I always judge a place by its bathroom. I tend to find most public toilets gross, just by the mere fact, many people use them. For the most part, I can use them, as long as they are cleaned well.

In 2014, I was part of a team that organized the Sondeka festival. The festival had hundreds of people shuffling around. There were tens of vendors across the creative economy space; sculptors, painters, photographers, DJs, food vendors, schools, institutions, musicians, you name it there was a whole lot going on. And like any normal event, people need to use the bathrooms. The only catch is when you start getting into hundreds of people, it is hard to keep up with cleaning. So needless to say, I held it in most of the time.

On the final day of the festival, I couldn’t hold it in anymore, I had to use the bathroom. Lo! And behold! To my surprise, as I walked into the washroom, the smell that hit me was actually quite inviting, the bathrooms had a floral scent, the sinks were clean, no toilet paper on the floor. All the bathroom stalls were clean. Clean enough, dare I say to eat off the floor.

During setdown at the venue, the vendors and event planners discussed the event. And the toilets kept popping up in conversation, everyone was impressed at how the vendor had kept the bathrooms impeccable for 2 whole days with a concert level footfall. I didn’t think it was ever possible to keep public toilets that clean, but the vendor, Parapet Cleaning Services proved me wrong.

Now since then, I have been spoiled.  I do believe public toilets can be that clean all the time thanks to Parapet. It has reached a point that it dictates where I meet people. Java Coffee House has been bothering me a lot lately. The buy out by the Emirate group, which has seen Java’s expansion, is an impressive fete. And one which gives me pride, it’s a Kenyan brand, after all, propelling itself across East Africa as a leading coffee house chain. However, Java’s food has become this industrial mass-produced bland food. The coffee is still good. But the food, bleh!

Yesterday, I had a meeting and had to go to the bathrooms at the Java at the Reinsurance Plaza in the Nairobi CBD. The toilets grossed me out. It smelled of dead cockroaches and it was clear they needed to change the detergents they used to clean the loos. The toilets weren’t sparkling, they were cleaned but the smell told me they weren’t using a nice scented variety. And they probably need to get a new mop.

I have been to CJ’s as well, which I prefer to frequent when I am in the CBD, because their food is still good, well, save for the chicken pies. Stay away from those, they taste absolutely awful, the one I had, had potatoes and what tasted like chicken leftover from a day or two ago. Their washrooms are a hit and miss. When they are cleaned, spick and span, it’s like using your bathroom at home. But there are times I have walked into disasters and asked the staff to attend to the mess and clean it up.

Malls are also an interesting space. TRM is guilty of soap running out at sinks especially on the ground floor. I tend to use the second-floor bathrooms because you are more likely to find soap there. But there have been several times the cleaners in the bathroom have told me they were still waiting for the supply of soap. There had been a delay in its disbursement. Leaving the toilets soapless. I don’t even want to think of it, but I always think food handlers and cholera. As a principle, I no longer eat salads of any kind at restaurants or anywhere outside of my house.

TRM always has attendants in the bathroom cleaning, always, but it still doesn’t smell great. I believe it’s just budget cuts and using inferior products. I get it’s not my house, but I still feel a bathroom should smell good.

Toilet seats are broken, handbag hooks are non-existent and half the time you’ll find one or two cubicles in the mall busted and out of service. I know the number of users is immense. The water shortage in houses means people have turned the mall into their home toilets. That means wear and tear is much higher. But if you have an establishment like this you need to invest in repairs. It comes with the territory.

You can definitely notice the difference in the quality of products and scents of toilets when you go down the road to Garden City mall. The bathrooms smell nice, the last I checked it was Parapet staff doing the job which says a whole lot about teh company’s cleaning services.

However, the bathroom stalls also have signs of wear and tear, the flushing buttons in so many stalls no longer have covers but white plastic rods jutting out of the wall for you to press. Bag hangers are busted etc.

The loos at the Art Caffe in Two Rivers was also revolting when I visited. The toilet wasn’t cleaned well. I can list a series of establishments and what they need to do to have cleaner facilities, but I believe you catch my drift. Despite the vast array of establishments we have in the city, it seems like the majority of establishments either go for cheap. Or don’t train their staff well enough to track the little roster on the back on the toilet doors to check the bathrooms, or maybe you just have lazy staff. Whatever it is, all I have to say is, fix it.

No matter how great your food or entertainment is if your toilets are gross, people just won’t come back. To all the malls in this country and food establishments, this is my plea. Fix your toilets with higher quality finishing and please for the love of mankind, please hire professionals and purchase better cleaning products for your bathrooms!