We have all been there and have done everything possible to get out of there as fast as possible — a disgusting public restroom.

Just writing that sentence made a shiver go right through my spine. There are some nasty bathrooms out there and a recent study reports it is critical for engineers, designers and facility managers to provide a proper facility. If not, it will be costly.

In March, Bradley Corp. released its annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey and the main result is that 56% of American adults say they are unlikely to return to a business after experiencing unpleasant restrooms. Said business might not lose just the survey respondents patronage either because they could post a message on social media, tell friends or just skip out on the bill because of a gross bathroom.

On the other hand, according to the survey, 70% of Americans — 77% for millennials — say they have made a conscious effort to select specific businesses because of clean and well-maintained facilities.

“Depending on their condition, public restrooms can become significant business liabilities – or ringing endorsements,” said Jon Dommisse, director of global marketing and strategic development at Bradley Corp., a manufacturer of commercial washroom products. “Good restrooms clearly give businesses a competitive edge.

“For eight years our survey has shown how letting restroom maintenance slip through the cracks can have a substantial negative impact and ultimately lost business. Now, in contrast, we see that decent restrooms invite positive customer reinforcement and likely attract more sales.”

Finally from the study, 92% of respondents see a direct relationship between the quality of a company’s products and services to the quality of its restrooms. This is most important in the food-service industry where 88% of people believe if a restaurant has unclean restrooms the likelihood is the kitchen also is filthy.

As designers and engineers, you can’t force a company to provide regular cleaning to the restrooms. But, you can select the right products that will help keep a bathroom clean to the best of the products’ ability.

I have spent a lot of time in this business learning about products designed to help a facility run smoothly while saving water, energy and money — all of which are important. I have to admit I have conversations about how a restroom can feature “plug-and-play” elements to a facility, meaning they are given the minimum amount of thoughts. We have discussed how sometimes there is little to be done to make them more than a utilitarian facility for an application. It is time to move beyond this line of thought because no matter where people do their business, a clean bathroom is top of mind.

Just think about your firm’s bathrooms. Are they as pristine as possible? What if a new client came in for a meeting about some new building he wanted your company to design? Would they be turned off by your company’s inability to provide a clean restroom?

Nobody enjoys thinking about or having a discussion about a disgusting encounter in a public restroom, but the numbers prove this is something we all have to keep top of mind, lest it hurt all our bottom lines.


This article was originally titled “Flushing money down the drain” in the April 2017 print edition of PM Engineer.