Public washrooms are not a place where people feel comfortable

Sanitary facilities rate poorly in an international survey

, 29/03/2017

How clean are public toilets? Not very, according to a recent survey. There was good news for employers though: Their WCs were judged to be the cleanest. In contrast, there is plenty of room for improvement in washrooms in schools, service stations, train stations, airports and department stores. By implementing a suitable concept in these locations, operators can ensure better standards of hygiene, which translates to a higher sense of well-being and higher satisfaction among users.

  • More than half of Europeans avoid visiting public washrooms.
  • The willingness to pay for clean washrooms was surprising high.
  • A hygienic washroom contributes to the good image of the venue/facility as a whole.


The results were collected in a recent survey conducted by the market research institute net-request on behalf of the CWS-boco Group. 1,000 people aged between 16 and 60 were surveyed in January 2017 in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Leaving the loo

There is a Europe-wide consensus as far as cleanliness is concerned. With a result of 97 per cent, cleanliness was important or very important to all those surveyed, regardless of their gender. However, more than half of those surveyed (59 percent) consistently avoid visiting public toilets. In Germany, as many as 65 per cent of people would rather not use the washroom; in the Netherlands, this figure is just 48 per cent.

If those surveyed do visit washrooms, 88 percent have left one without using it in the past after finding it unsanitary. Belgians (94 percent) and the Dutch (93 percent) are particularly critical in this respect and women leave public toilets without using them significantly more frequently than men. The youngest and oldest visitors feel particularly uncomfortable.

Employers top the hygiene ranking – service stations bring up the rear

Employers scored highly with their washrooms. Almost 60 percent of those surveyed assessed the standard of hygiene in their workplace as good to very good. In Switzerland, the figure was as high as 77 percent; in the Netherlands in contrast just 34 percent. Compared with department stores, train stations/airports, service stations and schools, this puts employers at the top of the scoreboard, followed by department scores in second place. 37 percent of the respondents rated the toilets there as good to very good and 41 percent said that the toilets in department stores were satisfactory overall.

The washrooms in schools and train stations/airports received similar ratings to each other. Assessment of cleanliness in the education facilities in particular differed considerably, with one third of those surveyed rating the toilets as very good and very bad respectively. The Swiss are particularly happy with their school toilets (54 percent), whilst the Germans are particularly unhappy with them (just 16 percent responded with good to very good). Service station toilets rated the worst of all. More than half of all the respondents said that the hygiene there was bad to very bad.

Hygiene contributes to a clean image

If the washroom is not clean, women in particular feel uncomfortable in the whole location. 90 percent stated that the cleanliness of the washroom has an effect on their perception of the place as a whole. 87 percent of all those surveyed shared this opinion.

Pay attention, restaurateurs and hoteliers!

Visitors to hotels and restaurants are quickly put off by poor hygiene! Three quarters of those surveyed said that they would not visit a venue again if the washrooms were dirty. This feeling is stronger the older the visitor: Among those aged 16 to 20, 65 percent agreed with the statement. Among those aged 51 to 60, the figure rose to 81 percent.

High willingness to pay

Well-equipped and tended washrooms have a positive effect in turn on the image of the venue or facility as a whole. “Outsourcing of the washroom is a good alternative. A service provider rents the corresponding premises and takes care of the entire maintenance,” said Johannes Winterhager, Head of Complete Washroom Concepts at CWS-boco International, explaining the idea behind concepts such as loovio by CWS. At 73 percent, the percentage of potential visitors willing to pay for a truly hygienic toilet is very high. In Germany and Italy in particular, those surveyed were very willing to put their hands in their pockets for better hygiene and a greater feeling of well-being.

You can find the complete results of the study here.

Background material
Interview between Prof. Dr. med. Klaus-Dieter Zastrow, Vivantes-Kliniken Berlin, and Jennifer Preuninger, Head of Product Management CWS at CWS-boco (August 2016):


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