Here at Airdri, we recently commissioned a UK-wide survey to gauge the state of the country’s public bathrooms, as well as public opinion on where they’ve found the very best and worst examples of bathroom hygiene.

The research, a revealing insight into how clean (or not) the UK’s public toilets are, was timed to coincide with the launch of our new, ultra-hygienic, first of its kind, hybrid hand-dryer-sanitiser called PureDri.

Post Pandemic Cleaning Standards Plummet

The pandemic refocused the nation’s attention on how important hygiene practises like rigorous cleaning schedules and regular hand washing are for preventing the spread of diseases.

Yet for those thinking that improved hygiene and cleanliness would have continued as we transition to ‘living with covid’, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

Over a third, 36% of all respondents said that half or more of the public bathrooms they’d recently visited were dirty.

Some 52% of those people would be ‘unlikely’ or ‘very unlikely’ to return to the venue where they had encountered a dirty toilet, demonstrating the importance the public still places on cleanliness even as businesses do not.

When encountering a dirty bathroom and asked what they would do about the situation, 28% said they would warn family and friends, 25% would avoid returning to the venue, and 22% would complain to the manager.

London Rated Worst for Bathroom Cleanliness

There are more dirty bathrooms in the Capital than any other region, making London the area with the worst rating for bathroom cleanliness overall. Some 42% of Londoners stated that half or more of the restrooms they had visited recently were dirty – around 10% higher than in most other regions.

Not one single person from London said that every bathroom they’d visited recently had been clean, compared with an average of 5% for the rest of the UK.

Shopping Centre Hygiene Goes Down the Toilet

Among the types of venue with the worse record for bathroom hygiene were shopping centres.

Nearly half (46%) of women and a third (31%) of men, had encountered the dirtiest bathrooms in shopping centres. Shopping centres were the second worst performing venue overall, second only to train stations.

Nearly a quarter of women, (23%) said they wouldn’t return to a shopping centre venue because of dirty bathrooms, sparking debate over whether this could be another nail in the coffin for high street stores trying to entice customers back from the world of online shopping.

Trouble on the Tracks as Commuters Shunt Train Travel Due to Dirty Bathrooms

It’s not just rising rail fares and delayed trains putting commuters off travelling by rail. According to our research, 40% of commuters have encountered dirty bathrooms on their journey, a higher percentage than any other type of venue with a public toilet.

The bad news for the government and campaigners trying to keep on track with aims for increased use of public transport, is that over half of those interviewed (52%) also stated that they wouldn’t return to a venue where the bathrooms were unclean.

Welsh train station toilets were the worst to fare regionally. When the data was analysed, over half of Welsh commuters (51%) said that cleanliness in the railway bathrooms left much to be desired. Yorkshire and the Humber had the second worst hygiene standards at 48%, followed by 46% of travellers here finding dirty loos along their journey in the North East.

“Train station bathrooms were the worst offenders in our survey, ranking more highly than supermarkets, shopping centres and even nightclubs and bars for the number of dirty bathrooms,” said Airdri’s Steve Whittall.

“For those trying to entice travellers back to the railways, as it stands, it appears dirty bathrooms could be the issue to derail their plans.”

Dirty Loos Putting Diners off their Dinner?

Of the types of hospitality venues examined in our survey, bars, by far, fared the worst, 37% of bar visitors had experienced dirty bathrooms, followed by 27% in a nightclub, and a quarter in a restaurant.

Music/gig venues and hotels came out on top with just 21% of those interviewed falling foul of a mucky loo in either type of establishment.

The survey also revealed that for those attempting to appeal to millennials, Generation X or the cash-rich Baby Boomers, it’s even more important to keep on top of the bathroom cleaning schedule.

Airdri found that as the age groups rose, so did the percentage of people who were bothered by poor restroom hygiene. Only 15% of the over 35s, 8% of over 45s and 9% of over 55s would go back to a venue after a gross encounter with a grubby loo.

Steve Whittall said: “Where alcohol is involved it’s often more common for ‘accidents’ to happen, leaving the toilets in a less than desirable state, so you’d expect bars and nightclubs to have the dirtiest restrooms, but visitors to a quarter of restaurants had also fallen foul of bathrooms so dirty that they wouldn’t return. That’s certainly something that would put me off my dinner!

“We know that word of mouth is hugely important for those in the hospitality sector and when asked what they would do if they encountered a dirty bathroom, our researched revealed that most potential customers would ‘warn friends and family not to visit. So, it’s clear that if they want to attract and retain more loyal customers, hospitality venues need to clean up their act, starting with the toilets.”

Reducing Risk at Every Stage with PureDri

Airdri surveyed 2000 people on the topic of public toilet cleanliness in March 2022, using online research methodology.

To help regain public confidence and reduce the spread of infectious disease, engineers at Airdri have developed the concept of the first-to-market, PureDri hand dryer unit which combines a powerful hand dryer with best-in-class air and surface sanitising technology. 

The PureDri provides a unique triple action defence against the spread of bacteria, mould, viruses, and odours in washrooms – it reduces risk at every stage, as well as resulting in a cleaner, fresher, and more sustainable washroom environment.

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