How to Discourage Toilet Users from Flushing Paper Towels

It is one of the most common tasks for public toilet cleaners and school janitors: a cubicle is unusable because there is a paper clog caused by either inappropriate tissue or an excessive amount. A significant part of a facilities budget goes down the drain due to paper overspend and staff time booked for this sole purpose. Also, its service reputation gets affected by a never-ending queue that bathroom stall unavailability causes or an unpleasant experience.

Did you know that paper towels can’t be recycled? This is just one of a few facts we’ve pulled together about paper towels that we think everyone should know!

Though vandalism is inherent to some visitors, especially unattended youngsters, there are quite many design decisions and maintenance routines that can contribute to avoid blocked toilets. If we go to the core of the issue, we can see the impact of every choice with regards to the location and type of washroom accessory.

5 Tips to Prevent Paper Towel Blocks

We should distinguish two main reasons why users opt for this behaviour. One is that the visitor cannot find suitable tissue to use at the toilet; and the second would be that, once hands have been dried, they are unable to spot a place to throw the towels away. Architects, interior designers and facility managers must ensure that people are not compelled to any or both.

1) Make sure there is always toilet tissue in the dispenser

The first step to avoid running out of consumables would be to study the daily uses that every type of facilities will have and the desired number of staff shifts. When picking a toilet roll holder, one must consider these goals and necessary features like a level viewer, fast servicing or paper saving spindles. Wouldn’t it be good that the janitor doesn’t go that often to replenish? A maxi jumbo roll or a multiroll holder might be good options.

2) Place visible, suitable, not full bins

Research on average disposal per visitor is fundamental as well for this fitting. Whilst stadium and arena visitors go to the toilet usually once and for only the essential purpose, overseas travellers are bound to spend many hours in stations and airports needing to get tidied up in the bathrooms with all the waste that entails.

Then one must think about the sort of bin opening, aiming at encouraging users to fill the receptacle. Either by carelessness or numerous failed attempts before, reality is that some people will not even bother to step on a pedal bin. Moreover, for highest accessibility, a half-dome or open top deposit seems ideal. Which is the best area to put the bin? The closest possible to the towel paper dispenser, for instance a chute styled bin underneath a behind the mirror dispenser or a 2-in-1 combination unit that also places the receptacle a few centimetres below the dispenser. No excuse here.

To make the most of unused under sink space, it is understandable that containers are often put there, but some visitors are not going to notice them unless there is a clear indication or are mounted next to the basin deck. We should note that users with dementia and other illnesses need objects to stand out from the background through contrasted colours. Similarly, this sort of user might appreciate clear symbols that state what the object is for.

On the other hand, besides properly calculating the rounds and busiest periods, the washroom fittings should permit an easy and quick task for the cleaning crew. Some manufacturers produce bin liner holders like LinerMate that facilitate bag exchanging besides avoiding liner overhanging.

Since despite these efforts general waste receptacles could be full, sanitary bins at toilet partitions should have a plan B. Their capacity should be enough to cope with extra content if needed. In practice, however, hygiene containers are usually full and that is even when most wet wipes unfortunately end up disappearing via the toilet and blocking the sewer system regardless of what advertisements claim about their flushability.

3) Offer an air hand drying solution

An electric hand dryer can be an effective drying method for those washrooms where power is available and noise is bearable by both users and people beyond surrounding walls. The market offers energy efficient, automatic hand dryers that fully dry hands in 12 seconds without requiring paper or bins. Some low maintenance models do not result in splashed walls or require drip trays to be emptied regularly because their systems evaporate the water. It saves costs long term. Since it is usually better to try before buying, one can always book a demonstration or rent for a few years.

4) Do not offer so many paper towels

Often paper towels clog toilets not only because that paper is made of a material more difficult to dissolve than usual toilet paper for obvious reasons, but also because sometimes visitors grab an incredibly generous handful of towels for which there is no need of.

When selecting the paper towel dispenser, one could purchase a model that dispenses just one sheet at a time. This would be the case of dispensers that are compatible with Bobrick TowelMate®, an accessory whose rod separates hand towels with precision and holds them, also preventing any jam or fall.

5) Use technology

Though yet to be widely marketed, companies developed wireless and Bluetooth devices to monitor accessories that can give information in real time about the quantity left of a washroom consumable, like soap or tissue.

And there are other technical solutions that can be taken to quickly notify staff to sort out a block, if the actions above cannot prevent unwanted paper from being flushed into the toilet. Feedback buttons are spreading in airports all over the globe to know visitors’ impression about the building. These consist of a short question or a few words and a pictogram that ask about the satisfaction with the cleanliness of the area. The simple quiz can be placed on a stand when leaving the washroom or could be built into a panel to be located on every partition. This way users would only have to press a button to inform about a blocked toilet; no further awkward human interaction or time invested looking for a cleaner.

All these suggestions could be made when building from scratch, but also when an accessory must be replaced or it is time for a refurbishment. Every choice adds up to avoid blocks and those displeasing overflows. And as a last resource saviour, every washroom could have a toilet brush and plunger set.


At IFS, suppliers of washroom fittings and appliances in UK, Ireland, Australia and other countries, we aim at informing our customers about bathroom products, their advantanges and best uses. Please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or email in case you have a query about our catalogue or any other item that we might be able to provide.

Please post your comments & reviews

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *