Changing habits in public washrooms

Hand washing has become a pre-occupation for the nation. As the spotlight turns on our public washrooms, Carole Armstrong, marketing manager at DELABIE, asks if they are able to cope with the increased demand to maintain the nation’s collective health.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but in recent times we have had to rethink our approach to something as simple as hand washing. Current advice to help prevent the spread of germs and bacteria has made us much more aware of how to wash our hands thoroughly and correctly. The current situation aside, we need to ensure that good hygiene habits are reinforced and continue in our public washrooms in the future.

Turn on the tap

We now find ourselves washing our hands far more frequently… before handling food and eating; after every toilet visit; after sneezing, coughing or nose-blowing; after treating a cut or wound; and after touching animals. And we are more conscious of how to clean them effectively: using soap and water where possible, and drying hands thoroughly with a disposable paper towel.

Self-closing time flow or electronic washbasin taps optimise hygiene because there is no manual contact with the tap after rinsing. Any germs or bacteria present on the controls are not transferred back to the hands. Replacing the aerator with a hygienic flow straightener will also minimise dirt and water retention at the outlet, helping to prevent the development of limescale and bacteria. Electronic taps have an additional benefit of a pre-set anti-bacterial duty flush which activates if the tap is not used for 24 hours. This prevents water stagnating in the tap and the pipe work, a key factor in reducing bacterial growth.

Turn off the tap

In the fight to keep bacteria at bay, our washing routine is now longer and more frequent. But how often do we leave the tap running? Traditional basin taps typically consume nine litres per minute. If hand washing takes 32 seconds, including wetting, soaping and rinsing, and the tap runs throughout, total consumption is 4.8 litres per use*. Typically, we wash our hands four or five times a day, but as we now pay more attention to hand hygiene, this has risen to at least 12 times a day. The impact on consumption is significant… increasing from 24 litres to 57.6 litres per person per day*.

With environmental concerns running high, self-closing time flow or electronic taps from DELABIE provide the ideal solution. They allow the owner to optimise the water bill without sacrificing user comfort. The valve closes automatically after seven seconds (time flow models) or after removing hands from the detection zone (sensor-controlled models), and the flow rate is also limited to three litres per minute at three bar. The user can, therefore, wet their hands, apply the soap and rinse without the tap running continuously. With a DELABIE electronic tap, water consumption falls to 0.6 litres per use, a drop of almost 90 per cent*.

Wash wash wash

Washing the hands more often and for longer takes its toll on the washroom facilities. Can taps and soap dispensers cope with this increase in use? Unmodified traditional taps have components that wear more easily, resulting in leaks, water wastage and more frequent repairs. DELABIE’s taps and soap dispensers, on the other hand, are made from durable materials like solid brass, with mechanisms that can withstand more than 500,000 operations. The fixings are also reinforced to prevent them from working loose over time.

But even the most durable mechanisms require maintenance when used intensively. Timely maintenance extends the life of the tap or soap dispenser. By choosing models with standardised replacement parts, that are easily accessible and easy to exchange, this maintenance is greatly simplified.

Apply enough soap

Bars of soap can potentially harbour germs and bacteria**, as a result, liquid soap and anti-bacterial gel have recently become essential commodities. For effective hand hygiene, the soap dispenser must be reliable and easy to operate. An electronic soap dispenser provides the ideal, hands-free solution for maximum hygiene. The DELABIE battery-operated dispenser works equally well with soap or gel, and delivers an optimum dose (0.8ml) with every activation that can be limited to a maximum of seven doses per user if the user gets a little too enthusiastic. In addition, DELABIE soap dispensers are easy to refill thanks to a wide opening.


Soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers and waste bins must also be able to cope. Public washrooms need accessories that will withstand regular cleaning, and that are equally durable and reliable. The non-porous, smooth surface and bacteriostatic properties make stainless steel the ideal sanitary material: easy to clean, requiring less detergent, and after cleaning, the retention rate of bacteria, germs and dirt is up to 20 times lower than with other materials such as glass or plastic.

Product design is also important – both taps and accessories should have simple designs with minimal joints where dirt and bacteria can build up. Models with a simple, one-piece design have a clear hygiene advantage over complex designs.

Hygiene is likely to remain firmly on the public health agenda. In the fight against the spread of germs and bacteria, hand washing is an essential weapon. Those at the forefront of public washroom management need to have solutions to provide their users with hygienic, water-saving and reliable handwashing facilities.

* Table of calculations

Flow rate Wetting Soaping Rinsing Water consumed per use Water consumed per person / day
Cross head tap 9 lpm 5 sec. 20 sec. 7 sec. 4.8L

(32 sec.)

4.8L x 5 uses = 24L

4.8L x 12 uses = 57.6L

Electronic tap 3 lpm 5 sec. 7 sec. 0.6L

(12 sec.)

0.6L x 5 uses = 3L

0.6L x 12 uses = 7.2L

** NHS guidance