on cleaning and disinfecting your shared or public restroom.
Best Practices: General Cleaning & Disinfection
While navigating cleaning procedures during the ongoing pandemic, it’s best to look to the experts. The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides reopening guidance for cleaning and disinfecting for businesses. Plus, the CDC offers an easy-to-follow Cleaning & Disinfecting Decision Tool to help you understand which areas and surfaces need to be cleaned and disinfected.
Make sure that your team has a good understanding of the differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. We’ve gone over this topic in detail here, but it’s an important one.
To summarize, here are the differences between these three actions:
Cleaning is the reduction of germs on a surface by removing dirt and debris. There isn’t any criteria that cleaning products have to meet when it comes to efficacy against pathogens.
Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements.
Disinfecting is a term that’s regulated by the EPA. Disinfectants must clear a higher bar for effectiveness than surface sanitizing products. In order to be registered as a disinfectant, the product has to show that it kills 99.9% of specified viruses or bacteria on a surface within a specific dwell time. To disinfect effectively, the disinfectant needs to be able to come into contact with 100% of the surface, so it’s crucial to clean the surface first, and then spray it thoroughly with the disinfectant and let it sit for the required contact found on the product’s label. A common mistake a lot of people make is spraying a surface with a disinfectant and then wiping it immediately afterwards. However, letting the product sit for the required contact time is critical.
Under lightly soiled conditions, Vital Oxide can be used to pre-clean surfaces before disinfecting. Clean and disinfect in two easy steps: First spray and wipe Vital Oxide to clean, then spray and leave behind to disinfect. Just make sure that you’re applying enough of the solution to remain visibly wet for the proper contact time. In cases where more frequent disinfection of surfaces results in possible buildup of dry disinfectant residue, a wipe down with a moist towel or microfiber cloth of surfaces that come into contact with clothing will prevent any possible discoloration of fabrics.
Create a Cleaning Plan
Cleaning has always been important for your business, but keeping your facility and public restroom pristine is now more important than ever. As you create your cleaning plan, keep in mind that it will likely be your new cleaning protocol going forward into our new normal, not just a short-term solution for reopening.
Some key elements of your cleaning plan may include:
- Creating a daily cleaning schedule for your business, and making sure your employees follow it. There should be a continuous documentation log of restroom cleaning practices to ensure that frequent cleaning and disinfection is being accomplished daily. Having a consistent, daily cleaning schedule can be difficult in a busy facility, but keeping track of tasks can ensure hygiene.
- Basing your cleaning frequency on how much foot traffic your business gets. If your business has low foot traffic, or if restrooms are only shared by a few employees, they don’t need to be cleaned and disinfected as often, perhaps twice per day. Remember, the more people that use your restroom, the more times per day it will need to be cleaned and disinfected.
- Itemizing all high-contact surfaces in the restroom that will need to be cleaned and disinfected frequently. For example:
- Door handles, latches, panels, and edges
- Stall doors
- Toilet flush handles
- Toilet seats
- Faucet handles
- Sink basins
- Paper towel dispenser
- Soap dispenser levers
- Baby changing tables
- Trash can lids
- Training employees the proper methods for cleaning and disinfecting.
Stock Up On the Supplies You Need to Keep Your Public Restroom Clean
To ensure your business’s bathroom stays sanitary, make sure you have an adequate supply of cleaning products on hand. The EPA has a list of EPA approved disinfectants against COVID-19. Vital Oxide is included on this list, and is currently being used in facilities across the globe to help combat against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, along with other dangerous pathogens that can lurk in the public restroom environment, including cold and flu viruses, E. coli, Hepatitis B and C, and Staphylococcus.
Vital Oxide can be applied directly from the spray bottle, or it can be sprayed onto a cloth and wiped on. Vital Oxide can also be applied via an electrostatic sprayer after the pre-cleaning step.
You may also want to consider investing in touch-free items for your restroom like automatic hand soap and hand sanitizer dispensers and touchless garbage cans.
Communicate Cleaning & Disinfecting Procedures to Customers
Communicating the safety precautions that your business is taking – including the new restroom cleaning protocols you’ve implemented – with your customers will help reassure them and hopefully allow them to feel more comfortable returning to their favorite businesses during this unprecedented time. You can communicate to your customers through social media, email newsletters, and signage in your business’s restroom.
- Vital Oxide User Guide
- Vital Oxide Reviews
- CDC, Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes
- EPA, Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes