Why aren't public restrooms cleaned better?
December 5, 2007 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Why aren't public restrooms cleaned better?

I'm talking about the walls, visible plumbing on urinals, toilet seats, etc.

I'm generally speaking about bathrooms in fairly large big-box type places (Wal-mart, etc) or in what you would refer to as a "public building" such as a library or a school.
A few things I notice often in these restrooms is:

- a drain in the floor
- tiled walls up to maybe 5-6 feet high
- materials such as steel, plastic, tile

Why not just spray everything down with a hose, grab a long-handled brush with soap and scrub everything down, then rinse it all into the floor drain?

This seems like a more efficient option assuming the cost of water and soap isn't going overboard and that anything that gets wet won't rust or become ruined. Wouldn't an employee/janitor/custodian prefer this method than to put on gloves and liberally wipe everything down?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
During my cleaning days at a large private school, I never had this method as an option, so this is only a guess: water spots created as it dries might end up making the room seem less clean than it actually is. And though it sounds efficient, I'm sure I'd have ended up soaking wet.
posted by xo at 1:41 PM on December 5, 2007

Why not just spray everything down with a hose, grab a long-handled brush with soap and scrub everything down, then rinse it all into the floor drain?

This is how it's done in food processing plants, including the bathrooms. Why not in a Wal-Mart or Public Library? Probably to keep costs down.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:42 PM on December 5, 2007

The answer to this type of question is always "money."
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:43 PM on December 5, 2007


Good point, although I would prefer to see water spots over urine stains and boogers.
posted by skwillz at 1:43 PM on December 5, 2007

From personal experience as a cleaner of bathrooms in a large store, I think a large part of it really just depends on the work effort of the people given the task of cleaning. When I was given the task (Books-A-Million, and no, book store customers are no cleaner than any other large store customers), I was armed with a mop/bucket/and 409'ish cleaner.

I always approached the issue of cleaning as to be, "How clean would I as a customer want it?" But it certainly was the crappiest job available at the store, so it never surprises me that people don't put much effort into it.

And to answer the question more thoroughly, it'd take some kind of special hose attachment to get what was needed to spray down the bathrooms, but then, you'd have to be careful not to soak the toilet paper and the paper towels. Likewise, a lot of the trash you find, (especially in the women's room) was toilet paper (or feminine hygiene prducts) and what have you, and the drain in the floor might not easily allow for just washing that stuff through the grating.

The floor was quickly mopped, and hand washing was reserved for the toilet, itself, and a quick wipe down (if no mess) of the sink area.

Hosing down might not offer the same amount of disinfectant as spraying from bottle, and any messes, short of super hose pressure, would still require hand scrubbing. Etc...etc. So I'm not sure if your solution would make for a dramatic improvement or not.
posted by Atreides at 1:47 PM on December 5, 2007

Public restrooms are often cleaned on a schedule throught the day. When I worked fast food someone was sent to clean the facilites every hour. If your idea was to be implemented, the bathroom would have to be vacated and kept empty for 15-20 minutes for the wash cycle alone. Then would come the drying, as The World Famous points out. That would likely take another half-hour at least. So you have a bathroom out of commission for about 45 minutes plus a possible slippery floor hazard afterwards, with attendant lawsuit potential. Plus, as xo points out, the cleaner would end up soaked.
posted by lekvar at 1:55 PM on December 5, 2007

Hosing a place down is also not something that can easily be done in the middle of the day in iterative stages while other people are using the washroom. You can sweep and wash one stall while someone is using the next one over. You can't hose one stall down while someone is using the next one over. Most washrooms need attention throughout the day.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2007

Any sort of actual hosing would also soak, and ruin, the various paper products that accompany (most) restrooms.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:58 PM on December 5, 2007

As a librarian whose office is across from the only women's bathroom in my library, I can say that we have at least 500 people using our 2-stall women's bathroom each day (and that is just during normal working hours). There's such high traffic that there's barely time for the custodians to get in and clean for even 10 minutes, much less the 30+ minutes it would take to close it off entirely, hose the whole thing down and let it dry enough so it would be safe to walk on.
posted by holyrood at 1:59 PM on December 5, 2007

The place where I work does just that. With a giant machine they've dubbed "The Yellow Submarine"

I think it is the device seen here:


So, probably pricery to begin with, but the rest rooms look great.
posted by jeribus at 2:01 PM on December 5, 2007

Because the people cleaning it are paid minimum wage and have zero motivation?

(Had the task a time or two in my youth, and *I* wasn't going to get any closer to the nastiness than I had to, that's for sure.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:31 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]

My college dorm's communal bathrooms were done that way; no exposed paper products and they were shut down for an hour a day. Of course, you could always go up or down a couple of flights and use their bathroom, so it wasn't a big deal - and 800+ people lived in the building.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:31 PM on December 5, 2007

I used to clean the men's room at four am in the Waffle House. We'd grab a bottle of bleach and splash liberally around the toilet among other things. It would foam up quite disgustingly.
posted by konolia at 2:41 PM on December 5, 2007

Well, would you want to wash shit and piss from a toilet used by hundreds of complete strangers a day for $6.75 an hour, or what restless_nomad said.

I grew up in NYC and it was just common practice to carry around moist towelettes is you were the type who actually liked to wash his or her hands.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 3:42 PM on December 5, 2007

There is some YMMV here too. I've been in a few disgusting restrooms in the Canada but only in the States have I ever encountered bathrooms where I wouldn't even use the urinal (and not just because the door was missing, something I came across several times in California 15 years ago).
posted by Mitheral at 5:58 PM on December 5, 2007

Not really on topic, but I stayed in a Formula 1 Hotel in France. It was entirely modular, stacked rooms with bathrooms all in one place. After each person used the bathroom it went through a cleaning cycle which included drying. It was pretty freaking cool.
posted by Seamus at 6:12 PM on December 5, 2007

The answer to this type of question is always "money."

I think it's slightly more complicated -- the answer to this type of question is,

Because those with the money (ie management) don't use these bathrooms.
posted by Rash at 9:26 AM on December 6, 2007

Used to work in Target and KFC. In KFC I did exactly as you said, hose the place down at night and then scrub and scrub. This wasn't the usual way, but there'd be some awful things smeared on the tile wall and I couldn't live myself if I'd just leave it as is.

But at Target, it isn't possible. Bathroom check is usually during the day and the customers get antsy if the toilets are closed for a long while. So it's a quick mop, toilet spray, and window clean.
posted by sweetlyvicious at 1:11 PM on December 6, 2007

I think the real question is why public restrooms are so filthy.
posted by plinth at 2:14 PM on December 6, 2007

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