Mind your Pees and Qs

SINGAPORE - Singapore may be flush with success after pushing through its United Nations resolution, but back home, some of its restrooms still raise a stink.

When The Straits Times visited 30 public toilets at food centres, coffee shops, MRT stations and shopping malls on Thursday, four looked like dump sites. Dirty floors, choked toilet bowls, broken facilities and even toilet paper stuck on the ceiling were found.

Experts and toilet users agree it is all down to poor habits and even badly designed toilets. In fact, the problem would have been worse if public toilets here are not cleaned so regularly.

"Some men do not bother to lift the toilet seat when they pee and they dirty it," said Public Hygiene Council (PHC) chairman Liak Teng Lit.

"Some women, I hear, stoop above the seat to avoid dirty toilet covers, and they end up peeing all over the place."

A 2011 survey of 500 Singaporeans and permanent residents by Ngee Ann Polytechnic students showed that 26.6 per cent of them were "unhappy" or "very unhappy" with the cleanliness of Singapore's toilets.

National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan believes the problem can be traced to a lack of ownership when it comes to public spaces.

"We must continue to reinforce the message that public spaces are our own spaces and not just the Government's responsibility," she said.

Mr Emerson Hee, executive director of the Restroom Association of Singapore, wants better-designed toilets.

"Good design means that the hand soap, litter bins and sinks are all within reach. This minimises wetting," he said.

Although most public toilets here are clean, Mr Hee said this did not necessarily mean that most Singaporeans are considerate users.

"Clean toilets could also mean cleaners clean them more frequently," he noted.

Most cleaners who spoke to The Straits Times said they cleaned their toilets at least twice a day. Toilets at MRT stations are cleaned at least three times daily.

In Japan, students maintain their own washrooms, noted PHC's Mr Liak. In Singapore, good toilet habits among the young should start with parents.

"They should remind children to clean up after themselves, instead of telling them it's okay to leave it to the cleaners," he added.



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