The Consumer View of Public Washrooms

/ September 19, 2018

There’s no doubt most people view using any toilet other than their own as a risk they simply have to take – and that there’s a hierarchy about which ones (in which places) are better than others.

Because of the sheer volumes of ‘patrons’ that use them each day, it’s perhaps unsurprising that conveniences in trains, pubs/bars and nightclubs comprise the top three for being the dirtiest. Sports venues and motorway service facilities comprise the next tranche, followed by shopping centres and shops. Due to a recently acquired in-depth research, we have found it stands to reason that the places where people want more toilet facilities are shopping centres (41%) and in trains (36%). Perhaps the thinking is that the more of them there are, the more there are to share out amongst people, and the less dirty they get.

In better news, schools, hospitals and airports fare the best, perhaps because these are the most likely to observe stringent cleaning rotas. With hospitals fined for not having clean, germ-free toilets and airports likely to suffer brand damage for filthy facilities, these destinations understand the benefit of keeping their users happy.

Workplaces actually come close to having the best toilets, which arguably makes sense. These spaces (amongst the largest employers at least) also tend to have cleaners or facilities teams in place to keep them clean.

However, there are some surprising findings relating to what people like and do not like. The top likes are largely predictable – hands-free flushing wins (with 61% of people), followed by better ventilation (46%) and thicker toilet paper (41%). But after this, attitudes are more surprising. For instance, people would rather there was better soundproofing in public toilets (32%) than larger soap dispensers or better flushing systems. This suggests that deep-rooted fears about other people ‘hearing’ them are still rife. In fact it was specifically the ‘sounds’ of other people going to the loo (by more than a quarter of respondents), that was the fourth-most popular reason people dislike using public toilets in the first place – behind more obvious cleanliness and privacy reasons.

Even when people are in a cubicle, the data finds they still feel vulnerable, with nearly half of respondents saying they are conscious of large gaps between the doors and frame, and between the floor and base of the cubicle door. Around 22% of people say they dislike using toilets outside their home specifically for this reason.

Aesthetically, Britons overwhelmingly want toilets outside the home to be neutral, light and airy. Being neutral was the top style of décor demanded (by nearly a third of respondents), while being light came next, (22% of respondents). After cleanliness and having hand soap, the decorative/interior considerations adults most wanted were good lighting (by 49% of people), followed by plenty of mirrors (38%) and windows (19%). Nearly three times the proportion of respondents would rather have hand cream dispensers than flowers (16% vs 6%).

Where respondents could freely suggest their own improvements, there was high demand for ‘swipe activated taps’ (similar to hands-free flushing) and ‘soap you don’t have to touch’, which substantiates the major concern of this survey that people don’t like touching any restroom surfaces that aren’t their own.