It should come as no surprise that restaurant patrons, industrial employees, and students all may view a restroom experience as an overall indicator of a facility’s level of excellence.
Results from an independent telephone survey conducted on behalf of The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) show that shiny floors, tidy toilets, clean countertops, sparkling sinks, and gleaming mirrors give American adults feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
Consider then the feelings evoked upon experiencing a restroom visit where the floor is littered with used paper towels, the toilets need cleaning, the countertops are spotted with water and leaking soap, sinks are grimy, and mirrors are streaked.
In fact, according to SCA Tissue North America’s survey, there is a significant impact of restroom conditions and the customer experience and their powerful potential to provide a competitive edge to restaurants. Eighty-eight percent of those polled believe that the condition of a restaurant restroom reflects the overall cleanliness throughout the restaurant, including the kitchen. An unclean restroom may result in 29 percent of patrons not returning to the restaurant. However, of that 29 percent, half of them would tell family and friends about the negative experience.
In an era where people are increasingly conscious of combating germs by proper handwashing, the cleanliness of a restroom directly influences the amount of time spent in the facility.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SDA recommend washing with soap and warm water at least 15 to 20 seconds. In their 2008 survey, the SDA found that 26 percent of respondents washed for 15 seconds or less. A clean restroom evokes confidence in its patrons that surfaces are germ-free, and thus, they are more comfortable spending more time to properly wash their hands. Washing hands properly is the single most important thing we can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness to others, according to the CDC.
People go to great lengths to avoid contacting germ-laden surfaces in public restrooms— flushing toilets with their feet, pushing doors open with their shoulders, dispensing towels with their elbows, etc. Obviously, the innovation of touch-free technology solves many points of contact with germy surfaces.
The focus of this article, however, is to concentrate upon the soap dispenser and its impact with the patron. As half of the necessary elements required to properly wash hands, soap must always be made available. Wellplaced, wall-mounted dispensers, with an easy loading refill, makes keeping product “on hand” (pun intended) easier for housekeeping personnel.
The dispenser should be regularly inspected by the housekeeping staff not only for the level of product remaining, but also to assure that the unit is in proper working order. Has product accumulated on the outer cover (shroud) of the dispenser? Has the cover been damaged? Cracks or other damage could cause improper alignment with the back plate mounted to the wall and thus, misalign inner components of the unit, causing soap to drip, leak, and clog.
Keeping the product uncontaminated inside the dispenser is important for the health of restroom visitors. Hygienic, sealed systems offer the best protection from external contaminates.
Germs are everywhere and hands provide the perfect transport vehicle to spread illness and possible infection. Sealed dispensing systems ensure there is no contact with a potentially germ-ridden surface. Research has shown that bulk-filled soap systems that have exposure to outside elements can become contaminated and are potential breeding grounds for a host of bacteria. Bacteria then collect inside the dispenser and flows with the soap right onto unsuspecting hands.
A sealed dispensing system ensures a safe, clean, hygienic system with each refill. If the refill is a collapsible bag filled with product, consumers are assured that the bags are immediately sealed against potential contamination. Each bag comes with its own clean, fresh pump, virtually replacing the system each and every time housekeeping refills the dispenser. The same is true for soft plastic bottles fitted with individual pumps. The soap is filled in clean manufacturing conditions as specified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the bottle sealed, and cases are packed.
Most consumers are unaware that the FDA regulates cosmetic products, including hand cleaners, with very specific standards. A sealed dispensing system assures that the soap maintains the strict specifications mandated by the FDA.
Broken, empty, or soiled soap dispensers contribute greatly to the overall appearance of a public restroom. In SCA Tissue North America’s recent survey previously mentioned in this article, a dispenser with insufficient product would prevent a customer’s return visit to a restaurant 28 percent of the time.
In a survey by the Opinion Research Corporation on school restroom cleanliness, unclean facilities result in 20 percent of middle and high school students avoiding school restrooms due to dirty conditions. Soap dispensers are often empty in schools due to a lack of funding, or dispensers have been removed from lavatories by acts of vandalism. If you think a student not washing their hands is not a big deal, review this statement by the School Network for Absentee Prevention (SNAP): Nearly 22 MILLION school days are missed each year due to the common cold! When one considers the financial impact of millions of sick days, the argument by school administrators that soap is too expensive to supply to students (and staff!) is quickly negated.
To summarize, what benefits will come out of facilities offering a more sanitary restroom experience that includes, among other housekeeping necessities, a filled, wellmaintained, and hygienic hand soap dispenser? Favorable reviews can be expected from their patrons, which may result in increased business. Happier employees who equate cleanliness with a company’s respect for their well-being can be expected. More efficient handwashing can be expected, which will lead to less absenteeism due to illness. All this from creating a pleasant handwashing experience in a restroom? Yes!
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