The Portland Loo

Is this the answer for public toilets | The Toilet Expert

I have written a few times now on the decline of the Great British Public Toilet.   Now let me introduce you to a real contender  for a low maintenance replacement.

The Portland Loo
The Portland Loo

It’s called the Portland Loo because it was created in the City of Portland in Oregon USA.  These public loos are simple and sturdy – indeed it is designed to withstand wind gusts up to 140mph – maybe not a problem in the UK apart from the Scottish Islands.

The design is small and the sink is outside – not inside so people spend less time in there.  There are also angled slats so that the police can monitor who is using the toilet without compromising their privacy.   The toilets are lightweight, made of stainless steel and come with graffiti-proof coating in order to require minimal ongoing maintenance, which all sounds great, but are local authorities prepared to provide clean decent facilities and will people use them?

Certainly the folks of Smithers in British Columbia,Canada were extremely excited to be installing one and it made CBC news on 6 January.   Can you see a public loo installation in Scotland making headline news?  No, me neither!

But maybe the next time your local authority closes down a public convenience and sites maintenance and upkeep as the issue, point them in the direction of a Portland Loo

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Snow is falling…….

As Shakin’ Stevens says ‘…children playing, having fun’ but Shakin’ forgets to highlight the slip risks that invariably arrive with the snow, especially on tiled or hard flooring.

For those businesses that have carpeted entrance areas the risk of slips and falls is minimised but the risk of unsightly water damage or salt staining can leave a bad impression as well as unwanted deep cleaning or replacement costs in the spring.

So it is at this time of the year that entrance matting can come into its own.  All of our mats are rubber backed so that any snow melt or grit deposited onto the mat will not soak through to the flooring, the risk of slips and falls is drastically reduced and water damage to the floor/flooring is removed.

I would always recommend to any business if they can install an external scraper mat, not a domestic mat you may have at home the size of A4 piece of paper but a commercial one that will stand up to hundreds of feet being scraped on it daily. A plain scraper mat costs as little as £150 but these can be branded to match your business and a branded option can start from as little as £195. Not bad if you think it will last 18-24 months.

An external mat is just left outside and just needs a brush down every now and again.  Internally I would recommend that you employ an independent washroom services company to provide a two weekly lift and launder service. This essential service reduces damage and slip risk and a basic mat can cost as little as £2.20 a week.

Mats can be made to any design, even HD quality, so if you did want a picture of your dog it can now be done.  The cost to have a bespoke mat created is not as high as you may think but it will depend on the complexity of the design and the size of the mat.  But let’s face it a great entrance mat can enhance any building entrance even one that says something as simple as ‘Welcome’.

We have created all shapes and sizes of bespoke entrance matting over the years and once the design is agreed we can have them installed within 10 working days so even though the snow is falling – it’s not too late to get a great looking entranceway for the worst of the weather.

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The Holidays are coming – part 2

Christmas is nearly upon us and the toilet or washroom area can be a tricky place to deal with over the festive period – depending on what type of business you have.

In part 2 of this Christmas Blog I will look at the businesses that close down for two weeks or longer over the festive period and some of the things you need to do to ensure that your toilets are clean, fresh and still working when everyone returns to work.

  1. Check your service company schedules.  If you have a service due over Christmas contact your service company explain you will be closed and arrange an alternative date (preferably before you close).
  2. Urinals – if you don’t have water management systems installed – install them. Instead of wasting water down the drain they can be adjusted to flush down once a day. This prevents the u-bend drying out and the drain smells coming back from the sewer
  3. Ensure that the washrooms are cleaned prior to holidays starting and pay special attention to:
    • Toilet bowls. Clean inside and out and leave lid down to prevent evaporation.
    • Waste paper bins. Ensure they are empty: they make great nests for mice.
    • Any leaks are fixed. A small drip could be a torrent after two weeks.
  4. Heating. If you are planning to switch the heating off, drain down the pipes but this is a lot of work.  Much better to keep the heating on low to prevent any pipes freezing should here be a cold snap.
  5. Stocks.  Just make sure you have enough essentials to last the first week back.  Deliveries are notoriously unreliable the first week back after the holidays.

There you have it five easy steps to ensure you have hassle free washrooms before, during and after the Christmas break.

Merry Christmas!

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The Holidays are coming – part 1

Christmas is nearly upon us and the toilet or washroom area can be a tricky place to deal with over the festive period – depending on what type of business you have.

Therefore I am going to concentrate in this blog on the hospitality sector who will have already placed orders for food, drink and organised staff rotas, etc.  Of course the same goes for consumables for the toilets and most decent washroom or janitorial businesses will give their customers a call to ensure that they have sufficient stocks and are well aware of delivery dates over the busy spell.

After saying all this, we still get calls from businesses that have been let down over the festive period and need an emergency service call or delivery of something essential.  So for all the bars, restaurants, hotels destination venues that rely on this important time of the year here is my Christmas list for you.

  1. Stock up! Washroom consumables never go out of date so ensure you have enough to get you to the 6th of January.  Courier companies always have a back log post Christmas so deliveries can be delayed just when you need them most.
  2. Use space saving systems so stocking up doesn’t mean you lose an office. See previous blogs on foaming soap and toilet paper
  3. Increase toilet checks. Toilets need more frequent checks when you are busy – don’t rely on a customer to tell you when something is wrong.
  4. Try to build in at least one extra ‘clean’ during the day. Using a biological washroom product will reduce smells and a build-up of organic material.
  5. Act on a problem. If a urinal is blocked don’t just put it out of use and wait until January to fix. If one goes, others get used more and this exacerbates the issue so get someone in to fix it.
  6. Ensure you have an emergency contact list that includes your Plumber, Electrician, Supplies and Services and let staff know where it is.
  7. Check with your service company when they will be in over the festive period. And make sure they stick to it. It’s important to your business – it should be to theirs.
  8. Set up a donations jar. Christmas is a time of giving so why not ask customers when they spend a penny to make a donation to a worthwhile cause such as Toilet Twinning or a local homeless charity.

In next week’s WC I will talk about the issues regarding the other extreme – those toilets that are discarded for two weeks and left cold and dark and what you can do to ensure there are no nasty surprises when you return from the Christmas Break.

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Making your Washroom Smell like a Rose (or whatever you want)

In my last blog I wrote about the various factors that cause malodours and the difficulties due to the location and materials within the washroom that can hinder the challenge to eradicate the bad smells.

You can imagine my relief when I opened my daily Toilet News to read:  WASHINGTON: Sick of smelly toilets, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has funded the development of an odour-blocking perfume.

Having read the story I think the Bill Gates Foundation could spend their money on something better, but hey, each to their own?

For those of us that don’t have a few billion lying around to eradicate smells, here are my thoughts on fragrances for toilets and some of the options that are out there for the commercial washroom space.   First and foremost, an air freshener, whatever the types work best with clean toilets.  So the less you clean the harder it becomes to hide the smells.

Air purifiers/ozone generators/odour eliminators

The manufacturers of these types of products will be aghast that I have lumped them together. The systems use one or multiple technologies to clean the air – in short destroying the organic particles in the air that cause the smell.  These can be great in high volume traffic areas, but they are expensive. They will reduce certain odours but leave a somewhat sterile smell.

Battery Operated Air Fresheners

The most common solution found in the commercial washroom space. There are far too many options to cover in this blog and I may do a product review page on all the brands I know at some point in the future but the advantage is that they are serviced regularly and a good service company will change the fragrance on every visit so that the toilets have a ‘new’, clean smell.  The fragrances will vary dependent on the service provider’s supplier, as will the quality of the fragrance but also it’s worth checking that the fragrance doesn’t clash with your cleaning products.  If you are using buckets of pine disinfectant to clean your toilets every day – best stick to pine.

Passive Air Fresheners

These are becoming more common, partially due to changes in the waste legislation.  Traditional dispensers have cans and batteries and both must now be accounted for as waste.  Passvie units use neither; they tend to have a bio technology which breaks down naturally over a period of time (A Gel or Oil) and releases fragrance as this process occurs.  It is key to site these dispensers where there is air flow i.e. next to a door or window so that the fragrance circulates but the difficulty is the consistency of fragrance.  These units will dry out quicker and be less effective dependent on the condition, temperature, air flow, etc.

Hybrid

New to the market is an Oxy-Gen fragrance dispenser.  This clever piece of equipment combines battery and passive. So it uses a battery to create a charge which displaces fragrance at regular intervals but relies on natural occurring airflow to circulate the fragrance.  It is a very clever system and the units are about 25% the size of a standard battery operated unit so very discreet.

Seasonal variants

Many independent washroom service companies will install a seasonal fragrance such as spiced apple and cinnamon, or winter berries or even tangerine – all smells associated with Christmas as part of your regular service call.

Whatever your fragrance needs I would recommend that speak to an IWSA member (Independent Washroom Services Association) to discuss what system works best for you, don’t be scared to ask for a 30 day free trial and make sure the fragrances work for you and your toilets!

Smelly Loo’s No More

smelly-toilet

 

The art of a clean smelling toilet starts with the clean.   Identifying the source of a bad smell can sometimes be very obvious, but when deciding on how you want your toilets to smell there are a lot of factors you have to consider.
I will cover some of them here but please, post specific questions if you have them.

A UV or blacklight is a great way to identify areas that are getting missed on the cleaning schedule
A UV or blacklight is a great way to identify areas that are getting missed on the cleaning schedule

Customer profile – male, female, adult, child or all?
Knowing the profile of the people that use your toilets will go a long way towards helping plan on how to keep the toilets smelling fresh. The profile can impact on how often the toilets are cleaned, but the composition of the toilet surfaces will have as much impact.

Age of the toilets
The older the facilities the more likely they are to smell.   Pipes leak, tiles crack, etc and these little things can create the opportunity for damp or algae and these can make toilets smell.

The fabric of the building
Tiles are great, but grout is not and then add in all the other surfaces in the washroom.     Most of these will require a different cleaning product – a toilet uses a more abrasive cleaning agent than a mirror does for example.     Add into this the organic matters that will be present in the washroom and that makes a lot of components that can combine to make a toilet ‘smell’.

The cleaning regime
Most commercial toilets are cleaned once a day.  Admittedly, many businesses now ‘check’ the toilets and have a dandy little signature sheet on the back of the door.  There is no guidance here on how often your toilets need cleaned but common sense should prevail.     I would recommend Delphis Eco cleaning products (www.delphiseco.com).   Personally, the smell of pine disinfectant or bleach fills me with dread and I find these mask smells and perhaps are hiding the issue..  By using a non or light fragranced smelling product you know when you have a problem.

Temperature
Bacteria needs wet, dark and warm.   Many washrooms are wet and dark so by restricting the heat in a toilet you can reduce bacterial growth.  Turn radiators down and keep your toilet temperature a degree or two below your office temperature where possible.

Fix problems
Dripping taps not only waste water but help increase the humidity in a washroom which encourages algae growth.  A broken toilet seat is more difficult to clean. If your office printer was broken you’d get it fixed very quickly – the same should apply to a broken toilet seat.

These ideas are somewhere to start if your toilet is smelly, but if you need more advice just give us a call at Caledonian Washroooms – after all our motto is “If your Toilets Smell, give us a Bell”

 

 

“The Last Sheet” – there’s nothing worse in the toilet…..

In the commercial washroom environment it is not quite the same as popping down to the local supermarket to choose which toilet paper to buy.  In the supermarket all toilet paper is designed to fit the same delivery system, a domestic toilet roll holder.  In the Commercial washroom space there is a lot more to consider and it is important to consider several factors before deciding which system works best for your business type.

Users – staff, visitors, both? 

Knowing how much paper you will actually use will go a long way into helping decide what system you need.  Your supplier should be able to advise you on how much paper you will use and what sort of stock levels you will need to ensure you never get caught short.  In an office environment the building will use approximately 800m of toilet paper per employee per annum but add onto that visitors and seasonal staff and the number could change.

Cleaning schedules – how often are your toilets checked?

Getting into a cubicle to find no paper is one of the worst scenarios out there, whether at work, visiting a business or venue.  So how often are your toilets checked and how do you ensure that paper never runs out?  Well again advice from your washroom service provider will be invaluable.  It is imperative that the system you install will hold sufficient paper to manage between service or cleaning visits.   It may be a false economy to have a system that someone physically has to check 4 times a day when a better system may only need checked once a da.003

Waste and hidden charges

Many systems if not fit for the location will induce added waste.  Jumbo toilet rolls by their very nature always need to be changed out before they are finished.  This excess paper left on the roll invariably is thrown out or left to fall on the floor and become useless.  Alternatively, systems that don’t restrict usage can cause excess toilet paper being used and subsequently create blockages.

Design

Aesthetically pleasing may not be robust enough to deal with wear and tear associated with high traffic locations.  The decision to have beautifully designed toilet roll holders or chunky stainless steel depends on your business type and your budget. ‘Beauty is in the size of the holder’.

Cost – nothing is for nothing.

Should your supplier offer dispensers for free be very cautious – these have to be paid for somehow and this invariably will be by the paper company who once you have them, you can’t get paper to fit unless you buy the expensive option.

All of that and I haven’t even mention 1ply, 2 ply, 3 ply, super soft, etc.  In the commercial space I would recommend a decent quality 2 ply.  Preferably with either a Nordic Swan or Eco Label certification to ensure that it is sustainably sourced.   In the UK we spend over £1.1billion per annum on toilet paper.   It is a huge market where 99% is flushed down the drain, a sobering thought.

 

Is the public toilet heading for extinction?

(This weeks Comment from the Closet is from Rannoch Station – one of Scotland’s remotest Public Loos -or is it?)

Every day I get an email which sends me links to any news story that involves toilets, sad I know but I am a toilet expert and I am genuinely interested in keeping up with toilet trends and any toilet associated stories in the news.  However a week does not go by now without there being a story on a local council closing or at least having ‘consultation period’ regarding their current toilet provision.  Just yesterday it was reported that a public toilet in Somerset was sold for £44,000, more than twice the estimate, ‘for development’.  In this example, like many, the onus is being left on community or shopping centers to provide facilities or councils creating charitable trusts to run ‘parks and recreation’ facilities and passing the responsibility to these new charitable trusts.

I am glad to say that occasionally local businesses take up the gauntlet and should you be in Stonehaven buying Fish and Chips at ‘The Bay’ then you will see a great example of a former council toilet now being managed by the local businesses to maintain a facility that ensures young and old will not be put off by a lack of facilities.

comfort

 

 

I have long been of the opinion that toilets are critical to any community and that with some careful management can be cost effective – this has been proven across Europe with the so called ‘commercial toilet concept’ where private operators are establishing and running profitable commercial toilets.  ‘2 the Loo’ being one such operator that last year opened a commercial toilet operation in Covent Garden but expect many more to spring up.  I am not against commercialising public conveniences, people want clean, hygienic toilet facilities and will pay a reasonable price to use them. I do object to local authorities that would rather see them disappear than a commercial option be at least attempted.

So for all those councillors and ‘ne’er do wells’, here is my free guide to local authorities to help them make their toilets at least cost neutral and in some cases revenue generating.

  1. Location – historically local authorities would want to place toilets in low cost locations. To be a commercial success you have to be where the action is so a location on a High Street or at least main thoroughfare is essential.   This not only increases footfall and awareness but an added benefit is a high profile location decreases the risk of vandalism.
  2. Keep them Clean – Toilets need to be clean and have basics such as soap, toilet paper, warm water, etc. The better the finish the better the perceived value from the paying public.  Local authorities may be loath to ‘spend a penny’ on facilities but the public will and even something as simple as a donation box will generate revenue towards the upkeep.
  3. Ensure access for all – Within the public demographic those that need to go to the toilet in an emergency are at the extremes of the population. Babies need changing, Toddlers and young children can’t always ‘hold it in’ and at the other end of the scale the elderly who may have confidence or bladder issues.   It should be made law that every town center has a Changing Places compliant public toilet. (www.changing-places.org)
  4. Make them fun – create toilets that Children will want to go to. Install a disco ball and a ‘Puff the Magic Dryer’ to make it an experience that demands a family visit when in town.
  5. Involve local businesses – Local businesses want footfall into their stores by getting businesses to refund the toilet cost in exchange for goods you drive custom into their store. With increased footfall you can explore the marketing opportunities within the washroom area.
  6. Finally – Remember it’s a toilet not a new school or a hospital, but any changes to public facilities locally cause a massive hue and cry (usually stirred up by the press). Keep all the stakeholders involved, reinforce the benefits to the community, remind everyone better to pay a little than lose the lot.

So there are my thought.  I am not expecting local authorities to come charging down my door, but it is being done in Europe successfully and there is no reason why we cannot stem the decline of public loos with a little vision, a little investment and a lot of support from the public.

Saving the NHS £1million a year with some foam

Comment from the Closet (at the hospital) – listen for someone knocking on the door

Last week I found myself as an unplanned guest of the NHS in Scotland. The quality of care was fantastic and the improvements in communicating and reinforcing good hand hygiene practice over the last few years have improved immeasurably.

However I was amazed to find that the NHS is still using cartridge liquid soap systems.  Now I can see the positive arguments for using a cartridge system, which is more expensive than bulk fill but in a hospital environment where you need single use dispensers and ease of shifting stock between rooms, bays, wards and wings the cost is probably worth it.

liquid-soap-cartridge

The bit that surprises me is that the hospitals have not moved to a foaming soap delivery method.  ‘Why should they?’ I can almost hear you ask. Well we recommend foaming soap over liquid soap for a variety of reasons so let’s look at them individually.

  1. Cost – foaming soap lasts about 10 times longer than liquid soap depending on the manufacturer’s dosage. The average liquid soap will dispense between 1-3ml of soap per ‘pump’, and even 2 or 3 pumps of liquid soap doses have less volume than one dose of foaming soap.
  2. Efficacy – when washing hands it is important to wet your hands first so that the (liquid) soap is spread easily across the skin. Foaming soap has a much higher liquid content and is much easier to spread over the skin.
  3. Dry Skin – liquid soap is much more concentrated and is more difficult to wash off the skin. By leaving traces of liquid soap on your skin the oils are removed and can cause dry or cracked skin.  Foaming soap is less concentrated and easier to wash off the skin.
  4. Packaging – the current system uses a plastic bladder inside a cardboard box. The box could go or even a supplier being innovative and moving to an even more environmental option
  5. Fun – children love using foaming soap it encourages them to wash their hands!

So why would the NHS not make the change?  Possibly the cost to replace the millions of soap dispensers in the system, although any supplier worth their salt would be happy to bear that cost.

Possibly risk of infection? I can see an argument (albeit a weak one) that the foaming soap is mixed with air to create a foam or mousse, and that there is a hypothetical risk of pathogens being exposed to the soap, but is this risk any higher than pathogens being exposed to liquid soap not being washed off of hands properly?  I think not and both risks are reduced by the use of hand sanitisers in the wards these days.

So this begs the question why does the NHS not make a small change and save potentially millions of pounds instead of washing it down the drain every day in every hospital in the UK?

The Golden Toilet – is museum taking the P*ss?

New York’s Guggenheim museum unveiled a solid gold toilet last week.  Whilst reading the story in the Guardian I was convinced this was some sort of April Fools joke.  But alas it wasn’t.

The fully functional, Solid Gold Toilet sits on the 4th floor of the museum with the only indication of the museum’s latest ‘exhibit’ being a security guard outside the toilet, a small plaque and a ‘no bag’ policy.  The practicalities of having a permanent security presence and stopping anyone taking a bag into the fully functional convenience may mean that at some point in the future the door will be replaced with a glass screen when the novelty wears off (and the costs are realised)?

In order to get it made, the museum sent two of its existing toilets over to Italy where the replica was made by the artist Maurizio Cattelan, who describes the piece as “100% art for the 99%”.  Cattelan made several casts of the various parts of the toilet which were then soldered together to make the perfect copy.

goldenloo

So what are the practicalities should any of my clients ask for such a thing?  Well if they can afford a Golden Loo I am not charging them enough!  The issues are all about security not cleaning – actually a Golden Toilet would be relatively easy to clean.  The toilet in question however will be cleaned every 15 minutes using a sanitizing wipe and steam cleaned at longer intervals to give a ‘hospital level of cleanliness’.  Anyone that has contracted a hospital acquired infection will be pleased!

However maybe I am reading too much into this – the piece is titled ‘America’.  I am no art connoisseur, but if this is a reference to America ‘going down the pan’ and the ongoing US Election campaigns then maybe Cattelan and the Guggenheim deserve more credit.  Let’s hope that when the Golden Throne is no longer newsworthy that the ‘Powers That Be’ melt it down and use the funds to build 1 million toilets in the third world.  That would touch many more lives than the 4th floor of a New York Museum.