A properly designed public toilet facility improves the experience of both those who operate the facilities and those who use them.  Proper design reduces queuing, misuse, and lowers initial and recurring cost.

[insert picture] Planning a new public restroom?


At a minimum public restrooms must meet the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG).


When the lock in on the inside of the door to the full restroom, rather then on individual stalls, it significantly impacts the availability of the facility.  An unlocked facility may find a person in a stall while another is washing, and a third is using a hand dryer.  This same situation in a locked room would have 2 people waiting outside.   Room locks increase the opportunity for misuse.  Even an employee taking a smoke breaks, reduces the availability of the facility by those with a legitimate need.

The worse case implementation is when the above is implemented with a slide locks.  While fine on a stall door, a slide lock on the facility door  provide no mechanism for management to intervene when an occupant fails to respond after an excessive period of usage.   (See also RESTROOM DOORS below.)

Some restrooms, typically portable sanitation units have outside latches that accommodate a pad lock.  Occupants can easily imprisoned by a pranksters using no more then a stick


Not everyone washes their hands after using the toilet.  Those that do should not be required to touch potentially unclean surfaces after they have scrubbed.  Restroom doors should be designed so that after one has washed their hands, exit is possiblewithout touching a surface.

Doors that swing outward allow one to exit without gripping a surface but they must be configured to avoid hitting passing hallway traffic. Labyrinth entrances (door-less) have no surface to contaminate and they avoid the problem of an outward swinging door hitting someone.  With no door opening to give warning of possible visit by security personnel, labyrinth design is less conducive to unwanted activity.  Additionally, the sound signature of criminal activity is more likely to be detected when no doors exist.


Mirrors can increase security by allowing a sight-line from the entrance to the back of the restroom.  Thoughtlessly placed mirrors, however, may provide a view from outside to areas where privacy was intended such as the urinals in a men’s room.

For more information, visit our Public Restroom Security page.


To prevent unnecessary queuing, anyone entering the restroom should be able to easily determine the state of occupancy of stalls.  This can be done with doors that do not fully close when not in use or by other devices that signal occupancy. The doors of stalls often loose alignment over time.  Doors should have sufficient clearance and locks latch length to function as the stall frame becomes misaligned.


Having the individual unisex toilet compartments with only enough room for a toilet significantly increases the likelihood that the room will be used for it’s intended purpose only.

As a free standing, low, “misuse” public restroom.


No matter what their configuration, public restrooms portals should be designed with sufficient width to accommodate peak times when users may be waiting in line.  People exiting the restroom should not have to jockey their way through or collide with people waiting to enter the restroom.  Entries and exits must accommodate the possibility that individuals with mobility-impairments needing a wheelchair, walker, or other devices and those traveling with luggage, baby strollers, etc. must be able to pass each other with adequate room to spare. This situation is a special problem in women’s restrooms where lines are more likely to form.  Of particularly importance to women, entrances alignments that provide a sight-line to all stalls to insure full utilization.  A separate exit sufficiently distant from the entrance to prevent users from looping back past one another, further reduces queuing.

To improve security particularly for women, entrances room should be located were the clearest site-line to high traffic public area’s exist.  Labyrinth entrances directly along major traffic corridors provide both the ‘sense of’ and actual security.  Worse-case configuration have restrooms at the end of long corridor’s  where users have no acoustic or visual site-line to trusted persons.


Open ceilings or a ceiling with ventilation provide a conduit for sound.  Some sound dampening is necessary to assure privacy but the knowledge that a call for help can be heard reduces apprehension of both the occupant and a waiting parent or spouse.


The efforts of a person who thoroughly washes their hands before departing a lavatory are negated if they must touch a door handle.  In most scenarios, it is likely that some previous users have failed to wash.  Doors that swing outward allow occupants to use their shoulders.  Eliminating this problem is another advantage of a door-less design.   Where a door handle must be used to exit the restrooms,waterless hand sanitizers should be provided on the wall adjacent to the door.  This allows the person exiting to sanitize their hands after opening the door.  Where paper towels are present many will use a piece of towel to grip the handle.  Some littering of the restroom floors can reduced by recognizing this smart practice  and providing trash receptacles close to the exit.


Automated devices reduce the spread of disease and cost by controlling product usage.  However, these devices are at times prone to failure.  Preferred devices are those that can also be operated manually.   Touch-less and automated devices include:

  • door openers
  • toilet flusher
  • faucets
  • liquid soap dispensers
  • hand dryers
  • paper towel dispensers
  • toilet paper dispensers

Particularly on commodes, it is important that the sensor be installed so that it does not prematurely initiate the flush cycles.  Wall sensors that detect movement away from the fixture may be less likely to falsely activate.


Hot water is appreciated by restroom users and is likely a municipal code requirement.   Automated faucets keep heating costs in check.  Point source heating allows instant availability of hot water and prevents energy waste when a faucets are left running.


People are sometimes soiled by overly sensitive automatic-flushing toilets that trigger while still in use or too quickly as the person begins to stand  Overly powerful pressure-assisted, water-saver toilets sometimes spray dirty water on toilet seats.  Both problems are unsanitary.


Toilet seats are often soiled by women who avoid contact by trying to squat above the seat or by men who stand to void.  Some who attempt to raise the seats find they will not remain standing.  All of the above problems are addressed by seats kept upright by spring loading.   Upright seats that block flush valves increase the incidences of un-flushed toilets.  Disposable seat covers should be available regardless of seat configuration.

Automated self cleaning toilet seats typically found in APT’s can now be found in building restrooms.

A common complaint to ARA are toilet seats that are not tightly affixed to the commode.


Background music inside the restroom, beside improving the ambience, provides a level of acoustic privacy.


Shields between urinals provide privacy and prevent splash from spreading.  The latest version of the International Plumbing Code contains code that mandates partitions between urinals.  If sufficiently high they also hinder person to person eye-contact that leads to nefarious activities.  For additional information, see the IPA Restroom Improvement Project.


Particularly where people can reasonably be expected to have their hands full, malls, schools, etc,  restrooms should have shelves and coat hooks.  They should be sufficiently wide and strong enough to accommodate items that would otherwise be placed on  floor or the wet lavatory surfaces.

  • Misuse versus availability
  • Roll-over (switch-over to second roll) when empty
  • Extra-large rolls
  • Soft tissues are preferred by women
  • High dissolvability tissue prevents clogs in high use environments
  • Restricted quantity feed systems

Two major factors when considering a floor surface should be high tractability when wet yet smooth enough to accommodate easy cleaning.   Unfortunately these two factors often conflict.  Curved tiles in the corners (vs 90 degree edge) particularly between the floor and the wall, prevent dirt build-up and facilitate cleaning.


Provide framing for advertising.  Ad’s offset the cost of operation.   See Restroom Advertising.


Removing hand dryers does not mitigate the need for a trash receptacle.   Soiled children’s and adult diapers and sanitary napkins are a few items that need to be disposed of within the restroom.


Well ventilated restrooms can significantly reduce the sense that a restroom is dirty.  Ventilation also protects occupants from the misapplication of  dangerous commercial cleaning products.   As noted elsewhere, ventilation increase the chance that assault or vandalism will be heard.


The Number One Fear of Public Restrooms … Touching the Door to Exit the Restroom. The problem Has Been Solved by ASC Hygiene with Germ Free Door Handles

According to Kimberly-Clark over 55% of the people surveyed feared the door handles in Public Restrooms. Now thanks to ASC Hygiene the problem has been resolved with Germ Free Door Handles.

(PRWEB) February 10, 2005 — ASC Hygiene BioGuard is employing AgION Technologies silver ion based antimicrobial science to produce a new protective finish for door pulls and plates that minimizes bacterial growth on the surface of the finished product. BioGuard is now available on ASC door pulls, push bars, and protection plates.  How it works… The AgION antimicrobial compound is an inorganic material with the natural protection of silver. Encapsulated silver ions are slowly released from the antimicrobial compound to the treated surface where they interact with microorganisms on the surface of the product. This produces an effective shield against numerous strains of bacteria, yeast, fungi, and molds.  Proven Studies…   AgION antimicrobial protective finish stainless steel products have been field tested and recent studies have shown significant reduction in bacterial growth on push plates in a hospital setting. This cleaner surface was evident even in light of standard hospital cleaning procedures.  Durability…   AgION antimicrobial protective finish will remain effective for the useful life of our finish and does not cause any product discoloration.   Approvals…  AgION antimicrobial technology has been tested to be safe, including food contact applications. The AgION antimicrobial compound material has been EPA registered, NSF certified, and is FDA listed for food contact.
Discussion (ARA WTO)

Singapore is proposing 1.7m height and this will be implemented. However, Americans are taller than Asians, so 1.8m for USA is sensible. Also I notice 2 other points:

– The height from bottom of cubicles is 150mm in Asia except in Japan, it is 30mm to 60mm due to higher privacy needs. In USA, I could see the legs & sometimes the pants of the guy inside the cubicle because the height is perhaps about 250mm? This should be lowered in your next review so that privacy improves. I don’t know if this is similar in the female loo.

-Next, I observed that there are gaps between the doors and pilasters of the cubicles. This effectively gives a 3mm gap so that I can actually see the guy inside the cubicle. I was told that this is for safety in case the guy faint or is being mugged inside the cubicle. Please tell me your comments. I think this is a lack of privacy because a person normally feels very vulnerable when doing his toileting.
SOURCE: WTO email dated  March 21, 2005 12:02 AM
Subject: Re: Potential NARA action – ICC Partition specification recommendations

Your comments about safety are significantly important points. In the U.S. the opposition to public toilets is often based on a fear of crime or criminal misuse. Even existing facilities are often closed based on this fear or it actuality. Security officials argue for restroom design and layout that enables officers to detect nefarious activity without individual stall inspection. I doubt there is a security concern with the partitions between urinals although I would imagine that a short person whose vision sight-line was completely blocked might have a concern.

Most likely the ICC officials also tried accommodate cleaning. Low stall partitions hinders mopping.

While I thought we had a credible case for inclusion of some partition wording in the ICC, I agree with David, now that we know it was added in the latest publication, I don’t think we can make a sufficiently credible case for modification.

My copy of the 2003 UPC does not contain a partition specification. Does anyone have interest determining if the UPC needs urinal partition specification?
Source: ARA Email dated March 21, 2005 8:51 AM
Subject: Re: Potential NARA action – ICC Partition specification recommendations


“Restroom cleanliness is always one of the top five drivers of customer satisfaction,” says Lysa Scully of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Business travelers complain that they’re closed for cleaning.
INDUSTRY TRENDS: Airports upgrade their restrooms
USA Today 6/23/06

Surveillance cameras … at Strawberry Lake Park in Norway Mich, officials say, the cameras are legal.. The cameras are not in the stalls of the rest rooms.
WLUC-TV Negaunee, MI 6/19/06

…In what may be the future of high-traffic buildings in America, the architecturally inventive library on Nicollet Mall has installed surveillance cameras in its most frequented restrooms. The ceiling-embedded cameras do not videotape stalls or urinals, but they capture patrons as they head for the sinks and hand dryers.
SMILE, BOOK LOVERS TwinCities Pioneer Press – St. Paul,MN 9/23/06

…The escort policy is soon to be discontinued, and other options are more effective anyway: Investing in cameras to monitor bathroom entrances would minimize vandalism and identify the threat makers…
Salem OR Statesman Journal Heavy school security is an ineffective quick fix 11/22/06

Please work with architects, designers, etc. of fast food joints, etc. so that we can get out of the bathrooms without having to re-infect ourselves after we’ve washed our hands by touching the door handles to pull them open. It’s terribly infection control! These doors should all swing outwards!
Email to American Restroom Assoc

From Travel writer Dave Hunter
… Lastly, people can tinkle without touching much. The toilets flush by themselves. The sinks are automatic.And there is no door to open to enter the men’s and women’s rooms.
The Kentucky Courier-Journal 10/30/06

… hot day, long lines at the portatoilet, after many have used it, someone on the outside locks the door from the outside while someone is in it …
Email to American Restroom Assoc
ARA Note:: Portable Sanitation Units often have external fixtures to pad lock the doors.

City Council member Keith Rodgerson, D-133, proposed a change in local health ordinances that would require establishments serving the public to make sure there is a coat hook for each public “commode,” or toilet.

Please include 3 hooks behind doors for coats, hand-bags and other items. At the urinals, add a hook and a shelve for brief-case. At the wash-basins, add a hook at the fascia of the vanity top and step shelves between basin & mirror. This also protect the mirrors from wetness and requires less cleaning
Email from Jack Sim Pres. World Toilet Org

According to the advertisingcompany Media Life, there are over 50 flat wall mounted screens at JFK Airport Terminal in the men’s and women’s rest rooms. The screens cycle still frames of advertising According to media life the Ads run in a 30-second loop, and each ad shows twice per loop, for three seconds at a time.
Advertisers Reach Travelers at JFK Restrooms – Media Buyer Planner 12/22/06

Alabama Department of Transportation spokesman discussing a Welcome Center upgrade “…One of the things we’re looking at is doing two sets of men’s and women’s restrooms. A lot of the centers have those to allow closing one set for cleaning….”
Athens News Courier Welcome center at state line to be demolished 12/13/06

PUBLIC BATHROOM DOORS: Bill would require the door to all public bathrooms or bathrooms use by food handlers to open outwards from the inside so that in order to exit, the doors must be pushed rather than pulled. The measure is aimed atpreventing people from having to touch a door handle filled with germs after they have carefully washed their hands.
Sommerville Journal MA 2/16/07

…One of the suggestions is that thebathrooms be equipped with shelvesadequate for people to put their books, coats, etc. down without having to set them next to a wet sink or trying to carry them while doing all the gyrations necessary and risk dropping them…
Email to American Restroom Assoc

…an infrared detection system became available to record employees’ restroom habits. Sensors could record and indicate when a person entered a restroom, and whether they stopped at the sink for at least 15 seconds to wash their hands, and even whether they used soap…
Redding, CA The Record Searchlight 5/20/07

Toilet Paper Holder Placement …Because it is necessary in most cases to pull the paper downward from underneath, toilet paper holders should go higher, not lower, so that one can look underneath it to determine if toilet paper is even in the holder before using the stall. It also makes it easier to access it and tear it off, rather than having to awkwardly reach down below the level of where one is sitting, which usually results in paper wastage because more than what is needed is dispensed.
Lake Zurich IL ARA Feedback Dtd 11 Nov 2007 12:06:28