Water fountains - a hotspot for germs

17 April 2012

Water fountains have long been identified as hotspots for germ colonies but just how germy are they and what kind of germs are they harbouring?

Many studies have been carried out on water fountains in schools, doctors waiting rooms, leisure centres and other public areas over the years, it's an established fact that it's not the water itself that is contaminated with germs, the water was found to be sanitary, the problems arise from the way the water is dispensed.

Germy water fountains

Poor cleaning and disinfection standards

A study in Canada last year tested 20 water fountains located around the City of Toronto, swabs were taken from the spout area and the  same test carried out from a swab taken from the inside rim of a public dogs water bowl, located outside a Starbucks coffee shop. The results made for disturbing read.

A hygiene meter was used to test the surfaces for the presence of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is the universal energy molecule found in bacteria, yeast, animal, plant and mould cells.  As a guide many food processors/manufacturers in Canada and the US insist surfaces measure no more than a count of 30.

The results of the water fountains showed extremely high levels of ATP in all the fountains swabbed; an astonishing 8570 for a spout tested in their City Hall, 4529 for the fountain outside the Liberal caucus meeting room, Bay Street fountain at the Queens Park office blocks complex tested 900, the main lobby tested 531.  By contrast the dog bowl tested 172.

Many of the bacteria found would be pretty harmless but some could cause illness; Coliform and E.coli were detected and can cause vomiting and severe diarrhea, the bacteria is found in the intestines of humans and animals and its presence on the water fountains indicates contamination with fecal waste.

The levels of germs found were also far in excess to the levels found in public toilets which were also tested and found to be  surprisingly clean.  This would be because public toilets are regularly cleaned and sanitised, as a rule, by cleaning operatives who have received the required training and who have the correct cleaning products for the cleaning jobs they are undertaking - these products should not only clean surfaces but disinfect too, keeping the bug count down and maintaining hygienic conditions.

Choosing the right cleaner will improve standards of cleanliness

If you consider that public toilets are cleaned usually twice a day often more if they are in a high traffic area whereas with water fountains, how often do we actually see these being cleaned? Do you ever have to wait for a cleaner to finish disinfecting a water fountain before you can use it? Water fountains are simply not being cleaned regularly enough or with a proper bactericidal cleaning product.

Water fountains are such germ hotspots not just because of their high usage but also the way in which they are used; people leaning on them, spitting on them, coughing on them, not washing their hands before using them or afterwards!  The next drinker visiting the fountain may walk away with more than they bargained for!

The best advice for those using water fountains is to let the water run for a while, at least ten seconds and don't make contact with the nozzle…try and avoid any other contact with the fountain itself as well.  Also it's not a bad idea to use a hand sanitising gel afterwards.

Which cleaning supplies are suitable?

If you have a water fountain or are responsible for the cleaning of water fountains we can recommend a few of our cleaning products which are suitable for cleaning and disinfecting.

Spray & Wipe is a great ready to use cleaner - no diluting or measuring out required! It is independently tested by the British Analytical Board to kill a broad spectrum of bacteria including MRSA its ideal for cleaning germ hotspots in busy public areas.

If you are looking for a product to dilute on site then take a look at our sanitiser Concentrate - this product is a blend of three biocides and therefore a very effective sanitiser.  Again tested by the British Analytical Board and effective against many harmful bacteria including MRSA, E.Coli, Legionella and Salmonella.

If you require any further information regarding the cleaning or cleaning products required for water fountains then please do contact us.

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