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Make washroom design work for you

24 November 2016

Brian Ford, specification manager at Dolphin Solutions, looks at how the design of a washroom can improve washroom hygiene by making it a more hygienic experience for its users and cleaning staff

Washrooms are becoming an increasingly important aspect of workplaces, schools, public buildings and transport hubs, in addition to many other locations. Research has found that 86% of people are more likely to return to an establishment with a clean and pleasant washroom, whilst maintaining high levels of washroom hygiene can also help reduce cases of illness contracted in the workplace.

There are many elements to consider when designing a washroom. Usability and style are very important, as are environmentally friendly concepts and ease of cleaning. Yet when it comes to hygiene, there are further considerations to take into account which may not be immediately obvious.

Product placement

Firstly, the placement of soap dispensers and taps is an important decision. Whilst some people like to wet their hands before using soap, others will opt for soap first. Whichever way the individual prefers, cross contamination of bacteria can occur.

With this in mind, the ideal scenario would be to have touch free taps and soap dispensers, operated via infrared technology. This reduces the chances of spreading bacteria via cross contamination, and also the possibility of users leaving the tap running whilst lathering the soap on their hands. 

Positioning taps and soap dispensers on the splashback, or behind a mirror, instead of on the vanity, will reduce the number of tight corners and edges on the vanity which are difficult to clean around. Easy cleaning improves hygiene and increases the life expectancy of a washroom.

When installing a paper towel dispenser or hand dryer, the same principles apply. Placing these above the vanity or behind a mirror will reduce the amount of water blown down the wall and dripped on to the floor, which can increase the amount of dirt picked up from shoes. 

To avoid dirty water splashing out of the sink onto the countertops, choosing the correct tap and regulating the water flow with a flow restrictor/aerator is important. 

The use of sensors

The use of sensor taps is increasing due to their many benefits. Not only are they more hygienic, their touch free capabilities mean that soapy residue from users’ hands is not left on the tap, which can notably increase the cleaning required.

As we move towards more touch free washroom facilities, it is essential that the correct cleaning procedures are in place in terms of both cleaning teams and self-cleaning functions. Take infrared taps for example, these can be set to self-flush if they haven’t been used for a certain number of hours. This is important as the self-cleaning mechanism flushes water out of the dead leg in the plumbing, combating any risk of legionella, and keeps the waste trap full of water, which eliminates odours associated with dry waste traps.

The finishing touch

There are many options available to architects when it comes to the finish on washroom walls and floors. Whilst many washroom walls are tiled, others are finished with paint. However, opting for a painted surface is an important consideration for designers as although tiles may be more costly, a painted wall can result in additional work for cleaning teams.

Many cleaners will have experienced the struggle of cleaning grey water marks from walls beneath hand dryers in frequently used washrooms. Often, if emulsion paint has been used, it is near impossible to completely remove the water stains. 

Simply placing a waterproof panel on the wall below the hand dryer, or at the very least using bathroom paint, will reduce the risk of stubborn water stains. This will also enable cleaners to ensure the walls surrounding hand dryers are as hygienic as possible. Alternatively, if the option is there, placing the hand dryer behind a mirror above the vanity will reduce the need to consider the type of paint used.

Washroom hygiene will continue to be an ongoing focus for organisations wishing to ensure the wellbeing of their staff, students, clients and visitors. By designing washrooms with these key considerations in mind, this will result in an altogether more hygienic washroom environment.