Touchless soap and towel dispensers are the most popular hands-free technologies in restrooms.

Touch-free soap dispensing became the first technology embraced by many building managers. The technology saved money and gave the public the touch-free experience they craved. However, these devices have reportedly fallen out of favor among many building managers because of the maintenance challenges associated with the battery-operated units.

Distributors counter by saying that battery-operated devices reduce costs while giving the public access to touch-free technology.

“Most of the time they pay for themselves in one year,” says Travis Turner, general manager of Green Sky Cleaning Supply, Fenton, Mo.

Touchless soap dispensers release approximately 0.9 ml of foam soap per dispensation but can be set as low as 0.7 or 0.4 ml, so even if customers come back for an extra helping, they still wind up using less soap than they would have had they used a liquid alternative.

“The foam really fills up your hand, so most people don’t go back for more. It’s just not necessary,” says Louie Davis Jr., senior territory manager at Central Paper Co. of Birmingham, Ala.

Clients appreciate that they know their soap costs up front because they are able to precisely calculate the amount of soap they will use in a given year, he adds.

Turner says customers typically reduce soap costs 15 to 20 percent by switching from liquid to foam soap dispensed with an auto-dispensing unit. Clients can further save money by programming in delays between dispensing. This prevents restroom patrons from going back for more. Even wayward children who wish to play with the foam will tire quickly of waiting for it to come out.

Two versions of touch-free towel dispensers are available: battery-operated and mechanized. One delivers towels automatically when the user waves a hand in front of a sensor on the dispensing unit’s front. The latter has a few inches of towel hanging down and when the user pulls out the paper towel, another drops down in its place.

“The mechanical dispensers are still considered touch-free,” says Turner. “You’re not touching anything. You’re touching the towel but it’s clean and you’re pulling it out. And this option doesn’t require batteries.”

Batteries for towel dispensing units also last a long time — up to 18 months.

“Even in hospitals where there is tremendously huge volume, the batteries last a year or more,” Davis says.

Of course, another option is to use hand dryers. These machines are also available with touch-free options. Users simply place their hands underneath the nozzle or inside the dryer itself. Since dryers operate on electricity, cleaning professionals don’t have to worry about battery life or running out of stock.  

If facilities want to be completely hands-free with their paper, distributors can recommend touch-free toilet tissue dispensers in stalls. Both manual and automatic versions are available; these dispensers help reduce product overuse and cross-contamination because users can only touch the tissue they are going to use.

Ronnie Garrett is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.