Guest Column - February 2010
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Restrooms & Locker Rooms

Coming Clean in the Restroom
How Well-Maintained Restrooms Encourage Hand-Washing

By Jon Dommisse

Aesthetics: Selecting warm-colored natural stone or ceramic tile for restroom and locker room areas along with good lighting will give the space a modern earthy glow. Newer stainless-steel washroom partitions and accessories with unique textures give a contemporary and high-end look to restrooms while they resist scratches and hide vandalism. Coordinating stainless-steel accessories with solid-surface lavatory systems in earth-tone shades will complement the warm color scheme, coordinate well with other accessories in the restroom and help create a welcoming space.

Touchless technology: Sensor-operated faucets, soap dispensers, motion-activated towel dispensers and automatic hand dryers are preferred among users and facilities managers alike. With publicity about widespread flu epidemics, the public is especially sensitive to hygiene and wary of touching objects that have been handled by others. Hands-free faucets can encourage more hand-washing, thereby helping to prevent infections.

For example, capacitive sensing technology has an electrical field surrounding the entire faucet that detects a user's presence from any angle of approach to trigger water activation. In effect, capacitive sensing eliminates false activations and provides consistent operation. Reduced maintenance is another benefit for owners, since there are no above-deck sensors, handles or knobs to vandalize.

Automatic hand dryers have also benefited from upgraded mechanicals. Newer models use 80 percent less electricity than other hand dryers, while drying hands in as little as 10 seconds—about three times faster than most hand dryers. The energy to operate these hand dryers is generally less than 10 percent of the cost of paper towels, including labor costs for ordering, storing, replenishing dispensers, collecting and disposing of paper towels—not to mention the environmental benefits of eliminating excess paper waste.

Solid surface materials: Selecting surfaces that are easy to clean and have fewer places for germs to hide makes for a cleaner hand-washing area. Many facilities have found solid-surface lavatory systems to be the best long-term solution because they are extremely durable and the integrated bowls are much easer for staff to keep clean.

Designed with no sink rims or caulk seams that can trap dirt on the lavatory deck, solid-surface lavatories are nonporous and naturally resist germs, and unlike laminate materials, they will not warp or delaminate. Since lavatory systems have sprayheads mounted into the header of the lavatory, there are no faucets or handles to clean around or vandalize. Plus, the material is naturally resistant to bacteria.

In addition, new antimicrobial accessories—grab bars, door latches, door pulls, etc.—can be used to inhibit the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria, mold, mildew and fungus that comes into contact with the product surface and users.

Improving and maintaining your facility's restrooms offers significant business benefits—and public health benefits. While making a positive impression on users, clean and well-designed restrooms will support hand-washing—and germ-fighting.


Jon Dommisse is director of marketing and product development for Bradley Corp. of Menomonee Falls, Wis. A USGBC member and manufacturer of locker room products, plumbing fixtures, washroom accessories, partitions and emergency fixtures, Bradley serves the commercial, industrial, health care, recreation, education and corrections markets worldwide. For more information, visit