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The wrong school washroom system

Conventional toilet rolls, bulk fill soaps, C-fold hand towels – all are commonly seen in the school washroom. But all of them are wrong for the environment in question. Why? Liam Mynes from Tork manufacturer Essity considers why some washroom systems are unsuitable for schools and comes up with alternatives that will work more effectively

School washrooms have changed very little over the years.

They are renowned for being messy, unpleasant places that are often littered with half-used toilet rolls and discarded hand towels. And many are equipped with the lowest-cost soap and paper systems in a bid to improve the institution’s bottom line.

For example, conventional toilet rolls are still the norm in many school toilets because they are relatively cheap and can be sourced from Costco or any other cash-and-carry. Some schools might equip their washroom cubicles instead with jumbo rolls to reduce the amount of maintenance required.

Bar soaps are also still being used for hand-washing in some institutions whereas others employ low-cost bulk-fill systems. These allow the cleaner to manually top up existing dispensers with liquid soap.

And hand towels either tend to be supplied in a stack on the units or in a C-fold dispenser. This is because C-fold units are cheap and functional, whereas installation costs can be saved altogether where no dispenser is supplied.

However, all of these systems represent poor choices for the school washroom environment.

Conventional toilet rolls may be cheap to buy, but they might be thrown around the toilet premises by unruly pupils. They could also be left on the floor where they will quickly become wet, soiled and unusable. This will lead to the supply running out too rapidly and the washrooms becoming even more messy. And some rolls might end up down the toilets where they could cause expensive blockages.

Jumbo toilet rolls have the advantage of being housed in lockable units that prevent students from mishandling them. But the dispensers need to be periodically checked to ensure that the supply has not been allowed to run out. And cleaners may be tempted to replace a roll before it has been completely used up to avoid having to make a repeat visit, a practice that can add to paper costs.

Bar soaps will quickly become slimy, cracked and unpleasant to use and may also end up on the floor. And bulk-fill soap systems are hard to fill without creating drips on the sinks which means some of the soap will be wasted. Meanwhile there will be a slimy residue left on the units which will create more work for cleaners.

C-fold towels are another unwise option for school washrooms because they can lead to excessive consumption, unnecessary waste and messy units. This is particularly the case where loose towels are provided to avoid the expense of installing a dispenser. Any pupil picking up a hand towel will inevitably drip water on to other towels, making them unusable.

C-fold dispensers might offer some protection for the hand towels, but these units make it difficult to take out one towel at a time – particularly if the dispenser has been over-filled by the cleaner. Each student will therefore be forced to take out a clump of towels and will either use more than they need or leave the discarded towels on the units where they will be wasted.

And while low-cost dispensers might seem to be a good option in general in school washrooms, these types of units are easier to open, damage or rip from the walls than sturdier alternatives. And this can be a problem in school toilets where vandalism is an ongoing issue.

The “Devious Licks” TikTok craze that swept the world in autumn 2021 led to millions of pounds’ worth of damage being caused to school washrooms worldwide. The movement originated in the US and prompted students around the globe to vandalise their school washrooms, rip off dispensers, break mirrors and smash sinks and post evidence of their destruction on to social media.

The craze has since died out but the destruction continues. Earlier this year, Lincoln Castle Academy took the step of removing the outer doors of its washrooms to curb the problem of vandalism to its toilets and sinks. And a school in Hungerford took the step of locking its toilets during lesson times this year to prevent the practice of pupils trashing the facilities while the teachers were otherwise engaged.

So washroom systems should be chosen with care to help prevent problems such as mess, wastefulness, over-consumption and vandalism.

All dispensers should be sturdy, lockable and damage-resistant to reduce the vandalism risk. They should also be designed to control consumption and offer a long-lasting supply of product to reduce maintenance and prevent run-outs.

Soap should be provided in sealed cartridges that can be clicked into place inside the dispenser to prevent the issue of waste or mess. And hand towel and toilet tissue dispensers should be designed to give out only one towel at a time so that pupils need to work harder to access more paper.

Drug-taking can be a major problem in secondary school toilets – and this practice is hard to monitor in the private washroom space. It is not uncommon for students to stash drugs and drug paraphernalia in crevices in the washroom or even in the dispensers themselves.

Units should therefore make drug-taking more difficult by offering no crevices and ideally, no flat surfaces on which paraphernalia could be placed.

School washrooms are a special case. It can be a major challenge to equip them in a way that ensures that all systems are used as they were intended – and are not abused instead. But by making smart choices and by keeping the end-user in mind, washroom managers can provide school facilities that are both pleasant to use and cost-effective to operate.

  • The Tork PeakServe® hand towel dispenser and the Tork SmartOne® toilet tissue system help to control consumption in the school washroom because they give out one sheet of paper at a time. The Tork SmartOne dispenser also contains no flat surfaces or crevices where drug paraphernalia may be left or stored. And all Tork Elevation dispensers for soap, hand towels and toilet tissue are robust, lockable and easy to clean. For more information, go to www.tork.co.uk

About Sarah OBeirne

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