Keeping it Clean: Best Practices to Establish an Effective Restroom Sanitation Program

by Steve Kovacs

It can be one of the most difficult, yet significant rooms to clean in any commercial, industrial or institutional facility – the restroom. This seemingly small, but heavily used space can harbor bacteria and viruses and spread germs among building occupants. According to the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences, the restroom makes up five percent of a facility’s total square footage, yet it represents 20 percent of the total labor budget, 40 percent of the soil and 50 percent of consumer complaints. The level of restroom hygiene directly impacts the overall impression of any facility.

For all of these reasons, facility managers need to have an efficient and effective restroom sanitation program in place for their housekeeping staff. Cleaning restrooms regularly and correctly is critical to maintain a clean, healthy and odor-free space. The following best practices provide facility managers with guidelines to create a proper restroom sanitation program.

Educate Cleaning Staff
The first step in a restroom sanitation program is to provide training and continual “refresher” training for all housekeeping staff. Training is the hidden, but crucial component to any cleaning program. With a high staff turnover rate in the hospitality industry, it’s extremely important to train all employees on following proper procedures, and make sure that the time it takes to follow these procedures is built into their cleaning routine as well.  

As part of the training process, facility managers need to educate cleaning staff on the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning is the process of removing the soil from a surface, as soil harbors germs such as E. Coli, Salmonella and Influenza. Disinfecting is the process of killing these germs and removing them from the path. Cleaning well allows the disinfecting agents to work more effectively than disinfecting alone. Without cleaning, disinfecting ingredients in the cleaner can end up interacting with the soil and reducing its disinfecting capability. Housekeeping staff must understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting to ensure a clean and hygienic restroom.

Create a Cleaning Checklist
Put together a checklist inspection sheet to help make sure that every task is completed. To do this, facility managers will need to evaluate the needs of their facility and how often each task should be accomplished. Whether you’re managing housekeeping staff in an office building, warehouse or healthcare facility, it’s important to create an inspection sheet that reflects detailed duties and expectations – from cleaning toilets, sinks and mirrors, to re-stocking soap dispensers, paper towels and toilet paper, to emptying trash receptacles.

A facility manager or executive housekeeper should make regular inspections to ensure the job is getting done correctly and in a timely manner for building patrons. And, remember, employees will do what you inspect, not necessarily what you expect.

Get it Done Right the First Time
Using multipurpose cleaning products can be a great way to efficiently and effectively clean the restroom. Products that are formulated to remove a broad range of target soils and disinfect simultaneously can help get the job done right the first time while also saving money with less product and less labor time. These products are formulated with acid, surfactants and solvents to remove all types of tough-to-clean restroom soil. Make sure to check product labels to verify that the product is appropriate for your needs.

Proper Dwell Time
Whether using a multipurpose product or stand-alone disinfectant, the solution must be left on surfaces as indicated on the label instructions in order to be most effective. Cleaning professionals should avoid simply spraying and wiping, and instead read and follow label instructions carefully, regardless of brand. Remember to always use products as directed in order to maximize efficiency and safety.

Preventing Cross-Contamination
Restrooms contain a number of highly touched objects like door handles, toilet seats, urinals, faucets and sinks, flushing levers, counters, partitions and soap, and paper and feminine hygiene dispensers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the more times someone touches a contaminated surface and then touches areas on their face (eyes, nose or mouth), the greater the chance for transmission of human microbial pathogens.

Preventing cross-contamination requires regular and thorough top-to-bottom cleaning of these high-touch contact surfaces. It also requires that housekeeping staff clean and sanitize the tools, such as brushes, mops and other tools, after each use. Another simple way to help prevent cross-contamination is to always place a trash receptacle by the restroom door. Patrons will grab the door handle with a towel, and place it in the trash can nearby, which helps prevent further spread of germs.

Exceed Public Expectations
Remember, every experience counts, and you can help make those experiences great ones. Building employees and guests expect to enter a clean restroom in any business or facility. The goal of an effective restroom cleaning program should be to remove all soils that harbor and provide a breeding ground for germs, not just the visible soils. Keeping restrooms clean so they meet public expectations means: surfaces free of noticeable soils and sanitized, emptied trash cans with new liners, no visible graffiti, paper products restocked and operational, no evident dust on vents, partition tops or ledges, no odors, towel edges visible/extended, drains flowing freely, vents open with adequate airflow, toilet seats up, mirrors and chrome spot-free and shining, no stains or discoloration on fixtures/dispensers, and floors free of litter, build up and moisture.

One bad restroom experience can create a poor impression that customers will likely share with others. In fact, a 2008 Harris Interactive Survey reported that an unsanitary restroom will drive almost one-third of customers away.

An effective and efficient cleaning and disinfecting routine is one that makes the most of valuable staff time and resources with the proper training and cleaning products to ultimately provide a hygienic environment and customer satisfaction. Remember, if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right the first time.

About Steve Kovacs
Steve Kovacs is R&D Section Head at P&G Professional, where he leads product development and customer understanding for cleaning product solutions provided for the Hospitality, Healthcare and Building, Cleaning and Maintenance businesses. Prior to joining P&G Professional, he held numerous R&D positions at P&G with consumer understanding, product design, and technology development responsibilities spanning many of P&G’s leading brands, including Tide®, Dawn®, Cascade®, Pantene®, Olay®, Ivory®, Pampers®, Always®, Crest® and Vicks®. Steve also has extensive global operations experience which includes assignments in Germany and England. He holds bachelors and masters degrees in Chemical Engineering from the University of Louisville and a MBA degree from Xavier University. He is an inventor on seven U.S. patents.