Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cleaning up on toilet etiquette

For most of us a bathroom serves as a utilitarian tool in which to perform certain bodily functions and then we depart. It doesn't rate as a primary focus in as far as the surrounding utilities are concerned. On the other hand using a public bathroom can be a somewhat daunting experience especially when cleanliness is an issue. In some coutries, bathroom etiquette plays an important role in society. Take Singapore for example, who recently launched the public campaign, LOO or Let's Observe Ourselves, in an effort to clean up its public bathroom image. Taking those three words at face value and given the subject being bathrooms... but I digress. Anyway...

Having 30,000 public washrooms, the city-state is making a conservative effort to make 70% of them 'three-star-clean' by the year 2013. In a survey conducted by the Restroom Association (Singapore), only 500 of their toilets overall were up to standards that include working facilities (presumably referring to toilets that flush and/or don't over-flow), lack of visible trash and odor and the presence of hand soap and toilet paper or hand dryer. Speaking/writing of electric hand-dryers, why is it that so many public washrooms use hand dryers that make a lot of noise but have barely any air, hot or cold, to dry hands? It's easier to use toilet paper that ends up sticking to wet hands but again I digress.

RAS President, Tan Puay Hoon, told reporters at a press conference that in Singapore culture, toilets indicate how civilized the population is. Actually, the state of toilets anywhere and everywhere says something about a given society. In visiting various countries in Europe, I've come across facilities that include a drain in the middle of a tiled floor to relieve oneself. The first assumption was that the toilet had been removed for whatever reason but then after checking with the owner of said bathroom it appears that one squats and... You get the picture.

The RAS rates toilets from three to five stars depending on the quality of the facilities. For example, a four star toilet would have a diaper-changing place or urinal for children, whereas a five-star rating would have eco-friendly features like water-saving taps.

To call attention to its 3-year blueprint on public restroom and a public awareness program, the RAS launched LOO@Heartlands -- the first coffee shop with a five-star toilet. The RAS said it would also distribute packets of pocket paper with restroom how-to etiquette messages to toilet users during peak hours at shops nearby.

The RAS was founded in 1998 as a non-profit organization and says it is dedicated to promoting the cleanliness, design and functionality of public toilets in Singapore.
The LOO Campaign began in 2008. The RAS has also conducted the Happy Toilet School education program and is a founding member of the World Toilet Organization and the Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement.

When it comes to bathrooms, Singapore wants to be flushing with pride. Don't we all?

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