Restrooms are often considered the most important impression-making area for tenants and building occupants. All end users require for a positive experience is that restrooms are clean, stocked and in good working order. A distributor’s job is to help match the best products and dispensers for each restroom’s individual needs and preferences, ensuring customer satisfaction and building those relationships upon which successful business dealings depend.

Facilities in which image is of utmost concern and part of an overall “experience” — such as Class-A office buildings, movie theaters, hotels, convention centers and casinos — have been using automatic dispensers for years. Hands free soap dispensers are also popular in high-traffic facilities such as in airports, as well as in foodservice and healthcare environments, where cross-contamination is a serious health issue.

For end users, a handful of factors affect whether they will choose manual or touch-free soap dispensers for restrooms: the soap itself — how it’s packaged, how it needs to be refilled or replaced, and how often — as well as cost of the dispenser, the soap and the batteries required to run the device. Related variables, such as restroom traffic, determine the right dispenser fit for a given facility, and the true mark of customer satisfaction is the lack of complaints.

Innovation in soap packaging, soap formulations (particularly foam), dispenser design and technology have catapulted touchless soap dispensers to popularity, particularly in facilities where impressions count — and where controlling product use is a priority. These dispensers continue to be on the cutting edge of the industry, balancing sleek and attractive looks with automatic dispensing of many types of soap from closed bags and cartridges. Changing out soap bags or cartridges is a snap for janitors, who simply replace the empty ones.

Hands free dispensers seemed to reach a height in popularity after the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, says Eric Cadell, vice president of operations for Dutch Hollow Supplies, Belleville, Ill.

“All of a sudden you have all these people so concerned about community-acquired diseases and infections, Cadell says. “Everyone wanted to be as touch-free as possible.”
However strong those intentions were to reduce cross-contamination in restrooms, the recession certainly had an effect on end users’ willingness to invest in them, as the less expensive options became more desirable.

Touchless soap dispensers have become more price-competitive as the industry has become saturated and virtually all soap manufacturers are offering some type of touch-free device, says Chris Martini, director of marketing and special projects for Central Sanitary Supply in Modesto, Calif.

However, batteries themselves and their power capabilities won’t be changing anytime soon, Cadell says, and touchless dispensers will continue to rely on C- and D-cell batteries.

Manufacturers are listening to end user complaints and trying to address them with hands free soap dispensers that get more efficient use of batteries and are able to last longer between battery change-outs.

“There are more advances to be had in hands-free to negate all of those complaints that a BSC or in-house custodial services would have,” Martini says.

Touchless restrooms are still the choice of many types of facilities. Monitoring and changing out batteries is a necessary part of janitorial duties for those facilities, so having a tracking system can help keep track of replacement schedules and battery inventory.

“Where I see the dollars from the manufacturers being spent, in terms of investment, is on the hands-free systems because I think that they ultimately would see that as being the future," says Martini.