When Is Enough, Enough?

Cutting back on the size of a soap shot may feel like a means to control usage, but ultimately, the end user makes the final call. Instead, facilities should focus on educating staff and end users on proper handwashing techniques, which, in turn, can help to ensure that they don’t use too much soap or — more importantly — not enough.

“When you dispense soap into your hand, you are not looking for a specific amount of ounces,” says Strain. “A reasonable amount of soap would be about the size of a quarter. You want to make sure building occupants have enough soap in the palm of their hand to build up a good amount of lather to wash both hands and in between fingers.”

While using the right amount of soap is important, proper handwashing techniques are equally important, if not more so.

“It’s not just about the soap,” says Strain. “If you have the right amount of soap but you’re not washing your hands correctly, that can cause cross-contamination.”

According to Brian Sansoni, vice president of communication and membership for the American Cleaning Institute in Washington, D.C., the amount of soap used is secondary to good hand hygiene practices.

“Typically, it doesn’t take much soap to lather up and adequately wash your hands,” he says. “It’s really the mechanical action of handwashing — along with the formulation of the soap and rinsing with water — that can make the difference in a proper handwashing routine. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.”

Water also plays an active role in making certain building occupants get the most out of their soap and don’t overuse it.

“People should be wetting their hands before they apply the soap because that helps to distribute it,” explains Mann. “If you skip that step, you’re going to run out of soap, and you won’t have enough to cover your hands properly.”

Although the jury is still out on how much soap should be dispensed in a single shot, and whether or not altering that dose saves money, there is one thing the industry agrees on: Poor hand hygiene could have a significant financial impact on a facility in the long run.

“Encouraging people to wash their hands is a good investment for any facility,” says Schneringer. “If people aren’t properly washing their hands, that potentially leads to the spread of illness, which could potentially lead to absenteeism. That costs a facility a lot more than the five dollars saved in soap.” 

KASSANDRA KANIA is a freelancer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.