Public Restrooms May Soon Look Very Different Because of COVID-19

City Wide Facility Solutions
Published on June 23, 2020

So much has changed in the way we visit public places since the COVID-19 crisis. We look for the 6-foot-rule markers on the floor; we follow the one-way aisle signs while we shop; we talk to employees through clear plastic barriers, and that’s just to name a few. But more will continue to change, especially places that have always seemed so standard to us, such as public restrooms.

After a May 2020 study showed evidence that COVID-19 genetic material was found in human fecal matter, it’s causing scientists to advise “exercising an abundance of caution in following good personal hygiene practices.” While many facility owners and managers immediately decide to install touchless sensors, others are completely rethinking the elements and design of restrooms.

Why Today’s Toilets Are Causing Concern

It’s not common to see public toilets with lids – and for good reason since most people already refuse to touch the manual flusher (even pre-COVID-19), much less a toilet lid. But given that every time someone flushes, a “toilet plume” of droplets shoots upwards of six feet in all directions, it’s time we pay attention why this is far more important than just being an “ew factor.”

Research found that COVID-19 can be “found in feces up to 33 days after the patient tested negative.” According to Professor Richard Quilliam of Stirling University, “It is not yet known whether the virus can be transmitted via the fecal oral route, however, we know that viral shedding from the digestive system can last longer than shedding from the respiratory tract. Therefore, this could be an important – but as yet unquantified – pathway for increased exposure.”

In other words, open toilets and stall walls that don’t go floor to ceiling could be creating a breeding ground in the midst of a pandemic. “We may have to rethink the toilet seat altogether and potentially add sensor activation of the seat going up and down,” James Walsh, VP of product management at American Standard, told Fast Company.

Other Changes That May Begin Taking Place

The sink area in most public restrooms doesn’t support social distancing recommendations. And even the way we enter and leave a restroom may need reworking. Kathryn Anthony, a professor of architecture and a board member of the American Restroom Association, told Fast Company more facilities may start adopting the S-shape entrance and exit. (You have likely already seen this style in high-traffic places such as airports.) The design eliminates the need for a door, while still keeping stalls out of sight.

How Will You Know What’s Best for Your Facility’s Restrooms?

As a facility owner or manager, we understand all the new rules, regulations, and recommendations can seem overwhelming. Instead of worrying, let City Wide help.

Since the pandemic began, we’ve been at the forefront of the battle for our clients, making sure their facilities are being protected by following CDC recommendations. What’s more, we have provided clients with the latest technology solutions to best protect their facilities as they welcome back employees and customers. Download our Building Activation Plan to see an example of how we can help you reopen and protect your facility.

Remember, City Wide is Here to Help. To learn more or discuss solutions for your facility, contact your local City Wide in the United States or Canada.