Museum Toilets

Updated 14/08/2020

Toilets are an area of concern for both visitors and staff in many museums and heritage sites. In the latest series of research conducted by ALVA, toilets came in the top three areas of concern, with 54% of potential visitors feeling more anxious about using toilets.

It is also clear that keeping your loos shut is not an option – 53% of visitors wouldn’t visit, if the toilets were not open. Those sites in the UK who already opened their grounds have reported receiving a lot of phone calls asking about the toilets.

Case studies from the Netherlands have shown that the best approach to managing your toilets may depend on your audience and venue. Where a gallery made minor adjustments, they found that visitors were good at managing their own social distancing in the toilets. In contrast, a theme park has needed to install additional temporary toilets, which are cleaned after each family group.

The government’s Safer Public Places document details the following measures for public toilets:

To help everyone maintain good hygiene, consideration should be given to:

  • Sufficient provision of automated hand sanitising dispensers in public places.
  • Where possible, providing either paper towels or electrical hand dryers in handwashing facilities.
  • Using signs and messages to build awareness of good handwashing technique and other respiratory hygiene behaviours, e.g. around coughing and sneezing in public places.
  • Configuration of toilet facilities to ensure they are kept clean, with social distancing achieved as far as possible and with best practice handwashing followed.
  • Provision of more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection in public places.
  • Minimising use of portable toilets.
  • Enhanced cleaning for facilities that are heavily used

Telling people about your procedures in advance is also worth doing, to reassure your visitors.  This could be done with a film or statement on your website.

“The toilets will be cleaned three times a day with virucidal cleaner and have external hand sanitisers/signage reminding people of hygiene and social distancing.”

East Devon Council state the following in relation to cleaning regimes at their public toilets.

A Note on Safety

  • Please stay safe when sanitising your workspace. Following a recent (fortunately non-fatal) electric shock incident in a council setting, please remember that when sanitising your workspace, you should never clean any light switches or electrical outlets/sockets unless you have been given specific responsibility for doing so. If you do have this responsibility, you must clean them using the proper procedure outlined below in order to stay safe.
  • During the pandemic, sanitation has increased in all environments, with particular reference to touchpoints – such as door handles, door plates, tables, chair arms, kitchen white-good handles, light switches, dispensers, flat surfaces such as bookshelves and internal ledges as well as various other areas.
  • If you are responsible for cleaning, or look after staff and volunteers who do, you need to ensure that anyone working in the museum is instructed on the correct method for cleaning light switches/electrical outlets to avoid accidents.
  • Light switches and electrical switch plates must only be cleaned using a slightly damp cloth (e.g. squirt the spray bottle onto the cloth and not directly onto the electrical switch plate or outlet) or with a sanitising wipe. This will help reduce the risk of electrocution.
  • It would also be prudent to have another team member/volunteer on site if cleaning in high risk areas, to provide first aid or call for an ambulance if an incident occurs.


Questions to ask yourself:

  • Can you reduce the number of touch points in your toilets? Some museums have introduced sensor technology around flushing, soap/water dispensing and door opening. Alternatively, you may be able to prop open doors or replace dryers with single use paper towels.
  • Could you create social distancing by limiting occupancy, reducing facilities in service or using signage?  If space is tight, would an ‘occupied/vacant’ sign enable one family to use your facilities at any one time?
  • Can you put up screens between urinals?  Or take every other urinal out of use?
  • How can you increase cleaning regimes and ensure toilets and particularly touch points (eg door handles, taps etc) are visibly being cleaned on a regular basis?
  • Will you close your toilets for cleaning (to protect staff) or can you section off one set?
  • Is there some maintenance you can do in preparation?  Visitors will want hot water to wash hands, and long-handled taps and flushes (which can be wrist or elbow operated) may be preferable.
  • If your museum already suffers from inadequate toilet provision, you may want to clearly signpost visitors to the closest external facilities.  Do include this information in your marketing material so visitors can plan accordingly.
  • Consider all your visitors when making your plans.  For example don’t take the accessible loo out of service, or restrict access to baby changing facilities.  Your visitors will need these facilities during their visit.
  • Are your sanitary and nappy waste collections regular, hygienic and fit for purpose?
  • Would making your toilets gender-neutral reduce queueing times?
  • Is there plenty of space for people to wait for others near the toilets?  Can you create a waiting area?
  • How will you ensure social distancing and high standards of cleanliness are maintained in staff toilets?


Article about some of the concerns and adaptation regarding toilets made in the US (23 May)

ALVA Recovery Trackers give insight into public opinion on visiting attractions

Government guidance on safety measures for public places

BBC article on measures and approaches to reopening public toilets

Museum Toilets webinar held on 16 June – we expect the recording to be available through this website

Government guidelines on decontaminating public spaces during Covid-19

Personal Protective Equipment and Cleaning Suppliers
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