How to avoid dirty school toilets?

29th of April 2014
How to avoid dirty school toilets?

Our correspondent in Scandinavia, Petra Sjouwerman, reports from Denmark. In this small Scandinavian country, the Council for Better Hygiene has organised the National School Toilet Day to highlight the importance of clean school toilets.

Did you ever try holding it in for a couple of hours? Four, five, six hours? So long that your stomach starts aching?

Studies have shown that school toilets have become a no-go area for many Danish pupils because they are dirty. Toilets lack soap and toilet tissue.

Up to 20 per cent of the pupils in Danish schools (age seven to 16) reported ‘holding it in’, so they didn’t have to go to the toilet during their school day. Luckily the school days in Denmark are relatively short - only four or five hours for the youngest ones. But the Danish government
has announced a school reform and this will mean longer days for all Danish schoolboys
and schoolgirls.

Focus on smallest room

This is why the Danish Council for Better Hygiene is organising the National School Toilet Day on May 5. In cooperation with the Danish trade union for cleaners, 3F, a seminar will focus on the smallest room in the schools and on the hygienic environment in schools in general.

The main theme this year will be how professionals working with children in school can help each other to ensure a better hygienic environment, fewer sick days, better wellbeing and ultimately a better school.

At the seminar in May professional cleaners will talk about the challenge of keeping school toilets clean. Children often go to one toilet together and feel hurried. Anxious to go back to their school activities, they pee on the floor, don’t flush and don’t wash their hands. Still, parents tend to blame the cleaning staff.

“Often, the cleaners feel quite alone with this problem, because they see it as their responsibility. But parents are also part of the solution. They should take the time to teach their children toilet hygiene, from flushing the toilet to washing their hands. And when the soap or toilet paper has run out, it should be clear who takes action. Everybody has a responsibility: cleaners, teachers, parents and pupils,” says a spokesperson of the Danish union 3F.

Not coincidentally May 5 is also the day for the World Health Organisation (WHO) global annual campaign ‘Save Lives: Clean your Hands’ campaign.’

The Danish Council for Better Hygiene was founded in 2008, in cooperation with Statens Serum Institut (SSI), one of Denmark’s largest research institutions in the health sector. The goal is to look at hygiene from an interdisciplinary point of view. In the meantime Sweden has also
established a comparable Council for Better Hygiene.

School competitions

The first National School Toilet Day in Denmark was held in 2010 and is every year combined with competitions for schools.

A group of Danish pupils has made a brilliant short film on how essential hygiene awareness is in schools. The film is in the Danish language only but you can visit it at:


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