‘Gender-neutral lavatories are dirtier than men's and women's toilets’

20th of May 2024
‘Gender-neutral lavatories are dirtier than men's and women's toilets’

Ladies' toilets are cleaner and less germ-laden than the gents', according to new research. But the gender-neutral lavatories tested were the dirtiest of them all.

The study was carried out by consultant microbiologist at NHS Lanarkshire Professor Stephanie Dancer who examined the bacteria levels in various hospital toilets.

The door handles in the gents' were found to be around eight times as dirty as those in the ladies' while the cleanest facilities were the female staff toilets. However gender-neutral toilets, which included unisex and disabled facilities, had the highest level of germs. Researchers felt this may have been due to heavier overall use.

"Our results appear to confirm what is generally thought in society: women clean because their perception of dirt and disgust entices action whereas men either don't notice a dirty environment or don't care," said Dancer.

"It follows that women are more likely to leave a bathroom clean, while men assume someone will clean up after them."

She believes single sex and disabled toilets should be retained, with additional unisex facilities also being provided. "Based on this study's findings I don't believe we should be abandoning single sex toilets in favour of unisex toilets, since these had the highest microbial burden overall," she said.

The research team also found that the floors and high surfaces yielded higher levels of aerobic bacteria and fungi than hand-touch sites, possibly because hand-touch sites are cleaned more thoroughly than other surfaces.

According to Dancer, the logical explanation for germs on the floors and walls was due to tiny water particles being projected by the toilet flush. "Airborne microorganisms and contaminated surfaces carry a potential risk for infection," she said. "Hospital toilets should therefore have lids which should be closed before flushing, while patient toilets should be cleaned more frequently than other toilets."



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