We’re taking the battle of the sexes into the ring to find out who’s cleaner in the restroom, men or women?
You may think restroom cleanliness a trivial thing to measure. But hey, the question elicited more than 4,000 responses on Quora and trended high enough to become morning show fodder on the Today show. Let’s face it, inquiring minds want to know. What if it was your job to clean the crown? You might not only be interested in knowing what to expect as you approach the loo, but also be able to speak authoritatively on how the sexes stack up and how they can improve their restroom habits. Armed with this knowledge, you are sure to be the most sought-after person in the room at your next office party.
Here we go!
Round 1: Reputation
We acknowledge this is, for the most part, an unscientific measurement since it depends in large part on whom you ask. However, Initial Hygiene did ask. Their research shows 43 per cent of women believed their male colleagues were lazy, unhygienic and never washed their hands. Men didn’t go that far in describing themselves, but they did believe their female colleagues were close to perfect, with 89 percent of men believing ladies in the office always washed their hands and were generally cleaner.
The winner: Women
Round 2: Handwashing
So, let’s put that perception to the test. This one is slightly more quantifiable. Not only have men and women answered this question anonymously in surveys but a handwashing study actually placed moles inside public restrooms all over the country to watch and record how many men and women wash their hands after restroom use. Guess what? There is a large discrepancy between how often men and women say they wash their hands and how often they actually do wash their hands. In the study for the American Society for Microbiology and the Soap and Detergent Association, 92 percent of adults say they always wash their hands after using public restrooms. However, observers noted that only 66 percent of men washed their hands after using the restroom and 88 percent of women. This means that 12 percent of women and 34 percent of men did NOT wash their hands after using a public restroom. Ewwwww. So, think twice before shaking a guy’s hand.
The winner: Women
Round 3: Germs
Germs are microscopic, and it should come as no surprise they are plentiful in restrooms. That contamination directly affects hygiene even if it looks clean. Would you believe it if we told you scientists have discovered more than 77,000 different types of bacteria and viruses in bathrooms? 77,000! That figure is almost too much to comprehend, but just know the main culprits are fecal bacteria, influenza, streptococcus, E. coli, hepatitis, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), salmonella, shigella and norovirus. Let’s just concentrate on coliform, the bacteria found in fecal matter, and E. coli, also an intestine-borne bacteria. A study by the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI), swabbed sinks, toilets and floors in men’s and women’s restrooms, as well as sanitary napkin disposal areas. In all categories, women’s restrooms had more bacteria present by a rate of about 2:1. Some reasons for this could be that women’s restrooms get more use, women are more likely to bring germy children in with them, women need to dispose of sanitary napkins, and there may be more bacteria in women’s sinks because they wash their hands more often. Regardless, from a germ standpoint, men’s restrooms are by far the cleaner of the two.
Round 4: Mess
Although women’s restrooms seem universally recognized as harboring more germs than men’s, restroom cleanliness is often perceived by appearances. How cluttered and visibly dirty are the counters and floors? Are the toilets clogged? Are the toilet paper and paper towels where they are supposed to be or everywhere but? We are afraid there is no conclusive evidence on this one. While a University of Arizona study from 1997 claimed that men had messier restrooms, that was a long time ago. If you ask almost any janitorial service or public property manager, most will claim the women’s restroom has more clutter and mess, but again, keep in mind women’s restrooms usually see more traffic and include more children.
Round 5: Odor
Let’s face it, no matter how clean a restroom may be, if it smells, people will consider it dirty. Common restroom odors come from the gasses emitted when going #2, which can be exacerbated by fatty diets, dairy, antibiotics, illness, etc. Body odor can also contribute to an overall unpleasant aroma, especially in warmer temperatures, but the number one culprit in creating restroom odor is uric acid, AKA, pee. An 18-month study out of the University of Toledo found there are four root causes of that urine stench. Missing the mark, which happens when urine hits the floor, walls, and shoes, splashing (even if one does hit the mark), urine absorption and buildup in grout areas, and ineffective maintenance. Even knowing that urine is often the cause of a smelly bathroom, many companies don’t effectively clean them. That’s when a quality commercial bathroom cleaning is in order. The right tools and products can ensure a thorough cleaning, right down to the tile grout. We couldn’t find any research to explicitly state that men’s restrooms smell worse, but we think the urine study makes it a no-brainer.
The winner: Women
Our tally shows women winning this battle of the sexes, but with those germy scientific studies supporting men’s relative cleanness, it is far from a KO. There is room for both sexes to clean up their act, especially in the handwashing bout. Handwashing remains the single best way to get rid of germs and prevent infection. As more gender-neutral restrooms begin to pop up, maybe both sexes will be more prone to do things like close the toilet lid before flushing and making sure refuse makes it into the appropriate place… or maybe not. And the battle rages on.