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Guest Column - October 2002

Victory From Vandals and Triumph Over High-Traffic

How to create abuse-resistant restrooms and locker rooms

By Amy Walker Barrs


Every washroom has its own maintenance problems. But as you know, high-traffic recreational facility washrooms have one thing in common—they are more apt to suffer abuse because of the sheer volume of people using these facilities.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KIMBERLY-CLARK PROFESSIONAL
Vandal-resistant dispensers made of extra durable
plastic hold up well in high-traffic restrooms.

To help make the best impression possible on the people who use your restrooms and locker rooms, install products and systems to minimize rundown and run out of supplies. After all, an unkempt or unsightly restroom can lead people to question conditions elsewhere in your facility.

If you have cigarette burns on dispensers, broken equipment, towel litter, supply run-out or graffiti, you should look for ways to combat these issues.

Chief among these is establishing durability criteria for the equipment used in your restrooms and locker rooms. There are products available today that can deflect abuse and vandalism and can stand up to the extraordinary rigors of high-traffic areas. Above all, you should install equipment that can withstand abuse and that will not require costly maintenance, repair or replacement.

Here are some suggestions to help you select equipment for busy restrooms and locker rooms:

  • Install restroom products based on the amount of abuse resistance required. For restrooms that suffer great damage from vandals, install accessories and toilet partitions that are constructed with durable materials that will last longer, reducing their overall costs over time.
  • Install toilet partitions and doors with heavy-duty hardware and strong frames or overhead braced and floor- and ceiling-mounted constructions.
  • Consider solid phenolic-faced and recessed waste receptacles. These are less prone to impact. Receptacles should also be placed right below towel dispensers, if possible, so less trash winds up on the floor.
  • Install durable plastic dispensers with extra-thick wall construction and reinforcement, which will enable them to withstand greater force than traditional dispensers. These dispensers also won't dent like stainless steel.
  • Consider dispensers with rounded or contoured designs. This will help deflect aggressive blows and will diminish the impact by distributing the force more evenly through the dispenser. In addition, restroom visitors can't rest cigarettes on rounded dispensers, helping to prevent a big problem in restrooms—burns caused by cigarettes that are placed on top of bathroom tissue or paper-towel dispensers.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF KIMBERLY-CLARK PROFESSIONAL
    Hand washing is important to reduce
    the spread of germs and
    cross-contamination.
  • Investigate dispensers with solid locking mechanisms. Door locks reduce pilferage and prevent restroom users from reaching into a dispenser to remove paper towels or bathroom tissue. Good locking mechanisms are also important for sanitary napkin or tampon dispensers to protect the products as well as prevent theft of the money used to pay for them.
  • Install a towel or bathroom tissue unit with a clear door or window. That way, when your maintenance team is cleaning the restroom, they can see at a glance if a unit needs refilling.
  • Consider dispensers with precision-fitted doors. Minimal overhang can help prevent the door from being pulled open.
  • Install high-capacity products that last longer. Replacing folded-towel systems with high-capacity roll-towel systems can help reduce the waste and clutter associated with poorly dispensed folded-towel systems, which often tab or dispense too many towels at a time. Most roll-towel systems offer controlled dispensing and also last longer, providing up to double the hand-drying capacity as traditional folded-towel systems. For bathroom tissue run-out problems, consider one of two high-capacity products—a jumbo roll tissue system that provides the equivalent in length of more than 10 rolls of standard tissue or an enclosed hygienic bathroom tissue system that dispenses one premium two-ply sheet of tissue at a time, offering the equivalent of up to five standard rolls when combined with a high-capacity dispenser. The enclosed system also reduces waste through controlled dispensing. There are also no stub rolls or cores.
  • Install a high-quality soap system. Watery soaps that clog dispensers or leave a messy residue on countertops detract from restroom cleanliness. High-capacity concentrated soap systems that dispense properly and last longer should be considered, too.
  • Install fiberglass reinforced doors for the restroom. They are lightweight, strong and carry fire ratings up to one-and-a-half hours. They work well in high-abuse areas because they are durable and resistant to graffiti and scuff marks. They also resist bacteria, mildew and rust. Gauge is also important as far as doors are concerned. High-abuse situations warrant heavier gauge doors.
  • Consider durable flooring. For example, a good product choice is a vinyl floor with nylon facing. This type of flooring is easy to clean and resists staining.

What to do about Graffiti

Graffiti is another concern in high-traffic recreational facility settings. Combating graffiti is a huge business in this country, and 80 percent of it is applied to surfaces in public areas, according to the National Coalition for Graffiti Removal. Being able to prevent graffiti beforehand is your best bet. For new or refurbished washrooms, use surface materials with mark-resistant, paint-resistant or scratch-resistant surfaces or nonporous materials. Finished stainless-steel partitions can also help deter graffiti.

Here are some additional tips to help prevent graffiti:

  • Do use nonporous paints as they are less likely to be damaged by graffiti removal.
  • Do use waterproof caulk or grout as it is more difficult to deface than soft, nonporous products.
  • Do seal surfaces that are prone to graffiti with a chemical protectant that prevents paint from seeping in.
  • Don't skimp on materials. Cheap paint may rub or wash off during graffiti removal.
  • Do check problem restrooms more often. More frequent maintenance visits may also serve as a deterrent to graffiti artists.

Once again, a problem restroom can have a lasting impact on perceptions of your establishment as a whole. In a recent survey, more than three-quarters of respondents said that broken or vandalized dispensers in public restrooms would negatively affect their overall opinion of the facility, and 65 percent said it would cause them to avoid visiting the location in the future. An even greater number—82 percent—said broken, damaged or vandalized dispensers would lead them to think the restroom was neglected by management, while more than half said these conditions would cause them to view the restroom as unsanitary.

A well-maintained restroom demonstrates concern about the total environment. Maximizing conditions in your restrooms will pay off in the many positive impressions this makes on your visitors.

Amy Walker Barrs is a market segment manager for Kimberly-Clark Professional in Roswell, Ga.