Bathroom door handles 08.08.11

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If you have to get to grips with a germ-covered door knob or lever to get out, it rather spoils the point of washing your hands in the first place. Is a hands-free toilet door too much to ask?

This is not a subject that is much discussed because it provokes, er, disgust. You go to the toilet, you wash your hands, you dry them. You are clean. The guy in front of you walks out of the door without washing his hands. He pulls open the door. The pull handle is now dirty, contaminated with traces of urine or solids. You have to pull the door open to exit. Congratulations, your hands are now dirty again.

There is a solution to this. The pull should be on the outside, the push-plate on the inside, so that when you exit, you can just lean against the door with your shoulder or push it with your palm or sleeve. The problem is the type of grip you need on a pull handle, a lever or a door knob. Each fitting forces you to fully enclose it in your hand, ensuring maximum contamination. There's nothing worse than gripping a wet handle and thinking about what kind of wet it is.

The problem is not confined to handles – it's taps as well. Sensors are ever more popular but often entirely useless, prompting you to try a whole row of sinks before you get a tap that works. There are, of course, surgical elbow taps, which were created to solve exactly this problem. In the 1980s these became a high-tech standby, a fitting so functional and neutral it transcended aesthetics – pure modernism.

The problem is usually an architectural one: WCs tend to open onto lobbies, where space is constricted. But the answer has to be to give them more space and, perhaps, put a vision panel in the door so that people don't open it unexpectedly into the faces of passers-by.
It is a question of basic hygiene. Hospitals – with exactly this design flaw – are swimming in MRSA, but the solution is simple. Push on the inside. Once that's been solved we can look at those appalling WC signs. Especially the cyborg figure who has become one with his wheelchair.



Edwin Heathcote



Jon Wiggins

quotes story

There's nothing worse than gripping a wet handle and thinking about what kind of wet it is

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