In Public Restrooms, Many Take Maintenance Into Their Own Hands; Survey Looks at Personal Cleaning Methods in Private Places

ROSWELL, Ga. -- Janitors of America take note -- despite your best efforts, most people who use public bathrooms are performing their own personal maintenance before using the facilities.

In a survey of 1,015 adults conducted by Opinion Research Corporation for Kimberly-Clark Professional, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they conduct some kind of maintenance before using a public restroom, such as wiping off a seat cover or flushing the toilet. Nearly nine in 10 of those who do so said they use supplies that are already in the restroom - a seat cover, toilet paper or a paper towel.

About one third use their own "equipment," such as facial tissue or sanitizing wipes, while a surprising 34 percent reported using their hands and 23 percent their feet.

In addition, nearly everyone favored some kind of restroom prep by previous restroom occupants. Topping the list was hand washing, with 45 percent of respondents saying they would like it if people washed their hands after using the bathroom to keep germs from spreading. A courtesy seat wiping came in second.

Despite innumerable possibilities, it takes a lot to get people to relocate once they've selected a restroom stall. Half said they would move for a stuffed-up toilet. Most other conditions - no toilet paper, wet seat, wet floor - caused much smaller numbers of people to get up and go before going.

Embarrassing restroom moments. We've all had them -- caught without supplies or, perhaps worse, caught with vital supplies on one's shoe. Fortunately for the rest of us, the vast majority of respondents say they would warn people if they saw them walking out with toilet paper attached to their soles. Those who would remain mute or laugh were clearly in the minority.

While most people prepare the restroom for their own personal use, few are willing to clean up after others. When it comes to restroom refuse, the only thing people seemed likely to do was pick up a stray paper towel and throw it in the trash. Forty-three percent of respondents would do this, while 33 percent would ignore it. The numbers dropped dramatically when it came to fallen bathroom tissue. More than a third would ignore it while 26 percent said "it was gross, so why would they touch it?" Just under a quarter said they'd lift it up with something else and dispose of it.

When restroom supplies run out, the majority of survey respondents said they would tell management about it. And close to half had complained about restroom products in the past. Most complaints were over dirty restroom conditions.

Sympathy for cleaning personnel also came through, with respondents acknowledging that keeping toilets clean was the most difficult task maintenance workers faced. The chief words of advice for cleaning personnel? Clean it more often, preferably every hour, and treat the bathroom like it is your own. And, according to respondents, make sure the soap, toilet paper and towels don't run out!

Clearly, systems that reduce supply run-out, because they contain more product and last longer, and better-performing systems that result in less trash and waste would be a plus for people who visit away-from-home bathrooms.

The survey of 1,015 adults nationwide was conducted by telephone March 4-7, 2004 by Opinion Research Corporation. Of those surveyed, 738 said they performed some kind of personal restroom maintenance. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent for the entire sample and 4 percent for those who performed some kind of personal restroom maintenance.

Kimberly-Clark Professional provides tissue and towel products, skin care products and industrial wipers for workplace settings.

Source: Kimberly-Clark Professional

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