How Dirty are Public Baby Changing Stations? Hidden Dangers for Babies

Sign for Baby Changing Station Above Restroom

Baby changing stations are a modern marvel that became mainstream in restaurants, malls, grocery stores, and gas station restrooms in the 1980s. Until then, frazzled parents were juggling babies and diapers on restroom floors, counters, and in the backseats of cars.

While incredibly convenient, those flip-down changing stations can also become hotbeds of germs and bacteria. Every parent has a horror story of their two-month-old having a huge blow-out diaper at a restaurant. No matter how diligently a parent tries to clean up the public baby changing station, some tiny leftovers will remain for the next child who needs a fresh diaper. And the next parent to plop their baby down on the same changing station has no idea what just happened there 20 minutes ago.

What You Don’t See

Everything that goes into a toilet does not go down. That’s because when a toilet is flushed, it sprays microscopic water droplets up to 20 feet in every direction. Just like counters, sinks, and door handles — public baby changing stations are in the direct line of fire. They get a good coating of toilet spray every time someone flushes.

Experts say the most common types of bacteria living on public baby changing stations are found in fecal matter and include E. Coli, staphylococcus, and MRSA. Any of these things can make your child and you very sick. There is no foul play or malicious intent here, this is just the nature of public restrooms. Now that we’ve established what parents and babies are up against, what can you do to keep your child safe?

What Can Parents Do?

Squirming babies come in contact with everything around them. They’re curious by nature, and that’s a good thing, but not in a public restroom! It’s just one of those situations where parents need to go on the offense and keep the baby contained.

In addition to toilet spray, consider what may have happened with other children who utilized the services of that changing station before you. What if the previous baby had diarrhea? Your child could be at risk of picking up those germs, no matter how careful you are or how quickly you slap on a fresh diaper and make a run for the exit.

First, before placing your child on the table, take a minute to wipe down the baby changing station with a sanitizing wipe (or two!). Make sure to pay extra attention to the areas where your baby’s hands can reach and explore, such as hinges and the nylon safety strap.

Next, lay down your own portable changing pad. Some businesses will offer disposable bed liners, conveniently stored in the changing station. Parents also can buy disposable changing pads and keep a stock in the diaper bag for those times when you’re on the go. You may want to avoid using blankets and other fabric covers. They protect your child for the moment but can harbor germs and bacteria if you don’t wash the fabric before using it again.

Finally, make sure to properly dispose of diapers and wipes in the garbage can. If you use the portable changing pad that came with your diaper bag, it probably has a waterproof surface. Remember to wipe down the mat before putting it back into your bag, so you don’t bring home any germs and bacteria still lingering on the changing station.

Time for Dads to Share the Load (Pun Intended)

Great news, ladies! Despite what your husband may have told you, many public men’s restrooms DO HAVE baby changing stations. That means Dad can share diaper duty when the family is out to dinner!

In fact, the men’s room may be cleaner than the ladies’ room. No joke! One study found the restroom cleanliness of women vs. men, the men’s room had about half the bacteria as the ladies’ restroom. Fewer germs mean less risk while dad helps the baby into a fresh diaper, and Mom gets to finish her meal while it’s still hot!

How Businesses Can Help Parents and Babies

Public restrooms require constant attention from business owners to remain clean and sanitized, and a place that will not turn away customers. Businesses that offer parents the convenience of a public baby changing station in the women’s and men’s restrooms are already providing a helpful convenience to their customers. Stocking the station with disposable bed liners is another nice service. Thoroughly cleaning the baby changing station daily also will stop the spread of germs and bacteria that could make people sick and affect the reputation of your business.

At Enviro-Master, our mission is to disinfect, sanitize, and protect your business. Our weekly Sani-Service includes cleaning products with a germicidal barrier that lasts for a week. Our unique electrostatic spray service protects all the surfaces in your restroom, including the public baby changing station.

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