We’ve all read the note on the bathroom stall – “please leave these restrooms in the condition you found them”. While the appearance of cleanliness and the pungent aroma of bleach gives us a sense that the toilets we use at work are sanitised, studies show this is not the case.
A report prepared by Crisis Science reveals that public restrooms (even “clean” ones) are contaminated by enteric bacteria (bacteria of the intestines). According to the report, the most contaminated areas in public restrooms were the toilet, floor, sink and sanitary napkin disposal. E. coli was most commonly isolated at the sanitary napkin disposal, drain in the sink basin, and inside the urinals. Mops used to clean restroom floors contained coliform bacteria, but not E. coli. Coliform and E. coli bacteria were found everywhere but the top of the urinal, including being detected on the paper towel dispenser, trash bin door and paper towel lever.
So why aren’t these “clean” restrooms sanitary? According to John J Coetzee, CEO at Green Worx Cleaning Solutions, the answer is simple. “All sanitising active ingredients used in toilet and urinal sanitisers are required to be in direct contact with the organism for a minimum period of time depending on the organism it is intended to kill. This is an absolute scientific fact. Simply spraying the sanitiser on (which is then flushed away) does not meet the minimum time required, and the product is diluted, further decreasing its efficacy.”
Coetzee encourages businesses to consider the health of their staff when considering restroom sanitation. “How much money is spent by corporate South Africa for a product or safety facility that may or may not actually do what the manufacturer says it can do? Are staff members actually safe? Are hygiene requirements being satisfied?”
To answer these questions, Coetzee conducted a urinal challenge, pitting traditional sanitising agents against green cleaning products that utilise enzymes and live, good bacteria to do the dirty work. “By incorporating a selected blend of highly active bacteria cultures, that are both non-volatile and non-corrosive, harmful organisms found in toilets and urinals were eradicated,” confirms Coetzee. “The active bacteria in these products grow at a faster rate than the harmful bacteria, and use the organic waste as a food source. This means they actually digest the harmful bacteria, leaving nothing behind.”
The key seems to be the “live agents” which spread around the area of application, rather than remaining only where the chemicals have been applied. According to an article released by Cleanlink, training is also essential; “The science of cleaning is important in all custodial applications, but it should be particularly prioritised in restrooms, where a unique and potentially dangerous mix of germs, bacteria and pathogens lurk. Cleaning and disinfecting restroom hot spots — including door handles, sink and counter areas, toilets and urinals, and floors — requires constant vigilance and attention to detail by a properly trained staff.”
Achieving a safe, sanitised space is crucial to occupants’ health and that of custodial and janitorial workers. “When nature offers a solution that cleans more effectively, is healthier than exposing staff to chemicals, and offers the added benefit of being environmentally friendly, it seems to be the only logical choice,” concludes Coetzee.