The use of hand sanitizer, while popular, saw an increase two years ago, when the country experienced the 2009 H1N1 flu scare. Thankfully, the flu was not as deadly or widespread as feared, but the episode did underscore the need for greater public hand hygiene.

“There’s always a concern from a public health standpoint that without these health scares people may be lulled into less attention to hygiene, which we don’t want to see,” says Brian Sansoni, vice president of communications for the American Cleaning Institute, Washington D.C. “What we want to see throughout the year is common sense hygiene everyday. Cold, flu and other communicable diseases are always with us, and they can harm us when there is a lack of attention to good hygiene practices.”

With a heightened awareness for the need for hand sanitizer, Sansoni reminds janitorial suppliers to talk to their customers about the many places that dispensers can be positioned for effective use.

“Go the extra mile to remind them of the smart ways they can encourage people to use [hand sanitizer] in common sense ways,” he says. “It’s easier than ever to stay clean and healthy, and if you make it easy for people, if you put hand sanitizer in front of them to use, the more likely they are to use it.”

Hand sanitizer dispensers are often placed in locations without a water source, but many facilities are also installing them inside the restroom.

“We are seeing a lot more sanitizer dispensers inside restrooms,” says Sansoni. “Inside a restroom is a good idea if you want that extra germ kill, especially if the soap is not an antibacterial soap and people want that extra layer of protection.”

According to Beatrix Babcock, a partner for HCI Consulting Group LLC in Denver, hand sanitizer dispensers should be placed where they’ll be noticed: near sinks where people wash their hands.

“If you put the dispensers too far away from the sinks, people don’t recognize what they are and walk right past them,” she says.

However, placing hand sanitizer dispensers by the exit door helps ensure hands are actually cleaned, especially for patrons in a hurry who may not wash their hands long enough or not at all. Also, if people get distracted and forget to wash their hands they can see one final reminder before exiting.

Restrooms with changing stations provide one extra location for dispensers.

“If your place of business has a changing table, it makes perfect sense to have hand sanitizer right close by,” says Sansoni.

Babcock cautions, however, that during messy situations, hand sanitizer may not always be appropriate at these stations.

“You are generally dealing with feces and baby vomit that get on your hands. The CDC says you shouldn’t use hand sanitizer if you have visible dirt, and that’s the kind of dirt they are talking about,” she says.

Parents will be able to supervise young children in restrooms, so using an alcohol-based sanitizer in these areas should be OK. However, some facilities still express concern because alcohol-based products contain at least 60 percent alcohol, making the product the equivalent of 124 proof alcohol.

“Hand sanitizer has a high concentration of alcohol, and babies are always reaching around, and if they reach for the sanitizer and get it on their hands, they can get it into their mouths,” says Babcock.

In a young child, effects of ingesting alcohol-based hand sanitizer include dizziness, stomachaches and headaches. As an alternative, distributors can offer a water-based, quat-based or biobased hand sanitizer that doesn’t contain alcohol.

When identifying ideal locations for hand sanitizer dispensers and stands, jan/san distributors should not forget about the restroom — even though soap and water are readily available.

Cynthia Kincaid is a freelance writer based in Gahanna, Ohio.