Public restrooms have a reputation for being unsanitary, germy hotspots.
This is because many people do not wash their hands properly and spread germs to highly-touched surfaces like sink faucets, door handles and paper towel dispensers.
Shockingly, according to a recent 2013 study by Michigan State University, only 5 percent of restroom patrons wash their hands long enough to fully kill germs.
Ten percent of people do not wash their hands at all.
As flu season quickly approaches, it is critical for facilities to take proper steps to limit the spread of germs and prevent cross-contamination.
Here are five steps to stop restroom germs in their tracks.
Step 1: Encourage Frequent Handwashing
Handwashing is the most effective way to stop the spread of germs.
It is critical for employees and patrons to wash their hands in the restroom.
This can be encouraged by placing signage near the sinks with step-by-step instructions for proper handwashing.
While some may find this juvenile and unnecessary, many people are unaware of how long they have to wash their hands to kill germs.
To wash hands correctly, you must rub your hands together using warm water and antiseptic soap for at least 20 seconds.
It’s important to scrub all surfaces of the hand, including the wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.
For extra protection, facilities can also offer disposable, pre-moistened hand-sanitizing wipes.
Select a textured wipe to loosen, dissolve and absorb dirt.
One-step wipes lock in dirt so that soil does not transfer back onto the hands and limits the threat of germ and viral contamination.
Facilities should also make these wipes available in areas where soap and water aren’t available.
Step 2: Create A Comprehensive Cleaning System
Facilities must be proactive to keep germs out of restrooms.
Develop a precise schedule that specifically outlines all cleaning tasks and frequencies.
Train employees regarding the proper equipment, cleaning solution and safety precautions to use for various surfaces in the facility.
It’s important to consistently reinforce and inspect the execution of the program to confirm that the facility is cleaned correctly.
To help prevent cross-contamination, use color-coded cleaning tools that are designated red for restrooms only.
Provide different tools for each surface so that germs and bacteria are not transferred to different surfaces.
Lastly, clean restrooms from top to bottom to ensure all dirt and bacteria are washed away.
Step 3: Provide Professional Cleaning Solutions
Using the right products ensures optimal cleanliness.
For best results, use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered, professional-strength cleaners.
A multi-purpose cleaner/disinfectant is ideal for restroom surfaces.
Many think it is the same practice, but cleaning removes dirt and soil, while disinfecting actually kills the germs.
Confirm that the disinfectant also kills viruses that can rapidly spread in public restrooms including H1N1 Influenza A (Swine Flu), Influenza A2 Virus, Salmonella Choleraesuis, Escherichia coli (E. coli), Hepatitis B and C, Norwalk Virus, Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA.
Most importantly, train staff to use the solutions correctly.
Many people spray the solution and wipe immediately.
However, disinfectants need to dwell for a specific amount of time in order to kill 99 percent of bacteria.
Dwell times can sometimes be as long as 10 minutes and the surface must remain wet the entire time to work properly.
Encourage staff to empty the trash or restock restroom supplies while the solution sets into the surfaces, and look for products with shorter dwell times.
A ready-to-use (RTU) multi-purpose cleaner/disinfectant provides the added benefit of eliminating user error when preparing the formulation for use.
An RTU cleaner/disinfectant adds another level of assurance that the product is doing what the product label claims indicate.
Step 4: Clean Restrooms Daily
Cleaning frequency depends on usage, but restrooms must be thoroughly cleaned at least once a day.
Temporarily close the restroom to allow disinfectants to sit for the appropriate amount of dwell time.
In addition, provide employees a detailed checklist to ensure every inch of the restroom is sanitized.
All surfaces including sinks, countertops, fixtures, floors, mirrors, walls and baby changing stations must be cleaned and disinfected.
Other tasks should include refilling supplies and emptying the trash.
Also, it’s important to deep clean restrooms on a regular basis.
This breaks down and removes soil build-up and harmful microorganisms from a restroom.
Step 5: Target Highly-touched Surfaces Frequently
Beyond daily cleaning, require employees to perform numerous five-minute “spot cleans” to target areas prone to frequent hand contact.
This will greatly reduce cross-contamination between patrons.
Items to focus on include latches, handles, door knobs, railings, toilet seats, light switches, faucets and dispenser levers and buttons.
In addition, provide a trash can by the restroom door for those who wish to use a paper towel to exit the restroom.
Following these five tips will guarantee that restrooms not only look clean, but are also properly disinfected.
Taking the time to correctly clean restrooms and provide extra attention to highly-touched surfaces will help prevent cross-contamination to keep users healthy year round.
Rich Bucher is director of marketing and sales for ITW Professional Brands. ITW Professional Brands manufactures and markets products for industrial and institutional hygiene markets. Primary industries and distribution channels are industrial MRO, JanSan and food service. The brand portfolio contains five well-known industry brands including SCRUBS® pre-moistened wipes, Spray Nine® disinfectants and degreasers, DYKEM® industrial marking products, Dymon® specialty cleaning products and Atlantic Mills® disposable food service wipers. For more information, visit www.ITWProfessionalBrands.com.