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Dirty Bathrooms: What Nightmares Are Made Of

Survey suggests that consumers will spend more at establishments that focus on restroom cleanliness.
March 12, 2018

MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. – Businesses that make a point to clean up their restrooms may also clean up in sales, according to new national research conducted by Bradley Corporation.

The annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey reveals that almost half of Americans say they will “definitely” or “probably” spend more money at a business that has clean, well-maintained restrooms. In addition, nearly 60% of Americans make a conscious decision to visit a specific business because they know it has nice restrooms.

“The inherent correlation between restroom conditions, businesses and customers extends even deeper than we realized,” says Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development for Bradley Corp. “Our survey has previously highlighted how well-maintained restrooms increase patronage; learning that people also reward these businesses with their spending power was further confirmation of how consumers respond positively to clean restrooms.” 

For restaurants, the judgment surrounding the condition of restrooms is especially tough, as 82% think a restaurant with dirty restrooms is “extremely” or “fairly” likely to have a dirty kitchen. Further, out of all types of facilities, restaurants and health care establishments cause Americans the most concern about workers not washing their hands.

The survey also shows that when businesses let restroom maintenance slip through the cracks, they are at a high risk of jeopardizing customer satisfaction and sales.

“More than half of Americans say they are unlikely to return to a business after experiencing a poorly maintained restroom,” Dommisse said. “Others will complain to management, tell a friend or leave right away without completing their business.”

That means more businesses may be on shaky ground with customers since 70% of Americans report having an unpleasant restroom experience—a number that has steadily increased from 59% over the past three years. In fact, 42% said they had a bad experience within just the past two months.

When asked about the biggest pain points in restrooms, an overwhelming majority identified the following circumstances as “extremely” or “very” aggravating:

  • 83%: Toilet clogged or not flushed
  • 78%: Toilet paper dispenser empty or jammed
  • 74%: Partition doors don’t latch
  • 73%: Unpleasant smells
  • 72%: Overall appearance is old, dirty or unkempt

Top restroom frustrations include having to walk across a wet floor (women in particular), reaching over someone to access soap and waiting in line for a hand dryer.

The survey also delved into perceptions about this year’s pervasive flu season. Almost 60% of Americans are “extremely” or “quite” concerned about contracting a new or particularly resilient strain of the flu. This elevated concern appears to prompt more diligent hand washing, as 65% of Americans say they wash their hands more frequently or more thoroughly to avoid getting germs or passing them on to others.

Per a May 2017 NACS consumer survey, 75% of travelers said they would use a convenience store bathroom when fueling up on trips, a 5-point jump from 2016.