Students Say Unclean Restrooms Impact Their Perception of School

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Menomonee Falls, Wis. — As a new school year begins, a survey of 9th to 12th graders reveals that unclean school restrooms cause them to have a negative perception of their institution and its leaders. 68% of students say school restrooms that are poorly maintained or unclean show the school doesn’t care about its students, reflects poor school management and lowers their overall opinion of the school. In fact, nearly half of students describe the condition of their school restrooms as poor or fair.

The findings are part of the Healthy Hand Washing Survey conducted by Bradley Corporation. The research asked students across the country about their school restrooms and hand washing habits.

“The negative impact of poorly maintained school restrooms is clearly significant and spreads beyond the bathroom doors to the entire school,” says Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development for Bradley Corp. “Female students are even more inclined to be negatively influenced by run-down school restrooms.”

The state of a school restroom likely factors into a student’s decision on whether or not to visit the restroom. While most (81%) use their school restroom on a daily basis, 19% claim to never frequent it. They avoid the facilities in part because they’re dirty, smelly or have broken or old toilets, sinks and doors.

Outside of schools, restroom conditions in public businesses also influence high school students’ perceptions and preferences. Most students (62%) have frequented a particular business based on its cleaner, well-maintained restrooms. Similarly, 64% of adults show preferential treatment for businesses with pleasant restrooms.

Privacy Tops Student Wish List

Students do have suggestions for school restroom improvements. Their number one request is more privacy. They’d like taller stall doors and want gaps between the stall panels eliminated. Their second wish is for cleaner facilities followed by more air fresheners. When asked what bothers them the most about school restrooms, foul odors top the list.

If students do encounter an unclean or unpleasant restroom, they usually skip their trip. More than half say they leave without using the restroom and 39% try to avoid using that restroom in the future. Just 20% take action to address the situation by notifying a teacher or school management.

In contrast, the Healthy Hand Washing Survey found that when adults are faced with an unpleasant restroom, their first course of action is to alert management (43%). Just 26% of adults choose to exit without using the facilities as opposed to the 52% of students who do so.

Avoiding Germs in School Restrooms

Germs in school restrooms are another hot topic. Students believe the germiest surfaces are toilet flushers, the floor around the toilet and stall door handles. Students back up their beliefs with actions – 46% operate the toilet flusher with their foot in order reduce their contact with germs and 33% use a paper towel to open the door. Females are significantly more likely to use these germ-avoidance strategies in restrooms.

And, even though most schools don’t post hand washing reminders, they might consider it. 57% of students say they’d be more likely to wash if there was a sign in the restroom.

The Healthy Hand Washing Survey by Bradley Corp. was conducted online Jan. 3-8, 2019 and queried 630 American students enrolled in 9th – 12th grade. Participants were from around the country and were fairly evenly split between males and females (49 and 51%).

Bradley is a leading manufacturer of commercial plumbing fixtures, washroom accessories, restroom partitions, emergency fixtures and solid plastic lockers.


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