Opinion Piece: Dirty Airport Bathrooms

Airport bathroom

My name is Andrew Wang, and I am a student at the business school at Boston University. I’ve recently been able to stay in a hostel in San Francisco for a week. Like any other college student, I bought the cheapest plane tickets available, which inevitably involved several layovers and transfers. Sandwiched between 24 hours, my journey involved a whopping 8 different stays at 6 different airports. Needless to say, I got well acquainted with airport bathrooms.

These airports included

  1. San Francisco International Airport
  2. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  3. Raleigh Durham International airport
  4. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport
  5. PHL Philadelphia International Airport
  6. Orlando International Airport 

The cleanliness of most of the restrooms was somewhat tolerable, except… Orlando. What an experience… Finding a restroom took me half an hour of walking through a dated and sepia-tinted airport, finding numerous restrooms with out-of-service signs or 10-person lines.

In the one available restroom, the entire floor under the restroom stalls was finely coated with water that disgusted everyone who entered. One profoundly annoyed man exiting a stall remarked, “this bathroom is a sh*thole and is a good representation of what the world is becoming.” Poetic. Another man held his son closely, trying his best to stop a potential slip. The scene could have been a wholesome moment were it not for the reality of him trying to keep his son from slipping onto the disgustingly slick tiles. 

As I entered the stall, a voice crept over the divider. “Sir, can you hand me some toilet paper?” It took me a few moments to understand the request. I soon handed him the paper from my (thankfully) full supply. I heard him furiously wipe the seat down before slowly sitting on the seat.

As someone who works in the facilities space, I always look for customer feedback on restrooms. My experience in the Orlando International Airport restroom taught me much about how people value a clean restroom and toilet space. The dirty and unavailable restrooms tangibly reduced guest experience. Whenever someone clogged a toilet or soiled the seat beyond repair, that stall was essentially taken out of commission. It placed so much stress on the few operating toilet stalls that lines frequently extended beyond the door. I had to walk past no less than three different unavailable restrooms.

What struck me the most about these problems is that they were largely preventable. Had someone not laid 10+ sheets of toilet paper on a dirty seat before attempting to flush it all down at once, causing a clog, or had someone not soiled the seat to begin with, a significant amount of these problems would have gone away. 

I currently work with a Boston University and MIT startup company called Cleana that is developing several products that would have significantly impacted each airport restroom I visited. Our primary product, the Cleana self-lifting toilet seat, gently lifts the seat up between usages preventing messes caused by patrons who would otherwise urinate all over it. 

This stops 75% of everyday toilet messes, according to Cleana’s research.

It just takes one person to soil a toilet stall. In establishments with few stalls relative to the volume of guests, a soiled stall can easily create brand-ruining downtime. Other restrooms are forced to pick up the slack, causing overcrowding. The Cleana self-lifting toilet seat stops these everyday restroom messes before they happen, preventing nightmare situations like my desperate search for a restroom in the Orlando airport. 

Cleana Toilet Seat

Cleana Self Lifting Toilet Seat

andrew wang
Andrew Wang

Business Development Intern

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