Toileight tips: Saving lives one clean toilet at a time

Pia Ranada
In developing countries, diseases caused by lack of proper toilets are a bigger problem than HIV-AIDS given that every 20 seconds, a child dies from diarrhea. And Rappler has Toileight Tips for you.

MANILA, Philippines – Keeping toilets clean can save millions of lives. And we have Toileight Tips for you.

The potty got the spotlight last November 19, declared World Toilet Day, at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila. In the hospital’s auditorium, doctors, nurses, human rights activists, politicians and the corporate sector converged to discuss the state of toilet sanitation in the world and in the Philippines.

According to guest speaker Dr. Mike Gnilo of UNICEF, 2.5 billion people or 40% of the world population do not have access to sanitary toilets. Of this, 1.8 million catch diarrheal diseases.
CLEANLINESS. World Toilet Day celebrations begin at San Lazaro Hospital, Manila. Photo by Pia Ranada

In developing countries, diseases caused by lack of proper toilets are a bigger problem than HIV-AIDS given that every 20 seconds, a child dies from diarrhea. Dirty toilets can also lead to cholera, dysentery and worms.

In the Philippines, areas that suffer the most from lack of proper toilets are Masbate, provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Northern Samar.

What is a proper toilet?

The UNICEF’s minimum requirement for a proper toilet is simple: there should be no human contact with feces.

“Ideally, hind inaamoy at hindi nahahawakan (Ideally, it should prevent you from smelling or touching feces),” says Dr. Gnilo.

The UNICEF, alongside local governments and health professionals, has waged an all-out war against open defecation, in which people excrete their wastes in open and often dirty places such as ditches or streets.

Such a practice could contaminate nearby sources of drinking water, exacerbating health problems in the area.

In turn, dirty living conditions could cause environmental enteropathy, in which the lining of the gut becomes inflamed, decreasing its ability to absorb nutrients from food, thus leading to stunting in children.
Private Public Potty Partnership

New partnership

Launched at the World Toilet Day celebration was a new partnership between Unilever Philippines, the Manila city local government, the Philippine Public Health Association and UNICEF.

Manila City Mayor Alfredo Lim, who led in the ceremonial public bathroom-cleaning of the event, is well aware of the impact clean toilets can make in his community.
PARTNERSHIP. Mayor Alfredo Lim and Unilever Vice President for Corporate Affairs Chito Macapagal clean a public bathroom in San Lazaro Hospital, Manila. Photo by Pia Ranada

“Hospital spending is 2.1 billion pesos a year. Kung lilinisin niyo ang mga toilet niyo, wala nang magkakasakit, isasara na namin ang mga hospital (If you will clean your toilets, no one will get sick and we can close the hospitals),” a joke to which he adds in more seriousness, “We must learn to develop clean habits. Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

Dennis Chua, assistant brand manager for Unilever Philippines says that through the program, nursing and maintenance staff of their partner Manila hospitals will be taught proper sanitation procedures and will be given Domex products, the company’s toilet-cleaning bleach brand. Aside from applying all that they have learned about proper toilet sanitation to their work, the health workers are also expected to share their knowledge with their patients.

The education program targets Manila public hospitals in its first phase, the hospitals closest to Unilever Philippines’ headquarters. In 2013, Unilever aims to expand its reach to other cities.


All things toilet was the hot topic at the launch, culminating in a presentation of steps and tips on how to properly clean your toilet.

Below are the Toileight Tips Rappler gleaned from the talk:

    •    Wear the big three in protective gear when cleaning your toilet: rubber gloves, mask and rubber boots. A good tip is to color-code them so that you don’t use the same gear to clean your kitchen!
    •    When buying toilet cleaners, choose those with a spout so that it’s easier to get to those hard-to-reach spots. Apply the cleaner from the top of the rim in a circular motion.
    •    Allow at least 5 minutes for the cleaner to cover the entire toilet bowl to ensure all the germs are killed.
    •    Use a brush and scrub the toilet bowl surface from top to bottom. Focus on areas with stains.
    •    Clean the bathroom floor too. There are 2 million bacteria per square inch present in the floor. That’s 200 times more bacteria than those found on the toilet itself!
    •    Use specialized toilet cleaners rather than soaps and detergents which are not strong enough to kill all germs.
    •    Flush the toilet to rinse and be sure to keep the toilet closed with the cover. If you don’t, the aerosol effect will take place in which water droplets from the toilet go to the air (and you).
    •    Wash and clean all protective gear afterwards.

All sectors involved know that the educational program will only work if the public is receptive and willing to invest time and money in ensuring their toilets are sanitary.

So far, the community-led approach in promoting toilet sanitation has become the most effective because, as explained by Dr. Gnilo, “It comes from them so there is more ownership to the cause.”

And own the cause is what Filipinos all over must do, lest all these efforts, quite literally, go to waste. –
COMMON EFFORT. UNICEF’s Dr. Mike Gnilo and PPHA’s Dr.MaluhOrezca lend their hands at toilet-cleaning. Photo by Pia Ranada

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at