5 Reasons why Unisex doesn’t Work

Willow Tree Primary School were featured heavily in the National press recently after a school refurbishment redesigned  all the toilets into unisex.  Just to clarify this means all toilets are available to use for both boys and girls.

It is understood that in small offices and some uber trendy locations that the unisex concept works really well and this may seem like a great idea to architects or designers. However, in my experience, many such toilets, after a period of time, get reallocated to either male of female use.

Here are the top 5 reasons why unisex toilets fail -please feel free to comment.

  1. Males.  Whether this be at a school or office, the male population tend to stand up when urinating.  Most males can’t hit a urinal from 30cm so hitting a toilet bowl from 60cm is almost impossible.  This is exacerbated if the toilet seat has not been put up.  Needless to say men do not clean up after themselves: this will be tolerated for a short period before there is a revolution and signs go on the doors.
  2. Embarrassment. Female staff or pupils will avoid using toilets where there is even a miniscule risk of creating an opportunity to be the butt (apologies for the pun) of someone else’s cruel joke or sarcastic comment – phew ‘did you light a match?’
  3. Cleaning. The people tasked with cleaning the toilets will soon complain that they have much more cleaning to do – twice as many toilet bowls requiring special attention as before.   There is a very strong environmental argument that says that keeping toilets separate sex reduces the amount of chemicals needed to maintain standards.
  4. Costs.  Not only increased cleaning products but increased labour to keep the toilets clean.  But another cost means that every toilet requires a sanitary disposal bin.  By making all the toilets unisex you double your sanitary waste disposal costs.
  5. Community.  Toilets are not all bad places.  There can be opportunities to chat or say hello whilst washing hands.  In these modern times men spend almost as much time in front of the mirror grooming themselves as women do.  These communal activities can be positive and should be encouraged.

So there are my top 5 reasons.  With regard to schools which is where we started, call me a cynic but these newer schools being built, especially those through PPI or with 20 year management contracts, it may well be in the management company’s interests to have unisex toilets with twice the cleaning and twice the costs?

Would they do this at home?

COMMENT FROM THE CLOSET

All eyes were on Scotland at the weekend as one of the biggest rivalries in sport and one of the oldest club football games was played for the first time in the league for four years.  The enthusiasm and rival
ry, the media attention, television, newspapers and social media was, in my humble opinion, a bit over the top, but who am I to judge?

There is a small element of both sides keen to stir up trouble and fan the flames of hatred and violence. Thankfully as each year passes these unruly elements seem to get smaller and weaker albeit they seem to come up with more and more ‘inventive’ ways of creating a news story.

This weekend at the stadium in question the Away fans decided to destroy a block of toilets.  No doubt the cost of repair will run into several thousand pounds and the inconvenience of not having nearby ‘conveniences’ at the next home game won’t affect the away fans who inflicted the damage.  A different set of fans will have to find an alternative toilet option. They may even have to walk 50 metres further along and queue a bit longer.

celtic-park-destroyed-toilets

This toilet block, so wastefully destroyed, had it been in sub-Sahara Africa, would have provided much needed facilities for up to 500 children.   For a mere fraction of the cost to repair (about £240.00) a block of toilets could be built with running water and essential hygiene supply such as soap.

I wonder in the cold light of day if the so called ‘fans’ who take for granted such basic facilities as a toilets would have been so destructive if this was the only toilet for the community and the nearest one for miles around?  I suspect not.

To find out how you can build a toilet block in Africa visit

Urinal Screens

Are Urinal Screens an own goal or are they quite simply he easiest answer to a smelly problem?

Urinal Goals
Urinal Screen Goal Posts from Prodifa available in Scotland from Caledonia Washrooms

Urinal screens have been around for  long time.  Like most things in this industry once a few players get involved innovation starts to kick in.  The original urinal screen was a hard rigid plastic that was predominantly to minimise chewing gum and cigarette butts (not so long ago) from being washed down the urinal and causing blockages – lets call this US v1.1?

US v1.2 was of a softer material so one size pretty much can fit all when it comes to urinals, but at this stage they also coated the screen with a fragrance.  This was pioneered by Swisher in the US and any other markets that the franchise operated.  US v1.2 had a lot of copycat rivals and this is where the market started to take off.  Fresh Products/Waypoint got involved and launched the P Wave.  They had two unique factors they had found a way to impregnate the ‘plastic’ material to maximise the effect and secured a patent on the amount of fragrance in a urinal mat.  This was 2010/11 I think and in the last 5 years the demand for the urinal mat has grown considerably.

This demand has been driven by end users and really the washroom services industry have missed a trick, although there is some movement now.  Now the reason in part for the washroom service companies not advancing with the urinal screen is that service companies like to sell complicated service equipment at a premium, there is no better example of the multitude of urinal sleeves which will cost the average business 4-6 times the cost of a urinal screen (there may even be installation charges on top).

Now this is a blog not a book and I good fill several chapters on urinals, the issues and the various pluses and minuses of the multitude of systems that are out there (if there are any publishers out there interested drop me a note).  However at this stage let me talk about US v2.1. The market has moved on and now both Waypoint (USA) and Prodifa (France) have launched a screen with not only fragrance but also enzymes/friendly bacteria.  These  impregnated mats release bacteria that eat uric acid, this slows down the calcification and build up of solid materials in the drains – it won’t prevent it happening but it can considerably slow it down.  (At this point I should add a disclaimer tat if you are pouring bleach or any strong acid product down the drain you will neutralise the effect and in doing so wasting your money!).

Both companies have also added a 3D finish (which looks a bit like astroturf) to eliminate splash back, another innovation.  Great, I hear you say but Waypoint have not held back and have launched US v3.1  this is a double sided urinal mat which is now hexagonal instead of round, and so has a snugger fit in smaller urinals, can be fitted either way and also comes in a super long urinal trough version (photo to follow).  This can be interlinked to fir right along urinal troughs, great for schools and sports stadiums.

So back to m question at the start is the simplest solution the best?  Like all things everyone has an opinion, me I wish that Waypoint had made their mats better colours? the orange/mango is a bit garish and would not sit well in a 5 star venue, but the truth is that there is a place for them and the Prodifa goal post idea brings a bit of fun to the toilets (not to mention better accuracy).

I look forward updating this blog once we get feedback fro our customers.

 

Toilet Twinning

toilet twinning

Toilet Twinning is a fabulous concept

The crux of which is to provide people in the poorest communities on the planet with a decent toilet, clean water and all the information they need to stay healthy.  A stunningly simple way to make a difference.

For just £60, you can twin your toilets at home or at work with a latrine halfway around the world, in a country of your choosing. If you are a bigger organisation then for £240, you can twin with a school block a great gift to or from a nursery or school in the UK?

The secret of it success is that, no matter how small your cludgie (scots for toilet), you can become the proud owner of a personalised certificate, complete with a colour photo of its twin and GPS coordinates so you can look up your twin on Google earth or similar map based software. (note to ed: check if Google support it?)

Your donation is used by Tearfund to provide clean water, basic sanitation, and hygiene education. This vital combination works together to prevent the spread of disease.  This ensures that children are healthier (and able to go to school); parents are well enough to work their land and subsequently grow enough food to feed their family. With better health, and more ability to earn a living, men and women discover the potential that lies within them to bring transformation (Toilet Twinning’s words not mine).

I am aware that some independent washroom service providers (Caledonia Washrooms for sure) support this charity and offer a ‘bolt on’ to a standard washroom contract breaking the one off cost into a monthly payment.

So ask your washroom provider to sort it for you or if you are looking for another small charity to support make Toilet Twinning your No2 Choice!

Toilet Trends for 2016?

2015 is almost over so it seems appropriate to look forward to what might be big news in the Commercial Washroom Sector in 2016?

  1. Puff the Magic Dryer.   The world’s first ‘hand dryer designed with Children in mind’  is being seen in more and more nurseries, preschools and primary schools.  Recently listed in the YPO schools catalogue for 2016 I expect him to be in a few more by the end of the year.  Having talked to the manufacturers Airdri recently, it seem that not only will Puff be flying into schools in the UK and abroad but due to his quietness and friendly features he is being trialled in some of the biggest hospitality groups in the UK.  So you might just see him in a baby changing room in a pub, restaurant or fast food outlet near you soon!

    Puff the hand drying dragon
    Puff the Magic Dryer – Flying global in 2016
  2. Water harvesting.  Yes this concept has been around for a while but with increased costs of water across the UK water harvesting is becoming a simple cost saving exercise – as much as 50% of a commercial property might be flushing perfectly good drinking water down the drain.  With the basic set up cost starting at £2000 there will be plenty businesses that will see a return on their money pretty quickly – much quicker than solar panels as it rains at night too!

    cost reductions in commercial washrooms
    Rainwater Harvesting – the next big green trend in washrooms?
  3. Inclusivity.  ‘The Design of Buildings and their Approaches to Meet the Needs of Disabled People’ – Code of Practice was published in 2009. It  recommends that Changing Places toilets should be provided in larger buildings and complexes. But there are moves afoot that instead of being a recommendation, they should be compulsory for modern public new builds in order to not exclude anybody who may wish to use them.  As improvements to technology and subsequent reductions in cost have at last started to kick in I think ‘changing places’ will become more common in public areas – particularly shopping and leisure centres as well as larger pub, hotel and restaurant chains who see the commercial opportunities targeting the ‘disability dollar’.

    cropped-toilet-symbols.jpg
    Changing Places – legislation change?
  4. Toilets as a retail business.  The model has been around in Europe for a few years and the first unit has opened up in Covent Garden (2theloo) but I suspect there will be at least 6 in London before the year is out.  As shopping centres start to bear the brunt of local authority cutbacks there will be growth in a fully commercialised public access toilets across City Centres and tourist areas across the UK.

    commercial toilets
    2theloo retail washroom concept
  5. Can and battery free air fresheners.  EU waste legislation is a bit sketchy here but the industry is poised for a massive shift from standard aerosol, battery operated type air fresheners to non aerosol and battery free alternatives.  V-Solid from vectaire is the one to watch.

    v solid
    Air freshener of the future?

So there you have my 5 toilet predictions for 2016.  If only I had the toilet equivalent of Marty McFly’s sporting almanac!  Thanks for reading my blog please share it if you see fit and a like is always welcome.  Warm washroom wishes for 2016, whatever your business.

The Humble Toilet Brush

toilet brushes

The flushing toilet was invented by John Harrington in 1596.   However the modern plastic version of the toilet brush was not invented until 1932 by William C. Schopp (source: Wikipedia).

This begs the question how did they clean toilets in the intervening 336 years? Lets not dwell on that, this post may be unpleasant enough.

It would be fair to say that there hasn’t really been much change to the ‘modern’ toilet brush and 99% of brushes sold still use the same design.  However there is a big question that needs to be asked.  How often do you clean or replace it (the toilet brush). Mainland Europe are leading the way in the commercial sector with washroom companies offering toilet brush replacement on a 12 weekly cycle. A waste I hear some of you shout?  yes it possible is, but the cost to wash a sanitise a toilet brush head (both carbon and financial) is probably very similar to the cost to replace new. Replacement frequency like all things depend on use.. If your toilet brush looks like a hedgehog with alopecea, then I suggest you change it. Whether you clean it or replace it depends on you and what you to do. If you have a bespoke or fancy toilet brush holder finding a toilet brush to fit may be an issue and may not be cheap.  And don’t forget to clean and sanitise the very holder you keep your toilet brush in.

toilet brushA personal bug bear of mine is toilet brush holders on the floor of public toilets.  A busy cleaner invariably (not all) mops around the holder  so nit only do you have a dirty toilet brush but a dirty floor where it sits.  Vendor (Netherlands

Vendor wall mounted toilet brush and holder

 

 

 

 

However the toilet brush is evolving and the new generation of brushes are more like cooking spatulas.  Here is the Cool Blade which is you will agree very ‘cool’ as toilet brushes go!

UPDATE: (7/12/15) I have discovered that CoolBlade are crowdfunding to bring the unit to market.  Details here.  So far they have raised over £50,000!

LooBlade_21st century toilet brush
Cool Blade toilet cleaner (brush)

Toilet brushes are not your usual topic of conversation but everyone has an opinion.  They come in all shapes and sizes and prices vary from £1 in Tesco to £579 for a copper ‘Zodiac’ in Harrods.   However the thing we all agree on is the annoyance when the person before you doesn’t bother to use it!

Black (Light) Friday – Identifying Malodours

You would think in an enclosed space like a washroom, identifying where a smell comes from would be easy?  Well not so.  Identifying the source of any bad smell is key to the remedial action needed to resolve the issue. Here is how we do it.

  1. Urinals.  The usual suspect is urinals which are partially blocked or have reduced water flow.  If the water flow is too low then there is no liquid air lock to prevent smells backing up the waste pipe.  The solution is to insert a proper waterless urinal trap and service it regularly OR increase the water flow to ensure that there is an air trap being created. One of these solutions is more environmentally responsible but both work.
  2. Floor drains.  Many washrooms have open drains which may or may not have some form of trap to prevent smells rising from the waste tank or drain.  This needs a bit of expertise to resolve but your local plumber or washroom specialist should be able to resolve by inserting a trap of some description.
  3. Black Light.  You may think that your cleaner is doing a good job but

urine stain black light

black light allows us to use CSI technology to identify bodily fluids – which luckily for us are florescent under certain frequencies of UV light.  By identifying where the uric acid is building up you can ensure that the cleaning schedule is adjusted to minimise the odour causing bacteria.  The way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to use a ‘biological’ washroom cleaner – We recommend Delphis Eco Bio Washroom Cleaner. This will create a barrier that stops the uric acid from clinging to the surface and lets the clever little microbes in the product to eat away at any uric acid crystals leaving a pleasant smell. Black lights can also identify Scorpions and Bed bugs (too much information?).

Air Fresheners are do not resolve odour issues but mask ‘temporary’ odour issues that you get in the washroom area.  Odour neutralisers or citric fragrances work best, in our opinion, but really the fragrance that works best is an individual choice and will only work if the washroom facility is clean functioning properly.  People smells we can do nothing about. If your timing is bad – just find another toilet!

Christmas Cheer in the Washrooms

Christmas Toilet

So the Bah Humbugs might wish to swap the toilet paper for Holly but here are a few simple things to help get your washrooms feeling a bit christmassy!

  1. Add a little fake snow to the mirrors – either use a template or go freehand it can have a stunning effect if used correctly.
  2. A little bit of tinsel can go a long way.  Use some double sided tape to make a little Christmas decoration around the toilet door symbols for example.
  3. Recycle old Christmas cards. Cut and paste an old Christmas card on the cubicles doors.
  4. Change the toilet door symbols to Mrs Claus and Santa Claus (a favourite of mine).
  5. Change the air freshener to a Christmas fragrance.   If you have an independent washroom company ask them to put in a Christmas smell – Our favourite is Apple and Cinnamon.
  6. Stick a sprig of mistletoe outside the toilet door – you never know who will be passing.
  7. Install a ‘potted’ Pine tree great decoration and pine fragrance.
  8. Smile. Sharing a smile is the best gift you can give and do it every day!

Happy Christmas,

The toilet Fairy

Christmas toilet ideas

So as a business instead of sending Christmas cards and dropping in a few bottles of wine why not do something a bit different this year?

There are a few charity toilet ideas (yes I know you can buy a classroom and a goat, etc. But I am a toilet expert).

Here is my favourites and recommendations

  1. Toilet Twinning.  The great thing about giving a customer a ‘toilet twin’ is that it last all year and every year.  Once a toilet is built then it is theirs as long as it still stands.  Your customer gets a lovely framed print of the actual toilet – the toilet itself gets a plaque so the users know where its come from and you even get the GPS co-ordinates so that you can look at it on google earth.  What’s not to love?  Prices start at £60 for an individual toilet up to £240 for a school toilet block.  What’s not to love? A gift that saves lives. More info here.  (Toilet Twinning)
  2. Oxfam Unwrapped.  The original Charity gift scheme and probably still the biggest. There are 3 ‘hygiene’ options that are suitable.  Again choice is yours and budgets amounts are smaller so you can share the love a bit the costs are as follows and are available online (http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-unwrapped) here. Or pop into any Oxfam shop – here is a break down of my 3 favourites (but I also love the goat).
    1. A compost toilet costs only £20
    2. Fix a well costs £22
    3. Safe water for a village £50
  3. If you find any more Christmas toilet ideas be sure to let us know!

 

Wet floors in washrooms

Wet Floors used to be restricted to around the urinal area.  Us boys can be messy creatures, but there are other sources of moisture in the washroom that may need to be addresses  Her are some problems and possible solutions:

P: Wet floors around urinals from high water pressure.  A:Turn the water pressure down or alternatively fit a urinal screen to minimise splashback.

P: Excessive mopping. A: Keeping a washroom clean is excessive but traditional kentucky mops can leave a lot of moisture on the floor.  Have a look at microfibre flat mopping it wll leave the floor 70% dryer than traditional mopping.

P: Leaking pipes around urinals or cisterns.  A: Try to identify where and when the leak occurs then call the plumber!

P: Dyson Airblades.  A: Other high speed dryers are also guilty of transferring water from hands to floor.  If it is an issue you can fit a drip plate  available from www.o3solutions.com or seak to your local washroom supplier about fitting a washroom mat below to catch excess water.

P: Winter weather.  A: If you are getting wet feet into the washrooms ten your entrance matting to the building isn’t doing its job.  Trapping moisture at entry.  Look at increasing entrance matting over the winter months or installing matting at the toilet entrance/exit to minimise risk bot ways.