Definitive Guide to Cleaning Restaurant Restrooms

Most customers view the cleanliness of a restroom as a barometer of the restaurant’s overall cleanliness. There is no doubt that having a clean restroom is an expectation of customers and can have a huge impact on the overall success of your operation.

How often should restaurant restrooms be cleaned?  Restaurant restrooms should be cleaned and disinfected twice a day (oncee in the middle of the day and once at closing), detailed weekly, and checked every 15 minutes to maintain cleanliness.

Restroom cleanliness is something that can make or break a dining experience. It projects an image of your brand in your customers eye. This means keeping your restrooms clean at all times. How those cleanings are executed is critical.

How Important are Clean Restrooms?

As stated above, restrooms play an important role in your guest’s view of your operation. Just how important are clean restaurant restrooms? A recent study by Zogby International concluded that more than 80% of customers would avoid a restaurant with a dirty restroom. That is a SCARY statistic and really brings to light how important it is to keep your restroom clean or risk losing an insane amount of customers.

In order to maintain clean restrooms at all times, it is important to develop a system that spells out how and when to complete all of the types of cleaning as I listed. It is also important that you have the right tools for the job.

Cleaning Supplies

Like any task, having the right tools is a great starting point.  When it comes to cleaning supplies don’t skimp! At a minimum, I recommend the following:

  • Commercial grade restroom cleaner and disinfectant (Ecolab’s Oasis 299 is my favorite)
  • Window Cleaner
  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Floor Cleaner
  • Duster
  • Dedicated Broom
  • Towels (Including Disposable)
  • Dedicated Floor Cleaning Supplies
    • Restrooms WITH a Floor Drain
      • Rubber Squeegee
      • Angled deck brush
      • 5 Gallon Bucket
    • Restrooms WITHOUT a floor drain will also need
      • Mop & Mop Bucket
  • Restocking Supplies (Paper towels, Bathroom Tissue, Soap, Urinal Screen, etc)
  • Scent System (I am a huge fan of automated scent systems that neutralize them at timed intervals. Trust me: customers can smell the difference between clean and dirty with a scent of pine.)

Notice that I designated floor cleaning supplies based on if your restroom has a drain or not. Nowadays, most restaurants are built with a drain in them. Having a drain is actually a HUGE advantage that you will see when it comes to the end of day cleaning!

15 Minute Travel Path Restroom Checks

It does not matter how great of a job your crew does with daily cleaning if it’s not checked and maintained regularly throughout the day.   This is the hardest part of the routine to enact. The key to keeping the restroom clean and maintained throughout the shift is to institute a designated employee to do 15-minute restroom travel path restrooms checks.

This can be your shift manager, hostess, bartender, server, dining room attendant, or any other employee who works near the restrooms. It is vitally important that one person is assigned and accountable for this task. If you use the “its everybody’s job” method it usually turns into it becoming “nobody’s” job.

The scope of what a 15-minute restroom check entails depends on both how heavily your restrooms are used and how “hard” your customers use them. For most, going in and tidying up for 30 seconds is more than enough.

Things that your team should be looking for on a travel path restroom check include the following:

  • Toilet and urinals are flushed and unsoiled
  • The floor is dry and free of trash
  • Trash receptacle is less than three-quarters full
  • The mirror is clean without water splashes or stains (this is a pet peeve of mine that needs to be corrected on almost every visit)
  • All supplies stocked

Daily Cleaning

As important as 15-minute restroom checks are it is also important to do a more thorough cleaning between shifts rather than wait to the end of the day. In my restaurants, I have always made mid-day restroom cleaning a standard operating procedure. This mid-day cleaning would consist of the following:

  • Sweeping the floor
  • Emptying the trash receptacle (No matter how close to empty it was, I always want to go into dinner service with a fresh can)
  • Restocking
  • Cleaning & disinfecting toilets, sinks, & urinals

Having a mid-day cleaning system really makes the end of day cleaning easier too. The end of day cleaning should take anywhere from 10-20 minutes per restroom. Like I mentioned previously, having a drain in your restroom is a huge advantage that comes into play when cleaning your floors. The steps I train on for cleaning restroom are as follows:

  • Restock all paper supplies and soap
  • Clean and disinfect the urinals using a disposable towel, toilet brush, and restroom cleaner. Be careful to get around the outside and underneath the urinal as well.
  • Clean the toilets using a disposable towel, toilet brush, and cleaner. If you are using a dedicated toilet bowl cleaner, be sure to wear rubber gloves and not let it sit in the bowl for too long as some are highly corrosive. To ensure the toilet is fully clean, bend over and look up inside the room of the toilet and under the toilet set.
  • Clean and disinfect the sink using restroom cleaner and a towel
  • Clean the mirror with window cleaner
  • Clean the floor and drain*
    • Restrooms WITH a Floor Drain
      • Fill the 5-gallon bucket about halfway with the floor cleaning solution.
      • Apply liberally to the restroom floor and scrub with the deck brush. Be sure to get the drain cover, corners, and crevices (which is why it is great to use an angled brush.
      • Squeegee the water to the floor drain. Dump the remaining floor cleaning down the floor drain (goodbye fruit flies!). Wipe the cover of the floor drain dry.
      • Allow the floor to air dry
    • Restrooms WITHOUT a floor drain complete the same procedure as above but will mop the floor after scrubbing instead of using the squeegee.
  • After your floor has dried, spot clean all other items that do not get detailed until the end of the week
    • Partitions
    • Trash Can
    • Baseboards (these usually get pretty nasty from cleaning the floors, so save these for dead last!)
  • Clean and disinfect your cleaning supplies
    • Rinse all tools with restroom cleaner and disinfectant. Hang above the mop sink to air dry

Weekly Cleaning

Once a week it makes sense to do some extra detail cleaning in addition to the end of day cleaning. For the weekly cleaning, the following should be completed:

  • Dust the walls, light fixtures, and air vents
  • Wipe down all walls and partitions
  • Clean the inside and outside of the trash receptacle
  • Scrub your faucet and be sure to get all edges and crevices where mold and mildew and grow and eventually build up.

Preventative Maintenance 

Keeping your restroom well maintained will go a long way in helping your team keep it clean for your customers.  Always address a leaking faucet or toilet as soon as it is reported.  The longer it waits on repair, the more water will leak to your floor which can smell and attracts pests and other bacteria.  Standing water also contributes to your grout receding and eventually wearing away. 

Tile floors that are missing grout create yet another spot for that smelly, bacteria-infested water to fester.  In addition, some urine will be missed during cleaning and begin to build up and sit in recessed grout. For this reason, it is incredibly important to replace grout when it wears more than just below the tile level. 

A fresh coat of paint can make a restroom seem immediately cleaner.  It’s a good practice to repaint your restroom every few years to keep the room looking great.  Similarly, lighting plays a huge role in the perception of cleanliness.  A bright well lit restroom always appears cleaner than a dingy, dark one.  

Exposed chrome pipes look fantastic, but if they are rusted it adds to the image of a dirty restroom.  If you notice the exposed pipes are developing rust, move quickly to repair or replace the rusty pipes.  This will also help to prevent the rust from spreading on the pipe and eventually developing a leak. 

Lastly, ensure the caulking around your fixtures remains clean and intact.  When you notice they start to look rough, pick up a tube of high-quality mold resistant caulk from your local hardware store and remove and replace the old caulk. 

If you are planning a new restaurant and considering adding an employee restroom, understand that it needs to be kept clean and sanitary as well. Guests will not see it but since it is solely for employees it is considered a designated part of the workplace and therefore would be subject to follow all OSHA guidelines. In this instance, the guidelines are laid out in 1915.88a:

The employer shall establish and implement a schedule for servicing, cleaning, and supplying each facility to ensure it is maintained in a clean, sanitary, and serviceable condition.

OSHA 1915.88 – Sanitation

Having a system in place to keep your restrooms clean at all times can make or break a restaurant. Always be diligent in following up and ensuring your team is keeping the facilities clean and building trust with your customers. It shows your restaurant’s dedication to the customer experience and goes a long way in instilling the confidence that keeps customers returning again and again.

Matt Roberts

A 20+ year veteran of the Restaurant Industry, Matt is the Founder and Owner of Restaurant Ninjas. He is also a giant geek of epic proportions who somehow convinced his wife to name their firstborn child Luke Skywalker.

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