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Human Behavior in Public Washrooms

Fancy restaurant washroom

In the 21st century, it’s easy to take public washrooms for granted. Whether in the workplace or a restaurant, we expect every building to have some sort of facility we can use when we need to go.

However, it hasn’t always been this way. For thousands of years, our ancestors would either do their essential business in cramped and dirty rooms with poor sanitation or in the great outdoors. Death from waterborne diseases was common and, in big cities, the smell was unbearable! In Ancient Rome, public washrooms (benches with holes in them to act as seats) could only be used by men. This meant women stayed close to the home or avoided eating and drinking in public for fear that may have to go.

It wasn’t until 1851 that the very first “public washroom” with actual toilet seats and flushing capabilities were introduced. Unfortunately for women, they had to wait another 100 years before the first sanitary disposal bin.  

It’s clear washrooms have changed immensely over the years. How we use washrooms has changed too. From how we decide what stall to use, to what we use the washroom for, our habits and behaviours are certainly worth learning more about.

Why Do People Avoid Public Washrooms?

We may not realize it, but there’s a strong correlation between people’s emotions and washroom behaviour. From being anxious when there are other people around, to being disgusted at the state of that washrooms’ hygiene, individuals will avoid washrooms if there are negative feelings associated. Bad washroom hygiene is enough to put people off using the toilet even when they have to go. Common complaints include nasty odours, poor cleanliness, no toilet paper, no soap, and people not flushing the toilet after use! Consistently delivering a hygienic and pleasant washroom experience can help to turn negative emotions into positive ones.

Which Stall Do People Use?

Deciding which stall to use is based on what an individual thinks will be the cleanest and most hygienic stall – which is usually the one that people think is used the least. Recent research has found that females frequent the first cubicle the least making this one the cleanest while men tend to go for the cubicle that’s nearest making the stalls further away more hygienic.

Women Take Longer in the Washroom

There have been several studies that have found women spend longer in the washroom than men – this may be the reason for the long lines! Not only this, but women are also less likely to sit on the bare toilet seat, opting to either squat or cover the seat in toilet paper.

Hand Hygiene Habits

When it comes to handwashing – 84% of people don’t do it well enough to properly remove germs and bacteria. People have been found to lie about whether they washed their hands at all! Promoting handwashing through signs and having clean and hygienic handwashing facilities is the best way to promote proper hand hygiene.  It’s important to note that while people may not wash their hands properly, as humans we are still conscious about touching washroom surfaces that may be thought of as unhygienic such as door and flush handles.

Do people Prefer Hand Dryers or Paper Towels?

The age-old debate: do people prefer to use hand dryers or paper towels? A lot of research has been conducted in this area and the findings can affect what individuals prefer to use and in fact, can lead to people not drying their hands at all. While there are trade-offs depending on which option you chose, having at least one of these options is necessary to promote proper hand hygiene.

Why are people spending so long in the washroom?

Several sources show that over 50% of people take time to respond to emails or text messages when on the toilet. Between 30-40% use the time to either surf the internet or browse their social media. And, around 63% of people read books, magazines or other printed material while on the throne. 

Washroom Reading

With all that undisturbed time, it’s no surprise that one of the favoured things to do while in the washroom is read. Although most people today don’t visit the washroom without a book, newspaper or smartphone, this isn’t a new development. 

Historically, catching up with reading has been a washroom pastime since at least the days of the Romans. In fact, the Romans used to keep a library of scrolls outside bathhouses for visitors to catch up on their reading.

In the modern age, newspapers became a portable and affordable reading option and, in depression-era America, they were also used as toilet paper. Today, you’ll even find novelty toilet paper with jokes, stories or other anecdotes printed on it. 

Spending Time on Mobile Phones

These days everyone has a smartphone on hand, and therefore a huge library to call on. From news or gossip sites, to e-book readers, catching up on global events, or reading a chapter or two of your book, it’s all accessible in the palm of our hands! Today, 1 in 20 people admit to taking a phone call while in the washroom. Insights like these come as no surprise when the average person touches their phone over 2500 times a day!

Washrooms Matter

It’s clear that having clean and hygienic washrooms can leave a lasting positive impression of your business on customers. Having a dirty washroom can be the difference between a regular customer and a bad review! Upgrading your washroom with touch-free fixtures like AutoSoap, AutoFaucet, AutoSoap, and touch-free Personal Hygiene Disposal not only looks better, it helps stop the spread of germs and promotes good hygiene within your facility.

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