This time of year, students of all ages are congregating and settling back into schools and university facilities – and so are pesky germs. Inevitably, more germs lead to more colds and flus for students and staff.
It’s no wonder three-fourths of K-12 parents report their children missed at least one day of school due to a cold or flu – most missing at least two or three days – according to Bradley’s Healthy Hand Washing Survey.
In our germ-conscious society, it’s not surprising that restrooms are highest on the list of the places in schools that parents believe are the most germ-ridden (computer keyboards were voted second most germy in Bradley’s survey). It appears moms and dads know best: in 2011, University of Colorado researchers examined the microbial biogeography of public restroom surfaces. Researchers discovered that the hand washing process was responsible for significant bacterial exposure. Soap dispensers contained even more bacteria than toilet seats. Ewww.
What can educational facilities do to minimize restroom germs – particularly during winter amid cold and flu season?
- Begin with good old-fashioned hand washing. Frequent and thorough hand washing is the simplest and most effective strategy against germs. CDC recommends washing vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying thoroughly. Setting water temperature at a comfortable warm temperature (roughly 100°F or 38°C) encourages all to engage in the process.
- Post friendly reminders about hand washing near sink areas to reinforce hand washing. Teachers’ verbal reminders and regular “hand washing breaks” before snack and lunch times can also instill the habit.
- Schedule staff to clean restrooms regularly, focusing on cleaning and sanitizing restroom germ hot spots – faucets, soap dispensers, dryers, sinks, partition latches and entrance doors. Make sure soap and paper towels are restocked too.
- Use sensor-operated faucets, flush valves, soap dispensers, hand dryers and paper towel dispensers to minimize germy touchpoints and cross-contamination from users’ hands.
For washbasins, use durable non-porous sustainable materials that do not support microbial growth like Evero Natural Quartz Material and Terreon Solid Surface. These molded one-piece units feature seamless molded construction, so there are no cracks and crevices that harbor germs and dirt. Smooth and seamless contoured or linear designs are easy to wipe down.