staff at comfort station

What it’s like to be a washroom cleaner at Ontario Parks

In today’s post, our Algonquin Zone Marketing Specialist Andrea Coulter shares how a summer of cleaning washrooms turned her into a public washroom etiquette crusader.

After more than 15 years with Ontario Parks, I still remember my first position most vividly (you never forget cleaning poop off the beach…). I was eighteen years old, and spent the summer working maintenance with Ontario Parks.

After that season of wiping footprints off toilet seats, cleaning clumps of hair from washroom sinks, and scraping waste off the floor, there are some things I started doing (and some things I would never do again):

1. I will never flush anything non-flushable

That includes wipes, tampons, diapers — essentially anything other than human waste and toilet paper. Remember: a plumbing disaster might mean the entire comfort station is out of commission — no one wants that.

sewage coming up from clogged pipes
When the pipes get clogged, washrooms get yucky!

When I worked in maintenance, we frequently removed “UFOs” (un-flushable objects) from toilets. I fished out everything from water bottles to bikinis.

2. I will never use my foot to flush the toilet

It makes the handle dirtier for anyone else who uses that washroom afterwards.

The “foot flusher” technique can also lead to broken toilets and “out of order” signs.

3. I will never use a large wad of toilet paper to avoid touching surfaces, and then drop it on the ground or sink afterwards

We’ve probably all seen or done this. This is a popular technique to avoid touching taps, door handles, toilet handles or sitting directly on toilet seats.

The problem is that, afterwards, the wad is often dropped on the floor or counter, or even left on the toilet seat for the next customer or staff member to deal with, instead of going in the toilet or garbage where it belongs.

4. I will not spend an excessive amount of time in front of the sink when people are waiting to use them, or staff are waiting to clean them

This is especially important this year. We need to provide all visitors with access to washrooms, and still allow for physical distancing and increased cleaning.

5. I will never use the washroom sinks for washing anything except my hands

Washroom sinks are not for washing dishes, babies, clothing, dogs, feet…you get this idea.

Comfort station on a sunny day

6. I will remember that clean washrooms are worth the wait

As much as none of us want to wait when “nature calls,” washrooms are being cleaned and disinfected for our protection and comfort.

Masked staff member cleaning comfort station.

(When the cleaners are finished, I will also thank them for their work. They are some of the hardest working people in the Ontario Parks organization.)

7. I will be understanding when the washrooms are muddy on rainy days

Rainy days mean messy washroom floors. I remember receiving complaints about muddy washrooms within 15 minutes of cleaning them on rainy Saturdays.

Our staff do their best, but muddy floors are really difficult to maintain on busy rainy days.

Help keep washrooms clean

After that summer cleaning washrooms, I quickly learned that the actions of a few could turn a washroom into a disaster. And I’d be stuck with the mess.

Masked staff member cleaning vault privy.

A little bit goes a long way to ensure everyone enjoys clean, welcoming washrooms while visiting parks.

Want to help spread the word about washroom etiquette? Share this blog post on social media!