Know-How: Washrooms

April 1, 2005
Equipping school restrooms with touch-free fixtures can help reduce the spread of germs and illness.

Restrooms are a necessity for schools, but the conditions inside can pose health risks. By the time a student has used all the necessary facilities in the washroom, he or she may be exposed to germs that can lead to illnesses that can then spread to other students.

School facility managers can minimize the exposure to germs by installing touch-free fixtures and equipment.

Most touchless systems use infrared sensors or timers to automate actions that otherwise would require hands-on participation from washroom users. In addition, such systems can be easier to use for those with disabilities.

Among ways to reduce the cross-contamination that occurs when many users come in contact with washroom fixtures:

  • Touchless flush systems

    When bathroom users don't have to push a button or pull a lever to flush a urinal or toilet, it eliminates one area of potential contamination. Many systems use infrared sensors to detect when to flush. If a touchless system is set up to flush automatically, it can diminish the sanitary problems that can result when bathroom users don't flush.

  • No-water urinals

    These systems eliminate the germs associated with flushing because they eliminate the flushing. The systems use traps and sealant liquids to drain urine and remove any odors.

  • Automated faucets

    Instead of pulling or twisting spigots to turn on water, these fixtures have sensors that control water flow. Besides reducing the spread of germs and making cleaning easier, an automated faucet can help reduce waste that results when a student fails to turn off the tap.

  • Automated drying

    Sensor-activated air dryers allow students to dry their hands without pushing a button. Other devices use sensors to dispense a paper towel for drying.

All these steps may go for naught if a student has to touch a germ-contaminated door to exit the restroom. A bathroom design that eliminates the need for doors also will help reduce the spread of germs.



Millions of school days lost each year because of the common cold.


Millions of cases of the common cold each year that affect Americans under 17 years old.


Percentage of female middle- and high-school students who say they washed their hands after using the bathroom.


Percentage of male middle- and high-school students who say they washed their hands after using the bathroom.

Source: School Network for Absentee Prevention

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