COVID-19 has, without a doubt, changed the way we live, from the way we work and socialize all the way to the most mundane everyday actions such as grocery shopping or using a public bathroom. Not only are we cautious in our actions to prevent the spread of the virus, but this year has also made us more conscious about the importance of hygiene and the dangers that surround us in the form of germs wherever we go. This essentially rendered public spaces a hazard.
Public bathrooms have always been a hygiene concern, however, in the wake of the pandemic, they have become a particular issue. Many people feel like things will never go back to exactly how they were and what this means is that public spaces –such as bathrooms– will have to be adjusted to ensure better hygiene and a heightened sense of safety. Some of these adjustments have already started to make their way into bathroom design, but there is also still a lot of room for improvement. So, here are a few ways in which COVID-19 has and will affect bathroom design.
A closed arrangement
It has been known for some time, but one of the things that make public bathrooms so “dirty” is their air. What happens every time someone flushes a toilet without its lid closed is they disseminate a cloud of toilet water droplets into the surrounding air. Needless to say, toilet plume, as it is called, contains potentially illness-causing germs. There is little you can do about them if they are aerosolized and you breathe them in. Many public toilets do not even have a lid that could stop the contents of the toilet bowl from entering the air. Additionally, stalls with an open top and bottom allow this contaminated air to travel all over the bathroom in all directions. This is something that is to change in the world after COVID-19. Toilets with lids and closed, single-person bathrooms should be the norm to upkeep hygiene.
The hand dryer dilemma
Closely related to the previous issue, how we dry our hands might also change in the light of recent events. Bathroom air is dirty enough as it is, but what aggravates it even more are hand dryers that are like a magnet for bacteria. Germs thrive in the hot air blown by these hand dryers and they are spread all over the bathroom air every time someone turns the dryer on. In addition, your clean, wet hands will be covered by germs by the time you walk out of the bathroom if you use the hot-air hand dryer. However, this does not necessarily mean that hand dryers will disappear from public bathrooms. Since bathroom air is the main offender here, a good ventilation system and the aforementioned solutions against toilet plume will reduce the number of bacteria in hand dryers. Nevertheless, for the time being, equipping bathrooms with paper towel dispensers is certainly a better choice.
Distance, distance, distance
Keeping distance in public spaces is of crucial importance when it comes to protection against COVID-19. Unfortunately, small and cramped commercial bathrooms are not suitable for this. The crowds that can form during busy events, particularly at women’s restrooms are also a point of concern. More and more people are advocating for gender-neutral bathrooms for this reason. In addition, it is possible that bathroom layouts will see some changes as well to encourage one-way traffic which is another practice formed during the pandemic.
Touch-free fixtures are a staple in public bathrooms. People are always reluctant to touch anything in these places, therefore, touch-free options will help keep bathrooms orderly (no more flushing the toilet with one’s foot). Needless to say, in the wake of COVID-19, this is the only way to go for a commercial restroom. The convenience of automatic faucets, an automatic soap dispenser and touchless flushing will most likely mean that they will not go anywhere even after the pandemic is over. We might also find more and more restrooms with automatic doors as well, or an insurgence of “doorless” designs that make use of winding shapes to ensure privacy.
Small design changes can go a long way in boosting the cleanliness of a public restroom. For instance, the right sink choice can reduce puddles around the bathroom that are formed due to the water splashing. So, deeper sinks, much like those that are used in hospitals, might find their way into bathroom design. Another way to prevent puddles from forming would be by being mindful of the placement of the hand dryer or paper towel dispenser. Water puddles in bathrooms attract bacteria and they are also a safety hazard, so while these changes might be small, they can still be impactful.
Residential bathrooms might see some changes too
It is not only commercial bathroom design that might see some long-term changes because of the pandemic. During lockdowns, people have realized the significance of practical bathrooms and are making changes to better accommodate their new way of life. For instance, at the beginning of the lockdown, toilet paper shortages made people realize the benefits bidets have, so we might see an increase in bidet sales. But that is not the only way residential bathrooms might change. Nowadays, people, such as medical workers or those commuting, prefer washing up before entering their living spaces. Nothing is more convenient for this than a bathroom (or even just a half bathroom) connected to the powder room. Ultimately, even just a sink by the entrance would make washing one’s hands easier when they enter the home, and this might be something we will soon see in interior design.
There are many ways in which bathroom design has and will adapt to the current needs of people all over the world. The hygiene standards have been raised and once they are high, people will not settle for less. However, as much as hygiene is up to great design, it’s also up to the people using it properly. Thankfully, features such as automation make it easier to keep public restrooms orderly, which is exactly why these changes are here to stay.
About the Author
Neil White is an automotive&travel journalist from Sydney. Neil was into cars since he can remember, and road trips are his greatest childhood memory. Combining journalism and traveling is something that he was dreaming about, so now he is considering himself a really happy person.