Washroom hygiene - the little boys’ room

22nd of May 2019
Washroom hygiene - the little boys’ room

What issues should be considered when equipping a washroom designed for use by small children, asks ECJ?

Not everyone likes visiting a public washroom. In fact many of us try to avoid them where possible due to hygiene concerns or a general reluctance to share an intimate space with strangers.

But public toilets can be even more intimidating for the very young who may feel vulnerable when entering a noisy, messy or bad-smelling washroom in a school, kindergarten or public facility.

So, how far do washroom hygiene companies take into account the needs of children when developing their systems? And what can be done to make washrooms less intimidating – and more accessible – for the very young?

It seems obvious the height of children should be taken into account when positioning the basins, taps and dispensers in a washroom aimed at smaller people. But washroom providers need to consider the mindset of children as well, says Vectair managing director Paul Wonnacott.

“Schoolchildren tend to be in a rush to use the washroom either because they are in the middle of a lesson or because they want to go out and play,” he said. “Sometimes they simply forget to go - and when they do so it is with such urgency that they don’t concentrate on aiming correctly or on washing their hands afterwards.

“Meanwhile, teachers are under pressure to deliver curriculums so they will struggle to focus on issues such as hand hygiene. So washroom fixtures should be quick and easy to use and leave no room for error.”

Children are often reluctant to use dirty, unsightly or smelly toilets, he says. “There should therefore be a good cleaning programme in place that prioritises a pleasant fragrance plus a sufficient supply of soap.”

Safety should be another major consideration where young children are concerned, says Wonnacott. “Dispensers should be lockable and products should be child-friendly.” Vectair’s EcoShell air freshener is made from EVA instead of fragrance beads which could lead to choking or ingestion, according to Wonnacott.

Different issues arise in venues such as shopping centres where children and adults share the same washrooms, he says. “One problem we often hear about is the difficulty in trying to take two children to the bathroom at once,” said Wonnacott. “Many facilities have no means of restraining one child while changing another, and this could be rectified simply by installing an infant safety seat.”

Washrooms for small children should be safe, easy to use – and preferably fun according to Jangro ceo Joanne Gilliard. “The cubicles should be vibrant and brightly coloured and have door hinges designed to avoid trapping small fingers,” she said. “Careful consideration should also be given to influencing healthy hand hygiene behaviour. Dispensers should be accessible and easy to use while providing pleasant formulations that are effective against germs but kind to delicate young skin.”

Frightening air dryers

Noisy warm air hand dryers can frighten young children and deter them from washing their hands properly, she said. “Even if the noise doesn’t bother them, some air dryers in schools and nurseries have so little power that children become bored and leave before they finish the job.

“Paper towels are a good choice since they dry the hands quickly and effectively, enabling children to return to their classroom or play area sooner.”

According to Gillard, foam soaps also work well. “Bars of soap are not ideal because they become slippery when wet and there is an increased risk of cross-contamination,” she said. “A dispenser on the other hand will give out the right amount of soap and children love the fun of foam, which is dispensed as a lather and therefore helps them clean their hands more effectively.”

Airdri marketing manager Trudi Osborne agrees that some hand dryer models can be scary for the very young. “Many children need encouragement to wash their hands so it is vital nothing deters them from using the washroom,” she said. “Ultra high speed jet dryers are always loud and can be quite unsettling for the young.

“However, fast dryers don’t need to be excessively loud - there are highly efficient rapid dryers on the market that are also incredibly quiet. Investing in a model with the Quiet Mark is therefore worthwhile.”

Common infections such as coughs, colds, sickness and diarrhoea can spread like wildfire among young children, says GOJO’s European marketing vice-president Chris Wakefield. “It is therefore key to encourage healthy hand hygiene behaviour when equipping the washrooms of schools and nurseries.

“Gel or foam soaps that are effective against germs and gentle on children’s delicate skin should be supplied. And touch-free dispensers are popular because they give out the right amount of product every time.”

GOJO offers a range of skin-friendly soaps plus Purell hand sanitisers. According to Wakefield, notices and posters displayed in children’s washrooms will encourage good practices. “Educating children about hand hygiene from a young age is crucial – and so is providing the right products to ensure the activity doesn’t become a chore,” he said.

Hygiene provision for children is largely a matter of common sense, says Essity’s communications director Reneé Remijnse. “It is important to make it easy for them to use the facilities in the best way,” she said.

Basins and dispensers mounted at children’s height will allow pupils to wash their hands independently and save time for kindergarten staff, she says. “Dispensers should also give out skin-friendly products and be suitable for young users.”

Soap bars lead to messy washrooms and can only be used by only one child at a time, says Remijnse. “This is inconvenient during busy periods, and soap bars may also fall on the floor - and they won’t promote hygiene if they are covered with dirt,” she said.

“Liquid and foam soaps are easy to use and make less mess, but the choice of dispenser is important.” Tork Foam Soaps come in a dispenser that requires a low push force to enable children and people with low hand strength to use them easily.

Like other manufacturers she says foam soaps work particularly well in children’s washrooms. “Less rubbing is required to create a lather and it’s the foam that lifts the dirt from hands,” says Remijnse.

“Paper hand towels should also be supplied since they can be used for other purposes such as wiping noses and cleaning away dirt from children’s faces. They are also quick to use and if you teach children from an early age to dry their hands thoroughly, bad habits are less likely to develop later on.”

She says hand sanitisers should be placed in convenient locations in kindergartens to allow staff to use them when changing nappies. “However, all dispensers should be lockable because stand-alone bottles could pose a risk to children.”

CWS-boco’s team lead product management hygiene Silke Zuegel agrees children’s washrooms should be inviting and colourfully-decorated areas. “If they provide a cheerful, friendly ambience they will be used with pleasure and treated with care,” she says. “It is also important robust, durable and safe materials are used.”

Must be quick and easy

Touch-free dispensers work well in schools and kindergartens, says Zuegel. “A no-touch system promotes hygiene, avoids contact and prevents overdosing which helps to conserve resources.”

Like Remijnse she believes foam soap to be an ideal solution. “Children appreciate the gentle consistency of foam and it is economical, lighter than liquid and requires little water,” she said. “It can also be distributed easily and quickly washed away which means even impatient children are introduced to correct hand hygiene.

“And a cotton towel dispenser will offer each child a skin-friendly and clean section of towel.”

She says it is important to consider younger users when equipping the washrooms of public facilities such as shopping centres. “A children’s corner with a lower washbasin and colourful dispensers can create a very positive feeling for the user,” she said. “Children have antennae for hygiene and their wellbeing should not be overlooked.”

Ease of use is probably the most important consideration when equipping washrooms for the very young, says Metsä Tissue managing director Mark Dewick. “Young children are often reluctant to use the school toilets so it is important to make it easy for them to do so,” he said. “They may also be impatient to get on with their day, but they still need to be encouraged to develop hygienic habits.”

Metsä’s Katrin Inclusive range of dispensers deliver measured doses and incorporate large “push faces” to make them easier for children to use.

Dewick agrees with other manufacturers that soap dispensers work better than bar soaps in children’s washrooms. “A bar of soap could be used as a missile or dropped on the floor, and if children pass the bar to each other they might literally be swapping germs,” he said.

He adds that hand drying facilities for children should be quick and easy to use. “Customers tell us problems can arise when warm air dryers are installed in children’s washrooms,” he said. “They say devices installed at the wrong height are difficult for them to reach or the might blow hot air in their faces. And some children are scared of the noise they make and might not be prepared to wait if there’s a queue for the dryer.”

However, he says hand towel systems should be chosen with care. “Some children might be tempted to flush the towels down the toilet, so a fast-dissolving towel such as Katrin EasyFlush will avoid blockages,” he said. “And secure dispensers that give out one sheet at a time will prevent children from grabbing handfuls of towels and misusing them.”

Easy-to-use, tamper-proof toilet tissue systems are also a good option, he said. “A system that delivers toilet paper easily without giving the child access to the rest of the roll - or the spare roll – is ideal.” He cites Metsä’s Katrin Inclusive System 800 as an example of such a product.

Like other commentators he feels that an attractive décor is important in a children’s washroom. “Bright colours and cartoons will be well received in nurseries, junior schools and children’s wards in hospitals, though such enhancements may come down to budget,” says Dewick.

Characters and activities

Many manufacturers try to engage children’s imaginations by coming up with programmes, characters and activities aimed specifically at younger users. CWS-Boco’s educational programme involves visits to kindergartens where the company’s Inspector Clean character teaches young children about germs, bacteria and hand hygiene.

GOJO offers educational materials on its website including posters, activity sheets, puzzles and finger puppets while Essity’s Ella and Max Hand Washing School Packages promote hand hygiene messages with the aid of apps, hygiene brochures and activities.

Meanwhile, Vectair has developed the characters Lord Muck and the Muckateers, along with Busta Grime to encourage young children to wash their hands, while Jangro’s Jangronauts website features puzzles, stories, posters, hand washing certificates and an educational video.

And Airdri’s Quad hand dryer is available in a child-friendly version created by The Children’s Hand Hygiene Company. Puff the Magic Dryer has quiet operation and enables children to dry their hands by putting them in the dragon’s ‘mouth’.

The company’s Trudi Osborne sums up the key issue with regard to children’s washrooms. “Proper hand washing with soap and warm water is crucial in reducing the spread of infections,” she said. “Therefore we need to ensure that young children are enthusiastic about their visit to the washroom since this will make the issue of hand hygiene easier to manage.”


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