A roll of toilet tissue on a spool could become so last century as restroom hardware suppliers are introducing jan/san distributors to a new addition to the touch-free restroom: touches toilet tissue dispensers. These sleek devices allow users to receive tissue with ease.  

Similar to touch-free towel dispensers already on the market, touchless toilet tissue dispensers are available with automatic or manual operations.
With automatic tissue dispensers, users simply wave their hands in front of the sensor and the machine dispenses a single sheet of tissue. Manual touchless tissue dispensers also feature one-at-a-time dispensing — only one end of the tissue is exposed and end users pull out a single sheet of tissue.
In addition to contributing to the coolness factor in the restroom, automatic and manual touch-free toilet tissue dispensers enhance hygiene while positively effecting the bottom line for facility managers — benefits that jan/san distributors can promote to sell these devices.

Touch-free Tissue Prevents Overuse

Controlling of the amount of tissue dispensed is one of the overarching benefits of touchless toilet tissue dispensers. Instead of the strong-handed user taking too much tissue, the touchless models dictate the amount that is offered each time.

“We have the free-wheelers, they yank on that roll and it just spins out and they are typically consuming a lot more product as a result,” says Lisa Morden, product manager of bath tissue and facial tissue in North America for Kimberly-Clark Professional, Roswell, Ga.

Morden says that her company has found a roughly 20 percent reduction in the amount of tissue that gets consumed as a result of using touch-free toilet tissue dispensers. The reduction in consumption is a selling point, according to Morden, for distributors who face concerns from customers regarding the up-front costs for touchless dispensers compared to the less expensive traditional units.

“The key is really the traffic that is going through that facility and how much product gets put through that dispenser. That’s really where the cost savings ultimately comes from,” Morden says. “Depending on the rate of traffic and rate of consumption, there is a cost-savings payback to that dispenser. It’s paying for itself over time.”

In addition, the janitorial efforts needed to keep restrooms clean would be lessened with touchless toilet tissue dispensers because less paper would find its way onto the floor or stuffed in a toilet.

“These types of electronic systems do help to minimize that over-usage or that wastage rate that occurs in the restroom,” Morden says. “We have all seen tissue sitting on the floor because someone has free-wheeled; certainly the maintenance is mitigated and minimized because of the more controlled situation.”

Dispensers that control tissue quantities should also deter vandals from purposely clogging a toilet because it will take longer to acquire enough tissue needed to plug commodes.

Another indirect cost savings as a result of touchless toilet tissue dispensers is found in a reduction in water usage. Less tissue being put in the toilet means less double flushing, ultimately leading to less water is needed to get it down the drain. The amount of plumbing repairs and maintenance can also be reduced.

Touch-free Toilet Tissue Useful For Handicapped Stalls

Touchless dispensers are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, which makes them a perfect fit for facilities with tenants with disabilities.
“Handicapped stalls were created for a reason, not just to have one stall per bathroom that has more space,” says Don Totten, vice president of marketing at Oasis Brands, Winchester, Va. “[Disabled users] need the extra space, but they also need the automation … so there isn’t a lot of extra moving around in the public bathroom.”

When selling touch-free dispensers, distributors should have customers imagine they are disabled, attempting to retrieve toilet paper from a traditional dispenser that has malfunctioned, especially one that has been placed underneath the support bar, says Totten.

“Reach down and try to pull the tissue (which) is broken off about half way up the role. You have to jimmy the role down so you can have access to the sheet to pull it,” Totten says. “Imagine if you were physically challenged … remember you don’t have to be in a wheelchair not have really good use of your fingers.”

Touchless dispensers make grabbing tissue easier. Most manual touch-free dispensers have tissue accessible from the front rather than underneath. For automatic dispensers, there is no reaching underneath, just a wave of the hand.

“In those (handicapped) stalls, the facility managers are putting in little or no consideration for those individuals they are actually intended to accommodate,” Totten says. “The dispenser really was designed initially to satisfy the unmet need of the limited-range and mobility individuals in the market that visit public facilities and office buildings.”

Other Markets For Touch-free Toilet Tissue

In addition to handicapped stalls, touchless units are extremely useful for healthcare facilities and nursing homes where the spread of infection is a major concern to cleaning professionals and facility managers. Touchless toilet tissue dispensers completely enclose the tissue to prevent cross-contamination. Users can only touch the tissue they are going to use.

“You’re only touching the sheet that you’re going to be using, unlike a jumbo tissue or standard tissue; often you have to reach up and touch the roll to get it started if that sheet you’re going to be using isn’t exposed,” says Jill Lambrecht-Hudson, the vice president of sales and marketing at National Tissue Co., Cudahy, Wis. “So in a sense, you’d be contaminating the rest of the roll.”

Touch-free operations are important for restroom aesthetics and touchless toilet tissue can be one more item to promote an upscale image in Class-A offices and high-end retail stores and restaurants.

“It’s all about the image,” says Lambrecht-Hudson. “It reflects on what is happening on the back of the house, if you walk into a restaurant and it’s filthy, you wonder how your food is being cooked.”

Toilet tissue is the last product to join the touch-free restroom. Over the years many suppliers have doubted the touchless switch would ever happen with toilet tissue, so customers could be skeptical about this new innovation. It will be important for distributors who are attempting to sell touchless toilet tissue dispensers to their clients to actually show it to them in action, while comparing it to a more standard, manual dispenser.

“You’ve got to be in front of them and demonstrate it for them,” Lambrecht-Hudson says.

Brendan O’Brien is a freelance writer based in Greenfield, Wis. He is a frequent contributor to
Sanitary Maintenance.