It’s been 44 years since Taro Gomi said “Everyone eats, so of course: everyone poops!” Since then, talking about going to the bathroom has become less of a taboo issue. No, we are not going to go into detail here, but we do want to discuss public restrooms and the pandemic.
General aversion to public restrooms
Let’s face it, no one likes going into public restrooms. On any given day, the average one is filled with microorganisms (but so is everywhere else). People will rush home, or put themselves in very uncomfortable situations to avoid going in a public restroom.
This aversion has increased since the start of the pandemic. Most people are concerned about the cleanliness of of various restroom fixtures as well as the multiple hard surfaces. A vast majority of people make it a point to touch as few surfaces as possible, going so far as to shut doors with their butt or flush the toilet with their feet rather than touching anything with their hands.
Fear of public restrooms during the pandemic
At the height of the pandemic, leaving your house can cause some level of anxiety to many people. There’s a certain level of risk you are taking when going anywhere that you will need to interact with others. As with anything else during this time, the risks can be mitigated with precautions but they can still cause anxiety.
Many people plan their outings around their personal needs, anything to avoid using a public facility. In addition to scheduling your errands, if you focus too much on the “issue at hand” you will definitely have to go. Short day or evening trips tend to be safe bets but that doesn’t always work out as planned.
If you find yourself in need while out, be sure to take some precautions. Put on your mask before entering, wash your hands immediately after, and try to minimize contact with any surfaces. Use a paper towel to dry your hands and as a barrier between you and anything you must touch.
In addition to the overall concerns of cleanliness, it may be difficult to find an establishment that is open or provides access to public restrooms. Be mindful as you head out. You may want to consider where you are going and what businesses are along the route that you feel comfortable in.
What can businesses do?
Many states are relaxing their restrictions but that doesn’t mean the local businesses are comfortable yet.
As businesses do open for patrons, there are some precautions they can take to help their guests feel more confident. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests:
- Limiting the number of people who occupy the restroom at one time. (The president of the American Restroom Association referred to this as “social piss-tancing.”)
- Cleaning and disinfecting regularly with EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19
- Maintaining stock of handwashing supplies, like paper towels and soap
Unfortunately, American public restrooms are in need of enhancements. According to the American Restroom Association (ARA) they have needed them for many years. The pandemic may be the catalyst to enact some of the needed upgrades.
Many establishments cannot afford a full bathroom remodel right now but there are a few additions that can be added to make patrons more comfortable. A few easy recommendations are:
- Add sanitization stations just outside the restroom doors
- Require face masks to be worn at all times
- Implement educational signs, unique custom displays can easily communicate your establishment’s policies
- Spacing in restrooms to accommodate social distancing
- If existing facilities have no dividers or bathroom barriers, consult with a local building inspector about adding them. “Floor-to-ceiling installations of these dividers is preferred”.
*We also make extensions to existing dividers
Times have changed, but we are (hopefully) looking at the end of the pandemic. As the dust settles it’s important to find good changes from such a catastrophic event. Businesses, and patrons will take new precautions moving forward. Maybe the pandemic will spark some needed upgrades to the status quo of public restrooms and more.
Perhaps we can all take a few extra minutes to think about public health, restroom facilities, and how we can best mitigate the spread of germs. When you gotta go, you gotta go, so let’s make it as hygienic as possible.