Pandemic changes the way people use public restrooms

TULSA, Okla. — The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people look at what is clean and what doesn’t seem sanitary enough anymore.

Enviro-Master of Tulsa says 46 percent of people are using public restrooms less during the pandemic, and one in three people has turned around and left because a restroom didn’t look clean enough.

Enviro-Master walked FOX23 through the men’s restroom at Broken Arrow Brewing Company, where they’ve been providing sanitization services since before the pandemic, to show where the germiest areas are in public restrooms.

The sink is the “epicenter” of germs in the restroom.

Enviro-Master says people shed microparticles of the COVID-19 virus in their waste, and those microparticles are released into the air when the toilet is flushed, known as a “toilet sneeze.”

That can travel up and over stall walls for several feet, and porcelain fixtures found in restrooms are highly absorbent and contaminated with urinary and fecal contamination.

Enviro-Master provides weekly sanitization to supplement the daily cleaning most businesses are doing. Anyone can look for a certificate or sticker inside a restroom to know if it’s been sanitized.

Here’s what experts advise people should do if they have to use a public restroom:

Be prepared. Bring disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer in the restroom with you in case the facility is not well taken care of. Wear a face mask to reduce the chance of particles in the air coming in contact with the mucus membranes in your mouth and nose — which can be an entryway for disease into the body. Touch as little as possible in public restrooms, including your face. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. Skip the hand dryer. Use paper towels, if possible. It may be a good idea to travel with a small pack of hand towels in case none are available. Research shows that air hand dryers can harbor germs and blow them back on your hands. Know this: Hand towels laid out on a counter (rather than pulled out of a covered dispenser) are exposed to all the germy particles floating around in the restroom, too. Smear on hand sanitizer once you leave the restroom. Get in and get out quickly. We still do not know how long we need to be exposed to the virus to become infected. Reducing your time in an enclosed space like a restroom can reduce your risk of getting sick.