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Restroom Quality Leaves a Lasting Impression on Customers

Almost 60% of consumers believe an unclean restroom shows poor management, according to a survey from Bradley Co.
public restroom teaser

MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. — Nearly 70% of Americans recall 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, according to the annual "Healthy Handwashing Survey" by Bradley Co.

This means convenience store retailers 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 50% 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.

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"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 at Bradley Co. "Our research shows that business owners with subpar restrooms are leaving untapped sales opportunities on the table."

[Read more: Survey: Clean Restrooms Can Increase In-Store Sales]

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

Some of the study's biggest takeaways are: 

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:

2024 Bradley Co. survey_restrooms
Bradley Co.
  • 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 enquired about 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.

Post-COVID Sensitivity

Since the onset of COVID-19 four years ago, 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 — particularly retail establishments. The facilities that cause people the most concern about germs are:  

  1. Stores
  2. Health care establishments
  3. Restaurants
  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."


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. Nearly half (46%) use their foot to flush a public toilet — much to the dismay of building maintenance staff responsible for fixing broken flushers, Bradley Co. said.

[Read more: Summer Travelers Willing to Pay for Preferred Convenience]

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, and 70% are more likely to return to a business that offers touch-free technology like faucets, flushers, soap and towel dispensers in its restrooms.

Restroom Wish List

When asked about the most important improvement they'd like to see in restrooms, respondents cited cleaning them more regularly and keeping 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."

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. 

2024 findings are based on survey of more than 1,000 American adults that was conducted Jan. 4-9 about their handwashing habits, concerns about seasonal viruses and their use of public restrooms. Full results of the 2024 survey are available here.

Menomonee Falls-based Bradley Corp. is a leader in advanced commercial washrooms and comprehensive emergency safety solutions that make public environments hygienic and safe. It is a subsidiary of Watts Water Technologies.

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