Omnia Mechanical Group

571 Timpson Place Bronx, NY 10455

Phone: 212-534-2500

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NYC Bathrooms and COVID: How to Make Your Commercial Property’s Bathrooms Safer

If you own or manage a commercial property in the Big Apple, you may have learned an important lesson over the last few years: NYC bathrooms, COVID, and germ safety are at war with each other. The pandemic has brought the downsides of public restrooms all too sharply into focus.

At Sanitary Plumbing, we like to see this as an opportunity, however. Even if the prompting has been external, revamping bathrooms in commercial properties gives you a chance to both improve health measures and make your restrooms more efficient, modern, and user-friendly. Here are 15 ways you can make your bathrooms safer, from minor low-budget changes to complete overhauls.

Starting Small

Increase the number of trash receptacles

There never seem to be enough trash cans in public restrooms, particularly in ladies’ rooms. Adding more receptacles at strategic locations, especially by the door where people may use a paper towel to avoid touching the handle, will help prevent the spread of germs and keep the bathroom tidier (easier for maintenance staff, too).

Offer entrance hand cleaning stations

While people certainly need to wash their hands after using the restroom, some come into the space with dirty hands, too. Having hand sanitizer at the entrance reduces the number of pathogens left in the bathroom. Even though COVID is primarily airborne, it can be spread by fomites, as can many other illnesses.

Turn on the hot water

Hand washing is more effective in hot water than cold (and more pleasant, too). Many commercial washrooms make the mistake of turning off the hot water when it should be left on. Providing hot water may even be required by law in some types of commercial buildings.

Sanitary Plumbing can help set the temperature to meet standards without risk of scalding injuries or the buildup of bacteria from tap water that is warm but not quite hot enough to kill pathogens.

Build in places to hand bags and briefcases

Germs can be carried out of the restroom into public and private spaces on purses, briefcases, diaper bags, and other personal items. Give restroom users a place to hang these things so they don’t need to place them on the floor or on counters.

Change the exit door

Consider removing the exit door or making it hands-free. Some restrooms go as far as to remove both entry and exit doors, using a labyrinth structure that affords interior privacy while eliminating another surface that spreads viruses and bacteria.

Take advantage of hands-free technology

There are multiple ways to reduce touching surfaces in a public bathroom. As well as installing a hands-free door (or removing it entirely), you can try these solutions:

  • Touchless hand dryers and paper towel dispensers
  • Automatic water taps with timed shutoffs
  • Sensor-activated soap and hand sanitizer dispensers
  • Automatic flushing and self-cleaning toilets
  • Trash cans controlled by foot pedals
  • Hands-free in-stall feminine hygiene disposal
  • Touchless stall door opening and closing devices

Medium-Size Upgrades

Add lids to toilet seats

As unappealing as the notion sounds, toilets produce plumes of germs whenever they’re flushed. These may be visible water jets or invisible aerosols carrying pathogens. Since COVID has been found to be present in wastewater, it’s wise to give toilets lids (whenever compliant with the ADA) to eliminate these plumes, which could be inhaled or carried on other surfaces. In fact, it’s more likely for pathogens to be spread through respiratory routes than by sitting on a toilet seat.

Install automatic toilet seat lids

If you’re concerned about accessibility or people not using the lids properly, automatic toilet seat lids are an option. These open and close using a sensor, which further reduces the spread of germs.

Reduce pressure in toilets

If putting lids on the toilets in your public restrooms isn’t feasible, consider reducing the volume behind toilet flushes. Forceful flushing promotes larger plumes via turbulence, which can be lowered with pressure-assisted flushing mechanisms that also save on water.

Replace flooring with a less germ-friendly option

Public bathroom flooring needs to have some amount of traction to reduce falls, especially when wet. However, many restroom floors have more texture than they need, which holds dirt and germs. Replacing this with a slightly smoother material will reduce microbes on the floor and make it easier to clean as well.

Provide cleaning supplies for diaper cleaning stations

Many restrooms have areas where a caregiver can change a diaper. Have supplies at hand, along with a trash receptacle (to reduce flushing of non-flushable items), so they can clean the area for the next user.

Upgrade to antimicrobial counters and fixtures

While countertops and faucets that resist pathogens used to be the purview of hospitals, now these materials have made it into the mainstream. You can update the appearance of your bathrooms and simultaneously reduce the spread of germs with one change.

The Big Stuff

Improve ventilation

Most public bathrooms could benefit from some attention to their olfactory issues anyway. The advent of COVID has been an even greater incentive to improve ventilation, which has the added bonus of making restrooms smell better.

Move barriers and adjust spacing

People may still not be comfortable being close to strangers in public washrooms, even as activities outside the home have resumed on many fronts. To facilitate social distancing, consider spacing urinals and toilets further apart, with barriers between the former.

Create single-user bathrooms

Even better, think about building smaller individual bathrooms whenever possible, such as when use of public restrooms is sporadic. These have several advantages:

  • They can be used by anyone of any gender.
  • Parents can more easily accompany children to the bathroom.
  • Caregivers with strollers have more space to maneuver.
  • They reduce public bathroom vandalism.
  • They offer more privacy than stalls or urinals.
  • They are safer when it comes to crime than multi-user restrooms.
  • With only one toilet, there are reduced toilet plumes spreading germs.
  • As the sink is contained within the bathroom, there are fewer surfaces touched after using the toilet.
  • It’s easier to ventilate and clean a single bathroom.

Other than large bathroom remodels, many of these changes are improvements you could start on this week. Sanitary Plumbing is here to help, and we’ll make sure the rest of your plumbing system and sewage disposal is in keeping with your move toward greater wellness for building occupants, too. Call us at 212-734-5000 to learn more, or schedule a consultation using our easy online form.


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