Washroom hygiene - sector by sector

13th of May 2013
Washroom hygiene - sector by sector
Washroom hygiene - sector by sector

What are the best types of washroom system for a hospital? A secondary school? A high-end restaurant? A prestigious office? Washroom manufacturers demonstrate the wide range of needs in four different sectors and consider the products and systems that suit each of them.

We all have the same basic needs in the washroom which means our universal requirements are toilet paper, soap, water and a hand drying system.

But washroom companies offer these products in a wide range of sizes, formats and qualities. And most will claim that the hand washing, drying and even the water requirements will vary from one sector to the next.

But are the needs of schoolchildren so different from, say, those of restaurant diners? And would the products supplied in a hospital washroom need to differ greatly from those used to equip a prestigious office washroom?

Looking at the healthcare sector first, products supplied here will depend on whether the washroom is intended for staff, visitors or patients according to SCA product and segment manager Charlotte Branwhite.

“High levels of hygiene and superior products will be required on a surgical ward, and washing products should be easy to use and skin-friendly to encourage frequent washing,” she said. “Reducing the risk of cross-contamination will be the top consideration, but cost-in-use of hand hygiene products is also important since it is normal for each health worker to wash their hands 20-30 times a day.”

Dispensers on a surgical ward should be easy to clean and disinfect and soaps should be perfume and colour-free, she says. “An extra soft towel such as the Tork Premium Interfold Hand Towel will encourage hand hygiene on an infection control ward, and a hand lotion should ideally be available to prevent dryness after frequent washing.”

The ward and visitor washrooms should be both welcoming and user-focused says Branwhite. “A co-ordinated appearance will be important and people should feel sufficiently comfortable to linger,” she said. “Patients and visitors of all age groups will be using the washrooms to tend to personal needs such as applying make-up, blowing their noses and wiping their child’s face.”

She suggests Tork Advanced Zigzag-Fold towels for use in ward and visitor washrooms where low cost in use is crucial. “We also offer mild and extra mild soaps in liquid and foam formats which are highly suitable for wards and infection control washrooms respectively.”

Metsä Tissue sales director for UK and Ireland Mark Dewick agrees that hygiene is the number one priority in healthcare. “This is especially important when considering the close relationship between staff and patients and the further complication of constant visitor and day patient interactions,” he said. “An outbreak of a fast-spreading disease such as the winter vomiting bug can close a hospital, which means hygiene is crucial.”

Easy-clean dispensers

He says clinical Infection control staff usually opt for easy-clean dispensers with few working parts and no complicated mechanisms where germs could hide. “They often prefer white dispensers, too, since these are perceived as having a hygienic appearance.”

Cost in use and maximising product through measured dosage is important in healthcare along with ease of use, says Dewick. “Some patients may have restricted movement so accessing washroom products needs to be as easy as possible,” he said. “Others may not have English as their first language so usage needs to be clear and not language dependent.”

Head of product management at Hagleitner Dr Georg Steiner says hygiene and regulation compliance are both key issues in a healthcare washroom.

“Touch-free dispensers will ensure that no bacteria is transferred from one dispenser to another, or from someone’s hand on to a dispenser and then back on to a hand,” he says. “Easy-to-use dispensers will also make hospital employees happy to wash their hands which again ensures hygiene.” He recommends the company’s Xibu towel and foam soap dispensers for healthcare settings.

Marketing communications manager of Airdri Trudi Osborne feels that washroom systems in hospitals need to be reliable and durable while also being hygienic, easy to service and cost-effective.

“Warm air hand dryers offer a hygienic alternative to roller towels because there is no risk of cross-infection from soiled towels, and they eliminate the cost of paper towels and the mess and waste they cause,” she said.

Osborne adds that patients, visitors and staff will all require a calm environment.  “Noisy appliances are not only a nuisance but according to the World Health Organisation they can also harm human health,” she said. Airdri Classic+ Mkll’s high speed hand dryer has been awarded a Quiet Mark by the Noise Abatement Society, she says.

Hand hygiene compliance

Marketing manager for PHS Washrooms Keri Reynolds adds that systems with antibacterial properties are particularly appropriate in hospitals.

“Alcohol, paraben and sulphate-free formulations for liquid soap will help with compliance since they are gentle on hands,” she said. “Hand sanitiser dispensers should also be situated at the entrances to wards where they are easily accessible to visitors and staff, and portable versions in 25 ml bottles will add an extra layer of protection for staff whenever they need it.”

PHS Washrooms’ products use SteriTouch antibacterial technology which is said to reduce the spread of pathogenic germs such as MRSA, E.coli and salmonella.

Managing director of Vectair Paul Wonnacott says touch-free hand dryers and soap dispensers will reduce the potential for cross-infection in hospitals. “An air sanitiser that uses ozone to break down bad odours is also useful in such settings where unpleasant smells are common,” he said.

“Antimicrobial protection incorporated into dispensers and sanitary units will protect users and facilities staff by reducing bacterial growth and improving hygiene and safety.”

He adds that hospitals are always looking at ways of cutting costs and being more environmentally-aware, and for this reason water conservation devices are appropriate. Washroom products in a school, on the other hand need to be robust, reliable and vandal-resistant says Wonnacott.

“Warm air dryers are a good choice here since paper towels can be messy if strewn around by pupils,” he said. “We also recommend urinal screens for boys’ washrooms to catch any unwanted debris such as chewing gum that might be thrown into the urinal.  This will help to prevent blockages and save the school money on unwanted drainage costs while also releasing a pleasant fragrance into the urinal.”

Easy-to-use, antimicrobial-protected feminine hygiene units should be placed in each cubicle of the girls’ toilets, he says. “This will not only reduce unsightly bin spillages but also protect the students from harmful bacteria.”

Economy in use is the most important factor to consider in a secondary school according to Hagleitner’s Dr Georg Steiner. “Dispensers should be robust and resilient to protect against vandalism,” he said, adding that the company’s XIBU inox dispensers have a vandal-resistant stainless steel housing and a touch-free operation for high hygiene standards.

However, Metsä’s Mark Dewick feels the requirements of a secondary school are fundamentally the same as those of a hospital. “Large groups of people in one place instantly make hygiene essential,” he said. “Secondary school pupils might be a little less discerning about aesthetics, but staff would have the same expectations.”

Katrin paper products are available in three grades – Plus, Classic and Basic. “In a hospital you would use the Plus grade for patients and the Classic grade for staff and visitors, whereas in a school you might choose the Classic for staff and perhaps the Basic for pupils,“ said Dewick.

However, he adds that problems can arise when pupils put inappropriate products down the toilet. “A virgin fibre product such as Katrin Plus breaks down more easily than basic recycled toilet rolls which contain more glue,” he said.  “So if a pupil should put a loo roll down the toilet, the drainage system would be better able to cope with a Plus grade product.”

Airdri’s Trudi Osborne says the optional cast iron cover for the Airdri Classic makes it particularly suitable for use in secondary schools. “This protects the dryer from potential vandalism,” she said.

“Hand dryers in general are a good option for the school setting because paper towels can become strewn across school washrooms, floors or even thrown down the toilet which can result in blockages.”

PHS Washrooms’ Keri Reynolds agrees that hand dryers are preferable in school washrooms along with sturdy dispensers that are easy to clean. She also recommends water-saving systems such as the company’s SaverTaps which are said to convert existing taps into a more efficient push option without having to overhaul the sinks.

“The fact that SaverTaps prevent water from being left to run helps to reduce wastage and guards against flooding which can cause significant damage and disruption,” she said.

According to Reynolds, washroom equipment in a high-end restaurant needs to combine effectiveness with an attractive design to reflect the ethos of the company. “Opting for a different colour can make a real impression: instead of a crisp, clean white a restaurant might go for a black, polished finish or brushed chrome, for example,” said Reynolds.

Vectair’s Wonnacott suggests upmarket, private-labelled fragrance dispensers for a high-end restaurant. “Products that are part of a co-ordinated range will provide each unit with a similar look and feel,” he said. He adds that ‘feel-good’ products such as Vectair’s Femcare MVP feminine hygiene units also work well in an upmarket restaurant. Vectair makes a donation to the Eve Appeal – which raises awareness of women’s cancers - with the sale of each unit and he charity’s logo is displayed on the units.

“Customers think highly of such worthwhile causes and this reflects well on the venue,” said Wonnacott.

Enhance guest experience

SCA’s Charlotte Branwhite says washroom systems in a high-end restaurant or prestigious office should be chosen to enhance the guest experience. “Fittings should be stylish and innovative to make a statement and leave a good impression,” she says. Branwhite suggests leaf-embossed Tork Premium Interfold Hand Towels and matching leaf-embossed mini jumbo Tork toilet rolls.

Metsä’s Dewick says dispenser-free walls can be an issue in boutique restaurants and smart offices. “A gap between the wall and the mirrors is often used to hide the dispenser and this can be quite small, so here you would need a narrow hand towel dispenser,” he said.

Hagleitner’s Steiner claims that either the XIBU inox or the XIBU dispenser works well in a prestigious office. “These look attractive and also come in touch-free versions,” he said. “And the customer can choose between various design options to help create an elegant office washroom.”

Airdri’s Trudi Osborne says a quiet hand drying system with a stylish finish – such as the company’s Contour unit –is a good choice for a high-end restaurant. “Our Elite hand dryer works well in a contemporary modern office and where space is limited we can supply a wall-mounted dryer that sits only four inches proud of the wall.”

So how straightforward is it to choose the right washroom system for a particular type of facility? One challenge is the fact that several different systems are sometimes required on one site, says SCA’s Charlotte Branwhite.

“In a university you may choose high-traffic, low cost-in-use systems for the halls of residence and bars, whereas systems with a ‘wow factor’ would be more appropriate in the lecturers’ washrooms,” she said. “And hygiene will be more critical in canteens and food preparation areas.”

Expert advice can be a major help, says Branwhite. “Customers will often be able to improve their current solution by reducing maintenance and cost in use, or improving hygiene,” she said.

Metsä’s Mark Dewick adds that inexperienced buyers should avoid falling into the price trap. “Price per case’, or even ‘price per sheet’ is not a good basis for making a decision,” he said. “If the sheet is cheap but users take three times as many and waste another five, it is a false economy. Likewise if your consumable costs go down but your absenteeism through poor hygiene goes up, it is not a good business decision.”

And PHS Washrooms’ Keri Reynolds adds that facilities looking for an appropriate washroom solution should consider ongoing costs, maintenance, cleaning and environmental issues. “Informed purchasing decisions can have an impact on your ‘green’ strategy which helps your company save money and energy while lessening the impact of its activities on the planet.”


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