When it comes to safeguarding against cross-contamination, the buck stops at the door, literally. Facility managers that have invested in touch-free technology — towel dispensers, urinals, toilets, faucets and soap dispensers — should consider one more critical touch-free application.

The door is really the beginning and the end of any cross-contamination due diligence.

More accurately, the device on the door that building occupants use to operate the door is now getting the focus of touch-free product development. Door handles, levers, touch plates and other door hardware that building occupants come into contact with can now be retrofitted with products that either disinfect hardware, protect against touching the door hardware or allow for a touch-free exit.

The degree of incentive if you’re a facility product specifier for investing in this type of technology depends on the type of facility you’re safeguarding. Office buildings, industrial sites, medical clinics and hospitals, schools, restaurants and research facilities, among others all qualify for some type of touch-free hygiene strategy, but for some of these operations the motivation is more pressing and critical.

In the case of doors and door hardware, the cross-contamination facts speak for themselves: A report by the National Center for Infectious Diseases states that one out of three restroom users do not wash their hands.

Even some of the ones that do wash their hands do not wash them for the recommended amount of time, says Tim Ames, HEALTHMINDER Division, Sloan Valve Co., Franklin Park, Ill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that patrons should wash their hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing all areas of the hands, including the back of the hands, wrists, cuticles, fingernails and the spaces between their fingers.

By not washing their hands or not washing them for the recommended amount of time, patrons can transmit pathogens to others when they touch the restroom door handle.

To prevent cross-contamination on the door handle, facilities would need someone to disinfect the door handle a number of times a day. But obviously, this is not feasible. Instead, manufacturers have created products that allow users to exit the restroom without coming into contact with a contaminated handle. Now users no longer have to use their shirt or towels to open the door, says Oscar Wientjes, president, Technical Concepts, Mundelein, Ill.

For a long time there has been no clear solution — other than a doorless restroom— to solve the dilemma of exiting the restroom without touching the door handle. Facility managers were concerned about having a healthy restroom, but it was a matter of finding a cost-effective solution, says Todd Muderlak, president, Milwaukee-based Purleve.


The most ideal way to prevent against cross-contamination on the door handle is having no door at all, says Wientjes. However, a number of existing buildings are not designed for a door-less entrance because of space limitations, he says.

The facility’s design forces managers into other door strategies to prevent against cross-contamination. The type of products available differ in both features and use. Some require patrons to still use the door handle to open the door while others do not.

One product sprays an alcoholic mist on the door handle at pre-determined intervals. The disinfecting agent evaporates immediately, safely disinfecting the handle, Ames says.

Another option is a wall-mounted tissue dispenser placed near the door. A user takes a tissue to cover the handle when opening the door. The trash receptacle below the dispenser discourages users from discarding the tissues on the floor and serves as a reminder to practice good hygiene, says Dana Ruff, senior manager – tissue category, Georgia-Pacific Professional, Atlanta.

A third product completely covers the door handle. The product fits lockable doors, doors with rotating handles and push-pull doors. An antibacterial sheet covers the door handle, guaranteeing a clean exit from the restroom. After the patron opens the door and exits the restroom, a trigger produces a fresh antibacterial sheet replacing the existing one.

The product is easy for the maintenance staff to install, says Muderlak. There is little follow up maintenance work because the product holds a large amount of refills.

No-touch Solutions

While some products require some contact with the handle, others necessitate no touching at all.

For example, patrons can open the door by placing their hand in front of a motion-activated sensor. The fixture is not attached to the door, so patrons can still open the door by grabbing the handle. For facilities interested in a touch-free entrance as well, another sensor can be installed on the outside of the room, says Wientjes.

Other options require patrons to use their feet to exit the restroom. Users put their foot on top or inside of a metal casing that is installed at the bottom of the door and pull their foot to open the door. Based on how the products are installed, patrons can still use the door handle to exit the restroom, says Leighton Harvey, Footpull, Arlington, Tex.

Benefits Of Touch-free Fixtures

A facility conveys a positive, hygienic image to patrons when it takes steps to prevent the transference of germs and bacteria during the restroom experience, according to Ames.

This type of fixture also helps improve the overall health of a given facility. The chance for users to contract a cold or the flu are minimized when facilities install the fixtures, says Mike Sewell, president, StepNpull, Springfield, Mo.

Reducing cross-contamination helps decrease employee absenteeism and can have a positive impact on productivity.

Touch-free door fixtures also create a cleaner appearance in restrooms, says Ruff. Typically, a lot of patrons use paper towels to open doors and discard them on the floor, causing janitorial crews to spend more time cleaning the restroom and restocking dispensers. With touch-free door fixtures, the janitorial staff can spend extra time on another activity.

For facility managers wanting to create a healthier ambiance and improve overall health of their restroom, touch-free door fixtures are a great way to begin. Depending on the type of facility, anything from a disinfectant sprayer to an automatic door opener minimizes the transmission of germs to patrons, slamming the door on cross-contamination.