Bradley Survey Illustrates Why Clean Restrooms are Good for Airport Operations

June 25, 2024
Bradley Company
Bradley Company commercial washroom

In a recent survey by Bradley Company, nearly 70% of Americans reported having a particularly unpleasant experience in a public restroom due to the poor condition of the facility. The top restroom aggravations include clogged or unflushed toilets, an old, dirty or unkempt appearance and unpleasant smells.

Unfortunately, airports that neglect restroom cleaning and maintenance are jeopardizing customers’ repeat business and sales. Almost 60% of respondents believe an unclean restroom shows poor management, 56% are left with a tarnished opinion of the business and half vow not to return or will think twice about doing so. 

On the other hand, 62% of Americans make a point to stop at businesses with clean and well-maintained bathrooms when they need to use the facilities, and nearly 60% willingly spend more money there.

Those findings are based on a 2024 survey of more than 1,000 American adults conducted by Bradley, a leading manufacturer of commercial washroom fixtures. Bradley has conducted the Healthy Handwashing Survey™ for 15 years to monitor the state of public restrooms and perceptions surrounding them, as well as Americans’ handwashing habits.

“While 43% of Americans believe the overall condition of public restrooms has improved over the past 15 years, that leaves 57% who remain unimpressed,” said Jon Dommisse, vice president, business development and strategy, Bradley Company. “Our research shows that business owners with subpar restrooms are leaving untapped sales opportunities on the table.”

This year’s findings pinpoint key consumer pain points, and preferences and behaviors in restrooms, providing insights on ways to improve airport washrooms for repeat business.

Here are some of the study’s biggest takeaways:

Misbehaviors Spoil the Restroom Experience

Sometimes it’s the lax or poor behavior of other restroom users that irks restroom users, which can still reflect poorly on the business. Top restroom pet peeves include used paper towels left on the floor or sink; water splashed around the floor or sink; and careless or reckless behavior that results in damage.

The survey also queried participants’ attitudes when they observe someone in a public restroom not washing their hands before exiting. Almost 70% of Americans recall seeing somebody use a restroom without washing their hands, which creates a negative impression about that person. Men (79%) are more likely than women (59%) to witness others skipping the suds.

Covid Hangover

Despite being four years out from the COVID-19 pandemic, people remain in an elevated state of germ consciousness, causing sensitivity to the cleanliness in restroom spaces. In fact, 80% of Americans say they are now more conscious about coming into contact with germs because of the coronavirus. The facilities that cause people the most concern about germs are:  1) stores, 2) health care establishments, 3) restaurants, and 4) gas stations.

“Like the iPod forever changed music and 9/11 changed air travel, COVID will forever change public bathroom design,” Dommisse said. “People want clean, well-stocked restrooms that they don’t have to touch.”

Can’t Touch That

People go to great lengths to avoid coming in contact with germs in public restrooms. Almost 70% of Americans use a paper towel as a barrier between themselves and flushers, faucets and doors. 46% use their foot to flush a public toilet -- much to the dismay of airport maintenance staff responsible for fixing broken flushers.

With so many people cautiously avoiding contact with restroom surfaces, it follows that 86% believe it is important to have touchless fixtures in a public restroom. 70% are more likely to return to a business that offers touch-free technology like faucets, flushers, soap and towel dispensers in its restrooms.

Another bonus: based on their integrated design – no handles, levers or buttons – touchless fixtures are easy to clean and their concealed mechanics can help discourage tampering.

Restroom Wishlist

When asked the most important improvement they’d like to see in restrooms, respondents said, “clean them more regularly and keep them better stocked.” Next on the wish list is making everything touchless.

“Even if it means investing in an additional staff person, our survey responses tell us you should make restroom cleanliness and proactive maintenance high priorities at your business,” added Dommisse. “It’s an investment in customer satisfaction, brand image, and health and safety.”

The annual Healthy Handwashing Survey from Bradley queried 1,003 American adults Jan. 4-9, 2024, about their handwashing habits, concerns about seasonal viruses and their use of public restrooms. Participants were from around the country and were fairly evenly split between women (51%) and men (48%). 1% of survey respondents selected other.

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