What does your loo say about you?

Why how hygienic your washrooms are is as important as your branding and interior design, if you want to attract and keep customers.

Washroom doors with male and female signs

How many times do you, as a consumer, visit a loo in a café, restaurant or client business and think, basically, ‘yuck’?

We know we frequently visit conveniences we’re so perturbed by, we do our best to complete our ablutions without even touching anything.

Overflowing waste paper or – worse – sanitary bins, toilet pans and seats that are a rare shade of off-white; broken fixtures and fittings, dirty or soggy towels and grubby floors, are sadly not uncommon sights.

Apologies for shining a spotlight on a topic most of us do our best not to talk about. However, it never ceases to amaze us that businesses of all types will spend thousands on trendy furniture, flash kitchens and marketing materials, only to risk ruining it all by giving their customers and clients an ‘eugh’ moment when they pop to spend a penny.

Yet the experience you afford in that ‘smallest room’, tucked away somewhere in your shop, café, office, factory or service venue, is just as important as what appears in your front window or corporate brochure. 

And, of course, the importance of good hygiene has been heightened even more by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The way you manage your washroom is vital to keeping people safe and, ultimately, saving lives.

So, we’re starting a crusade to make your ‘bogs’ the first thing you focus on in the image your organisation projects to all of the stakeholders you engage with – not the last.

A risk worth taking?

You may be cursing us at this moment in time, if you’re reading this article over your lunch. But tackling the taboo is our stock in trade at Elliott’s. We’re absolutely passionate about all things hygiene because we know what damage it can do to an organisation if not addressed properly – and this has never been truer than now. 

Business and workplace washrooms are a really big issue. Aside from the reputational damage they can do you via a bad customer or client experience, if you don’t provide your employees with appropriate means to keep themselves hygienic, you’re laying yourself open to a host of problems.

The worst instances we’ve come across are catering or retail establishments which have no soap in their loos. If customers can’t wash their hands properly after using the facilities, what are the staff doing to keep clean before handling items and serving them?

But it’s not just these sorts of outlets that have to be careful. Offices are prime breeding grounds for bacteria and bugs, even in normal times. If you work in one, you’ll know only too well how quickly coughs, colds and sickness bugs can spread among a group of people who are working in close proximity for hours on end, and often sharing desks, too. The same is true of COVID-19.

One fundamental way of avoiding this is to make sure that toilet facilities are clean and provide both antibacterial soap and, ideally, a European standards-certified bug-killing antibacterial hand gel, too.

Especially in an environment where food is sold or consumed, you risk giving a customer a nasty illness if your retail or catering staff can’t wash their hands properly, and this could shut you down.

Doing the maths

In business, decisions about what to prioritise are often based on economics. When juggling the many, often conflicting, demands on your bottom line, it’s understandable that your ‘conveniences’ might not rank top of your list.

However, also like a great many things in business, this can prove to be a false economy. Weighing up the few hundred or thousands of pounds it might take to bring your facilities up to scratch, with the cost of customers not coming back; productivity being brought to a dramatic halt by a bout of the norovirus sickness bug or, worse, a COVID-19 outbreak; or a customer taking legal action because they’ve become ill after buying food from your shop or café – might cast a new light on your decision making.

Brilliant bathroom checklist 

If this article has made you think twice about the impression your loos are sending out, you might be wondering where to start in putting things right.

So, here’s our handy checklist, which I hope will give you a starter-for-10:

  • Start by taking a look at your washroom. Try to see it as your customers do. Look for mess and dirt, fixtures that don’t work and damaged items such as cracked toilet seats or tiles which look unsightly and are harbouring dirt
  • Then, take a look at the products you are providing for handwashing. Are they the cheapest soaps from your local pound shop or proper, industrial-grade soaps? If you don’t also offer a hand sanitiser dispenser, this is well worth considering for an added level of protection, particularly in these times of pandemic
  • For hand drying, do you have an air-blowing hand drier and, if so, is it efficient? There has been a resurgence in paper towels in recent years, which many people prefer to use for speed, and the current consensus is that these are much more hygienic than electric dryers. This is because dryers are thought to disperse harmful bacteria around the washroom, as well as the risk of multiple people touching the same device. Disposable hand towels, coupled with a sealed bin to discard them in, are by far the best option. There are environmentally friendly towels you can use to minimise the impact of more waste paper on the environment, and we can also advise on the right choice of waste bin for your premises 
  • Is there plenty of toilet paper available at all times? (Never leave unwrapped toilet rolls on the shelf or cistern because they can harbour germs and pass them from person-to-person. Best practice is to keep your spare rolls sealed and secured away until they are ready to use). There is a wide range of hygienic and economical dispensing units to choose from, including bulk pack tissue and large roll options  
  • Do you have a proper cleaning schedule in place, to monitor the loos regularly? Having a cleaning schedule notice pinned up in your washroom and asking customers to tell you if they notice anything untoward can send out the right message. For COVID-security, you will need to clean more regularly and also need to consider restricting the number of people using your loos at any one time
  • Smells can speak a thousand words. Do you have an effective deodoriser in your loos to make the overall experience of using them that bit more pleasant? If you’re concerned about the potential cost of air fresheners being sprayed continually, automatic options with adjustable presets might be the best option to help you control your expenditure
  • Are any cleaning chemicals you use for your washrooms locked away securely, for health and safety purposes? Remember that adults using the facilities might be accompanied by young children, so you need to ensure there is nothing harmful on display that could find its way into tiny hands. This will also help to ensure you are monitoring and controlling usage by limiting who has access to it within your organisation  
  • Are your cubicles the right size? Do users have room to manoeuvre in them, to do what they need to do comfortably – including those with disabilities? And, in these days of coronavirus, do you have measures in place to ensure you don’t have too many people using your washrooms at the same time, for social distancing reasons? Many organisations are limiting how many people can enter at any given time, or shutting some cubicles off to ensure people remain further apart when accessing  them
  • If you’re a customer-facing business, do you offer baby changing facilities that are accessible by women AND men (you’d be amazed how off-putting it is for modern dads to discover the only facilities are in the ladies!)
  • Again, if you’re a customer-facing business, do you want to go the extra mile and make your loos part of your marketing and customer experience strategy – with attention-grabbing features like piped music?
  • Invisible to your customers but equally important to the experience you give them, do you have an organised cleaning regime, including colour-coded equipment to avoid cross-contamination with other areas of your organisation?
  • Which products do you use to clean your washrooms? Are they industrial strength (capable of killing any germs in seconds) as they should be? If you choose the right ones, you only need one product to clean all surfaces including floors, and one for your toilets
  • Are the chemicals you use environmentally-friendly? Believe it or not, it is possible to balance really effective cleaning with making sure what you use is not too harsh on the environment. Although reaching for the bleach can be a reflex action when it comes to cleaning loos, it’s not always the best option. It’s very harsh, can discolour and damage bathroom fittings, and, while bringing things up white, can actually mask rather than getting rid of germs. It’s not great for the environment either.

If anything in this article has raised alarm bells and you think you could do with some advice on your bathroom hygiene, we offer a no-obligation initial consultation and advice on bringing it up to scratch. Just give us a call on 01482 327580 or drop us a line.

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