Recognized for portraying an upscale, modern image with their sleek gadgetry, touch-free soap and towel dispensers also help improve hand hygiene by reducing cross-contamination in public restrooms. But increasing public perception and improving hand hygiene isn’t everything these touch-free dispensers do for facilities. These dispensers also take on a tall role of controlling facilities’ spend on soap and paper towels, two commodities that suffer from over consumption and waste in public restrooms.

Being able to control the appropriate dose of soap and the required length of paper toweling per restroom patron, facilities are able to recognize significant savings from touch-free dispensers.

Touch-free Soap Dispensers

Suitable for use in all types of commercial facilities, touch-free soap dispensers are most commonly found in high-traffic facilities’ restrooms such as in airports, restaurants, office buildings, universities and hospitals. These dispensers, which are sensor-activated, pump and dispense a controlled amount of soap for restroom patrons who place their hands underneath the unit’s nozzle. Touch-free soap dispensers function to conserve the amount of soap while also stemming germ transmission by eliminating a common touch point in the restroom.

Touch-free soap dispensers give facilities the ability to control the amount of soap being dispensed through adjustable dosage settings. Thus, facilities can eliminate excess waste and overuse by restroom patrons who otherwise are allowed to manually take as much soap as needed.

Setting dosages enables cost savings through prolonged product life between refills and reduced maintenance visits.

Not all soap is the same, so dosages should be based on the type of cleanser, how concentrated it is and how well it can clean restroom visitors’ hands.

In a facility where occupants have to remove grease and industrial soils from their hands, liquid paste soap is often required. The recommended dosage for this type of soap in a touch-free dispenser should be set for 2 milliliter to provide sufficient skin coverage and distribution of surfactants over the skin surface.

For applications of milder skin soiling, a lower dosage of product would be sufficient for proper cleaning. Liquid soap should be set no lower than 1 milliliter and doesn’t need to be any higher than 1.5 milliliter.

In most public spaces where general hand washing occurs, facilities can benefit from the cost savings of foam cleansers. With the least amount of product required to cleanse hands, a setting of 0.4 milliliter to 0.7 milliliter is adequate for foam soap.

More concentrated formulas such as foam soaps enable a smaller dose size, which in turn enables a refill to last longer before needing changed and yields more hand washes per cartridge.

If facilities are concerned about usage, foam soap has been found to be eight times more spreadable than liquid soap and reduces the quantity of product required for an effective hand wash, according to a recent study. Interestingly, using less product does not equate to less efficacy as a further scientific study shows that there is no significant difference in the cleaning ability between a 0.7 milliliter dosage of foam soap compared to a standard 1.1 milliliter dosage of liquid soap.

Facilities also recognize a savings in water consumption with foam soap use. When using foam soap for hand washing, restroom patrons use 16 percent less water than when using liquid soap. Water consumption can be reduced by up to 45 percent by adopting a foam soap hand washing technique of dispense, lather, rinse and dry. For every 100 people per facility, the use of foam soap for hand washing can equate to an annual water reduction of up to 14,790 gallons of water.

Soap dispensers can also be set to dispense on a timed delay when activated. Most touch-free systems require that a person removes their hands from the actuation zone and then bring them back under again for a second dispense if needed. This design helps reduce the amount of soap being used and reduces the risk of accidental dispensing of the product.

Touch-free Towel Dispensers

Supply waste is most apparent with paper toweling in high-traffic facilities. As a result, manufacturers have developed touch-free paper towel dispensers that help minimize the amount of paper being used during the hand drying process in public restrooms.

A facility that currently uses c-fold or multi-fold towels can save upwards of 25 to 30 percent on paper usage by implementing a touch-free electronic paper towel dispenser. And with manual dispensers, restroom patrons have the option of cranking a lever, pulling down on an exposed piece of paper, or turn a knob to get as much paper as they so choose.

With touch-free automatic dispensers, however, restroom users are encouraged to only take one sheet of paper toweling that is pre-set to a specified length by the facility.

These lengths vary by manufacturer, but most dispensers allow for facilities to choose a small, medium or large length (8-, 12- and 16-inches long, respectively). Medium-sized length typically is recommended for most facilities because with the short length patrons tend to take too many sheets and with the long length, people are usually programmed to take two sheets anyways.

Access to multiple sheets of paper after the first piece is also pre-set depending on facility type. Typical times vary in two-second intervals, from as low as two seconds up to as high as an eight-second delay.

In a high-traffic restroom such as an airport or an arena where people enter and leave quickly, longer lengths of toweling and longer delay settings are often recommended, since most guests are in a hurry and soon realize that one towel is adequate for drying hands. By utilizing a longer timed delay, it can save a high-traffic facility upwards of 25 percent less paper use.

In an office building or K-12 school, however, occupants may not need as much paper toweling, so the delay can be long. Ideally, appropriate time delays between sensor activations should cut down on product waste.

Touch-free paper towel dispensers also allow facilities to set up their dispensers to dispense a shorter sheet on the second dispense. Known as a paper savings mode, this feature shortens the second sheet length by either 12 percent or 25 percent depending upon what setting the facility has it on.

How it works is after a user requests for the first sheet and then asks for another sheet within three seconds, it will be 12 to 25 percent shorter than the first sheet. The dispenser then goes back into regular mode upon the next dispense, which likely is for a different user. Implementing dispensers with this function is most suitable in facilities where patrons are expected to take more than one sheet.

When reducing consumption is the name of the game in public restrooms, facilities can recognize significant savings by implementing touch-free soap and towel dispensers. The cost of the units themselves have dropped in price, making them an even more attractive purchase for facilities. The return on investment is also often recognized quickly in the declining overuse of soap, paper towels, energy and water consumption.



The following manufacturers contributed to this article:

The Dial Corp.

Georgia-Pacific Professional

Kimberly-Clark Professional

Palmer Fixture Co.

Rubbermaid Commercial Products

San Jamar

STOKO® Skin Care