Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): opening public and customer toilets

Published: 27 Jun 2020
Last updated: 19 Jul 2021 - see all updates

Guidance on opening of public and customer toilets during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): opening public and customer toilets
Hygiene measures

Hygiene measures

Enhanced cleaning

It should not be assumed that hygiene measures in place pre-COVID-19 will be sufficient. Enhanced cleaning is likely to be required and should take into account:

  • frequency – should be increased beyond what has been the case before COVID-19 and should be based on a risk assessment which includes both the usage of the facility and the fact that COVID-19 survives on hard surfaces present in toilets for at least 72 hours.
  • products used – should be a disinfectant not detergent-based product  
  • areas of particular concern – it is important that attention is paid to frequently touched areas including toilet flush, toilet seat, toilet locks and handles, taps, paper towel and soap dispensers and door handles on access/entry
  • enhanced monitoring of facilities will be required to ensure hygiene is maintained
  • clearly display enhanced cleaning rota and ensure it is adhered to i.e. a documented record that the checks have been carried out for the public to see
  • the cleaning rota should be supplemented with a cleaning schedule or similar procedure log that details the manner and frequency of cleaning of the various surfaces
  • remove any unnecessary or communal items within the facility (e.g. ornaments or cosmetic items) to facilitate cleaning
  • ensure that if a staff key fob or key is required to access the facilities this is cleaned between uses
  • PPE should be provided in line with Health Protection Scotland Guidance for  General (Non-Healthcare) Settings
  • staff should be trained in appropriate cleaning methods for sanitary areas and the use of the equipment and products for cleaning and disinfection
  • special care should be taken with the cleaning of portable toilets


  • reusable equipment should be removed and replaced with disposable (e.g. fabric towels, baby-changing mats)
  • ensure that there are adequate hands-free waste disposal units
  • cleaning materials for surfaces should be provided (e.g. antibacterial wipes for baby change areas)


  • use signs and posters to: build awareness of good handwashing technique and reinforce the need to increase handwashing frequency, to avoid touching your face; and to cough or sneeze into a tissue, which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available
  • signage should be clear, easy to understand, and accessible to everyone, using visual material to reinforce messages.
  • consider providing a contact number for the public to use should they have any concerns regarding cleanliness (e.g. if the facility has been heavily soiled between cleans). Use signage to tell the public what to do if someone falls ill with suspected COVID within a toilet facility
  • COVID-19 can present with diarrhoea and or vomiting therefore it is important to have a mechanism to ensure the facility can be closed and ad-hoc cleaning can be arranged should the need arise

Hand hygiene

Good hygiene, including thorough and regular handwashing is a key control in reducing the spread of COVID-19. The following measures should be taken into account:

  • provide liquid soap and ensure there is adequate stock at all times
  • consider providing hand sanitiser dispensing units in portable toilets where handwashing can be less effective
  • consider adjusting the time that push/sensor taps are on to encourage 20 seconds of hand washing
  • provide hand-drying facilities – either paper towels with appropriate and frequent waste disposal or electric hand driers
  • reduce the requirement for surfaces to be touched once hands have been washed on the way out of facilities e.g. prop open exit door
  • consider providing hand sanitiser gel at the entry and exit from the facility. With thorough hand washing, the contamination of contact surfaces on leaving the facilities should be minimised. 

Physical distancing

Physical distancing is an important measure which helps reduce the risk of transmission. Measures to ensure physical distancing may include:  

  • decide upon the number of people that can reasonably access to the public toilet to reduce as much as possible those using it at a time and to ensure users can maintain at least 1 metre distancing;
  • operators should consider how to limit the number of people within facilities with multiple stalls/urinals to ensure at least 1 metre physical distancing e.g. with signage on the door instructing users to wait outside if they find that the facilities are occupied
  • physical distancing should be maintained by way of signage and floor markings and, in respect of staffed toilets, proactively encouraged by staff
  • consider whether additional measures such as physical barriers are required e.g. cubicles provide barriers but wash basins and urinals (trough urinals, in particular) will require greater consideration
  • consider whether distances between equipment e.g. hand basins are sufficient and consistent with physical distancing policy
  • consider the route to and from toilets, in particular how to maintain physical distancing and cleaning of possible touchpoints
  • use one-way systems where this is possible


The circulation of air (ventilation/air conditioning) can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. However, this must be in addition to other protective measures such as physical distancing, enhanced hygiene regime. The following measures should be considered:

  • opening more than one window or door, if possible. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk to staff or customers. For example, opening doors can invalidated fire risk assessments so that would constitute an unacceptable increase in risk
  • opening windows (or doors) at opposite sides of a building and keeping internal doors open to allow a cross flow of ventilation
  • where there are both high level and low level openable windows in a room then it is recommended to open the high level windows during cooler weather in the first instance, as incoming air will be warmed as it flows down into the room thereby reducing cold draughts. This also improves mixing of the outside air with air in the room before reaching the occupied zone. To maximise airflow when draughts are not a concern, both high and low windows should be opened. This does not just increase the opening area but creates a more efficient flow, thereby increasing the dilution of pollutants

Further guidance on ventilation is available.

Face coverings

The best available scientific evidence is that, face coverings, when used correctly,  may provide some additional protection, especially in crowded or less well ventilated spaces.

It is important the you help customers and visitors to meet the requirements on them to wear face coverings.

This may include the introduction of signs and reminders to reinforce messages at entry points.


More information about face coverings requirements.

Sanitary facilities provision

  • where toilets are being provided for an event, consider whether the standard guidance on toilet to person ratios needs to be revised to allow for physical distancing and enhanced cleaning routines
  • note that more toilet facilities than usual may be needed due to the physical distancing and hygiene measures
  • note that there may be a greater number of people who need to use public toilets than usual as behaviours are influenced by current guidance (e.g. more people meeting in parks)

Following opening, there should be regular and proactive inspection of facilities to detect and address any issues promptly.  

Further guidance on calculating physical distancing capacity in public settings.

First published: 27 Jun 2020 Last updated: 19 Jul 2021 -