Cheryl Gurner

Cheryl Gurner, creative director at Bathrooms International, has worked within interior design and the bathroom industry for the last 30 years. She has amassed a huge database of high-profile clients and projects both in the UK and abroad, offering what she describes as an "unrivalled personal service"

UK loos leave much to be desired

Posted 19th Mar 2012

Don't you just hate having to use a public loo? Every time I enter one I brace myself.

What will greet me in the pan? How much paper will be on the floor? How wet will the floor going be – and why? I mean, in the Gents' I'm told you expect it, but in the Ladies'? 

The flush never works properly, and the thought of who has touched it previously makes me feel positively ill. And let's not mention the odours.

I wash my hands as if my life depended on it, while noticing many other disgraceful (and, if you'll forgive me, ignorant) people leaving the washroom without washing theirs. What is it about human beings who don't understand that their bodies release E coli and can kill someone, invariably not themselves?

And what about those dreadful linen towels that are always soaked? You have to pull them down then wash your hands again because you don't know who's been touching the wet bit!

As a result of this disgusting behaviour, I always take a clean paper towel or tissue and use it to open the exit door – the handle of which must be riddled with germs. Eugh. 

If you're lucky, you will find many public loos have an infrared flush. However, these have lives of their own. One wrong movement and the damn thing flushes whether you're finished or not. Notwithstanding the fright you get, try getting the thing to flush again when you are done!

Sometimes there are also infrared taps, but you look as if you are trying to land a plane as you wave your arms to get it to work. Usually, in fact, you find a foot pedal hidden somewhere in the floor.

Public toilets are, in general, filthy. And don't you just adore those little notices with squiggly signatures pinned to the wall that say, 'These toilets are checked every 30 minutes. If you find them unsatisfactory, please let us know'. Yeah, right.

UK loo flushing systems are chronic – they don't do the job. I care, but most others don't.

And what about airplanes and trains? OMG is the expression, I believe. With the exception of Singapore Airlines, whose crew members clean the toilets constantly, they are utterly disgusting. 

I am left aghast at the state, smell and condition of the tiny spaces they call toilets. More often than not they are in that state when you first board.

The stench is awful, and the toilet bowls and impossible-to-wash-in hand basins are minute and never properly clean. I can't bring myself to mention the state of the floors.

I blame the cleaners, the airlines and train companies and, most definitely, the majority of the public, whose personal habits and hygiene leave much to be desired. 

Is there no shame? Can't we clean up after ourselves and consider others?

Why can't we be like America? There, toilets flush and clean down every single time. Every public toilet has a container with a pull-out paper seat cover.

Piped music is played even in the cheapest of establishments. Little wall-mounted air fresheners spray periodically. Taps and soap dispensers are infrared and work every time you put your hands beneath the aerator. 

Paper towels are everywhere, the loos don't smell and our American friends seem to wash their hands.

Airlines, shopping centres, restaurants, rail chiefs: take note.

I have never felt that paper is clean and I've always admired the Eastern habit of using a shower spray in place of paper. 

Now the arrival of what I have named the 'wash and blow dry' toilet makes me want to pioneer its use. They originated in Japan – one of the world's cleanest nations.

It works like this: you remain seated and press the flush button at the side of the loo. Then you press the 'water' button to clean your nether regions with thermostatically controlled sprays of water. After this, you press the 'dry' button and warm, gentle air dries you off.

My first experience of this was in a hotel in Bahrain. I have to be honest, I felt so good, and so clean, I had another go.

This is how things should be. You touch nothing, spread no germs and end up fresh as a daisy.

We all have to use the loo, but we don't have to retch every time we do. Stand up and be counted. Complain. This really needs to change.

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