Nationwide Survey Asks How People Cope When Restrooms Run Out of Essential Supplies and What is the Most Unsanitary Feature of a Public Restroom

ROSWELL, Ga. -- At some point or another we've all been there. Caught in a public bathroom without the most essential supply -- toilet paper. What do people do to avoid this uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing situation? And how do they feel when it happens?

"Totally grossed out" and "like never going back to the place or bathroom again," according to nearly one half of respondents to a new survey released today by Kimberly-Clark Professional.

And what did people see as the most unsanitary feature of a public restroom? Sinks without soap and toilets without toilet paper pretty much tied for this distinction, with 45 percent and 43 percent of respondents selecting these from a list of choices.

Aside from unsanitary conditions, chosen as the "most annoying" aspect of public restrooms was a lack of basic supplies, such as toilet paper and hand towels (35 percent), followed by odors (33 percent) and stall doors that don't lock (24 percent). A lack of basic supplies bothered older people even more, with almost half of 45-to-64-year-olds making this selection from a list of choices. And 44 percent of all respondents said they would most likely be annoyed with a facility that ran out of toilet paper or towels, thinking managers didn't care about the people using their restrooms.

"These findings point out that you can never underestimate the importance of the restroom and how much it influences people's impressions of a facility as a whole," said Richard Ennis, category director of towels for Kimberly-Clark Professional.

Conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, the survey tackled these and other embarrassing restroom questions. And the answers revealed some interesting differences between the sexes as well as among different age groups.

In general, women and seniors were better prepared for restroom contingencies because they were more apt to carry extra tissue "just in case." However, half of all female respondents said they were extra tissue carriers, as were more than 60 percent of those 55 plus.

On the other hand, younger people and women were more apt to ask the person in the next stall to "spare a square" of toilet paper. Nearly half of 18-to-34-year-olds said they did this when the paper ran out, as did 38 percent of women. Only 33 percent of all respondents said they borrowed toilet paper in these circumstances.

Men, however, were far more likely to dash to another stall in pursuit of toilet paper. Forty-two percent of men who found themselves without toilet paper chose to dash when the coast was clear, while 16 percent of all respondents in this situation identified themselves as dashers.

Which facilities received the worst restroom ratings? Highway and other rest stops received the lowest marks at 26 percent, followed by restaurants at 18 percent. Malls came in third, with 14 percent of all respondents, although 21 percent of women chose this as the worst. Next were stadiums (11 percent), trains or bus stations (9 percent overall, but 13 percent with seniors 65 plus), schools (5 percent) and airports (2 percent).

Most Unsanitary Conditions

Some other survey highlights were:

-- 68 percent of female respondents and 49 percent of all respondents

reported sitting down in a public restroom and discovering after it

was too late that there was no toilet paper. Only 28 percent of men

said this had happened to them.

-- A much higher number of respondents -- 87 percent -- reported having

been in a public restroom that was out of hand towels. In this

instance, air-drying was the top coping mechanism selected (43

percent), followed by wiping hands on clothes (31 percent), and using

toilet paper to dry off (23 percent).

-- Opinions of hot air dryers varied. Twenty-eight percent found them

annoying and 15 percent referred to them as cheap, from a list of

several choices. Nine percent viewed them as unsanitary.

-- 87 percent of all respondents said they check to see if there is toilet

paper before using a public restroom, while 90 percent of men said

they looked before leaping. Perhaps that's why men reported such a

low rate of being caught empty-handed.

Nearly half of all respondents said that understaffing was the primary cause for run-out of essential supplies in public restrooms. So it's not surprising that when given a choice of options for solving this problem, the top selection was requiring public bathrooms to use jumbo-sized products that last longer and run out less. Thirty-four percent of all respondents, 39 percent of women and 35-to-44-year-olds, and 42 percent of 18-to-24-year olds picked this.

In a related question, respondents overwhelmingly favored the use of products that would greatly reduce the likelihood of toilet paper and towel run-out by supplying more paper on a roll. Eighty-eight percent of all respondents voiced support for this, as did 91 percent of women and 93 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds.

The survey of 1,032 adults nationwide was conducted by telephone from January 31 - February 3 by Opinion Research Corporation. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.

Kimberly-Clark Corporation is a leading global manufacturer of tissue, personal care and healthcare products.

Source: Kimberly-Clark Professional