The Best Way to Clean Amusement Park Restrooms

by | Jun 8, 2023

Clean amusement park restrooms can make, or break, an expensive family outing. Thanks to legendarily high maintenance standards set by Uncle Walt himself, guests expect every inch of a Disney property to be absolutely spotless. The Disney cleaning protocol is so robust that the company regularly touts their extensive maintenance methods to the public.

But woe to Disney’s PR staff if those maintenance standards dip. Magic Kingdom super fans, aka Disney adults, will post photographs of overflowing trashcans and write blogs complaining about smelly, dirty restrooms. (Reporting on Disney restrooms appears to be something of a cottage industry. There are many, many, many blogs devoted solely to finding the best one in any given park.)

This obsession is not limited to Disney fans. Guests expect high theme park cleaning standards no matter where they vacation. They are also not shy about blogging and posting pictures when those restrooms fall short of expectations.

This means spotlessly clean amusement park restrooms are now the industry standard. Here’s how theme parks mostly get it right. And why they may find themselves falling short.

Theme Park Outlook: A Wild Ride

COVID sent the entire theme park industry for a loop. The market size of the global amusement parks industry was $73.5 billion in 2019. 2023 predictions shrink that to $71.6 billion. Pandemic-era restrictions caused some of that drop, but in 2023 the lingering labor crisis is the biggest pain point.

Like the rest of the hospitality sector, theme and amusement parks are labor intensive businesses, with 458 US parks normally employing over 133,000 people. Labor shortages will make finding enough employees to clean and stock restrooms a challenge.  

Theme Park Cleaning: A 24-Hour Operation

There are two components of effective theme park cleaning. Day workers tidy restrooms, stock consumables and remove garbage while guests are in the park. Nighttime crews, known in Disney cleaning parlance as the third shift, perform the heavy cleaning and other disruptive maintenance tasks after the park closes.

  • The Night Shift

Armed with portable floodlights and strap-on headlamps, these third shifters pull weeds, touch up paint, make repairs, and scrub every surface. The result is a completely refreshed theme park ready to dazzle guests.

Or at least that’s the idea. As noted in this Los Angeles Times article Disney cut back on this cleanliness regimen in the mid-1990s to save on maintenance costs. Guests were not charmed. “For 10 years or so, it was horrible,” said Al Lutz, founder of fan website MiceAge in the piece. “That wasn’t Disneyland.”

  • The Day Shift

Call them custodial cast members, clean team members, or day porters, effective amusement cleaning relies on a crew of workers to empty trash, restock consumables, and make sure restrooms are clean and fresh. The work is not easy.

As example, take a look at this want ad for a Six Flags restroom cleaning crew member. Physical requirements include frequent stooping, kneeling, crouching, using repetitive motions, bending, reaching, and grasping. No wonder the entire amusement industry is concerned about finding enough staff to do this unpleasant job.

A Better Way to Clean Amusement Park Restrooms

Attracting and retaining theme park cleaning crews is going to be challenging. But, as The Walt Disney Company discovered 30 years ago, guests will balk at lowered maintenance standards, particularly in the restroom. Perhaps amusement parks should look for a better way to clean.

They should start with the tools. Instead of outfitting workers with mops and rags that require stooping, kneeling, and bending try a No-Touch Cleaning® system by Kaivac. These machines empower workers to clean the entire restroom—fixtures, walls, and floors—quickly and completely without stooping or kneeling.

Employees spray surfaces with the cleaning solution, blast the soils to the floor with a high-pressure water spray, and then vacuum the slurry up. No bending, twisting, or kneeling required. Dirt and germs are completely removed, leaving the floor clean, dry, and ready for guests.

Click here to learn more about the Kaivac approach restroom cleaning.

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.
Amy Milshtein
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