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Unearth the Restroom Stall’s Germiest Areas

white restroom stall

Public restrooms aren’t notoriously clean and pleasant places. Patrons’ No. 1 fear of public restrooms is exposure to the unsanitary conditions they perceive. That’s why it’s important to educate professional cleaners about the patrons’ perceptions and fears before you train them on how to properly clean and disinfect a restroom stall.

As part of your restroom cleaning educational module, you need some pictures to illustrate the importance of proper cleaning and disinfection. The place to begin is inside the actual restroom stall. Grab some rubber gloves, a small mirror, a source of ultraviolet light, and your camera, which is probably on your cell phone, and follow these steps.

Pretend you are the patron. Walk into the stall (or restroom if it’s a single-patron bathroom). With the lights on, take photos of the floor, the walls, and the backside of the stall door to provide the patrons’ view from the “throne.” Notice the floor drain with gunk around it. That gunk was most likely created by numerous toilets and urinals that have overflowed, leaving both visible and invisible fecal matter deposits.

Don’t forget to check the door. Next, turn around and photograph the latch that secures the door. Remember: The patron who has just used the facilities must grasp and turn the latch to exit the stall. Too often, when custodians clean, the stall door remains in the open position while they clean the toilet and surrounding areas. As a result, the side of the door patrons see while seated is often neglected by the custodian. While training your employees, ask them the following: Is the door clean? Has the latch been disinfected?

Check out what’s not visible to the naked eye. Put on your gloves and take out your pocket mirror. Look under the rim of the toilet and you will see visible bacterial growth; snap a picture. Look at the underside of the toilet bowl where the left-behind residue is brown and tacky. This is a source of odors; take another picture.

Now, turn out the lights. Go into the stall and turn on a black light (or a light that produces ultraviolet light) and photograph what you observe. If it’s like most restrooms, those specks on the walls around the toilet are urine that has not been removed by cleaning staff. They also could be feces that have gone undetected and uncleaned for days at a time.

Put your pictures to use. Equipped with these pictures, you can put together some meaningful education. Your patrons will thank you for allaying their fear of “what’s behind the stall door.”

J. Darrel Hicks

J. Darrel Hicks

Principle, Darrel Hicks, LLC

J. Darrel Hicks is author of “Infection Prevention for Dummies.” He provides environmental services support for a major metropolitan hospital and is a past president of IEHA, a division of ISSA.

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Unearth the Restroom Stall’s Germiest Areas
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