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Fact vs. Fiction: Debunking Dispenser Myths

Isabelle Faivre
April 24, 2018

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After you use the restroom – particularly in public facilities like schools, offices, gyms and airports – you are expected to go to the sink and wash your hands. Although the routine is familiar, the type of soap dispenser typically varies from one facility to another. Some restrooms employ touchless, automatic soap dispensers while others offer a manual option, and some even have another dispenser for hand sanitizer near the exit.


Public restrooms started replacing bar soaps with liquid soap dispensers after studies in the 1960s found that bar soaps were often contaminated with bacteria.[1] These high-touch surfaces have prompted several pervasive myths in the public marketplace. Let’s take a deeper dive into a few of the most common misconceptions surrounding soap dispensers.


Mistakes and Misconceptions


  1. “All soap dispensers are ugly.”

While this often comes down to a matter of opinion, some companies offer custom dispensers that will brighten your bathroom and align with your brand image. They allow you to add your logo or create your own color scheme for a soap dispenser that’s both stylish and effective. A unique and eye-catching soap dispenser can encourage proper hand hygiene while giving patrons a positive impression of your brand and facility.

  1. “Soap dispensers carry germs.”

Different dispensers are more susceptible to germs than others. For instance, when refilling a bulk soap dispensing system, germs from the outside environment or the person’s hands can easily contaminate the soap reservoir. Even where the equipment is cleaned frequently, using aggressive products such as bleach, researchers have identified a high risk of recontamination, due to biofilms – microorganisms that stick to each other and adhere to surfaces.[2]


However, sealed dispensing systems are “closed” and are refilled by inserting a sealed soap cartridge into the dispenser, minimizing the risk of bacterial contamination. This method eliminates contact between the product and the environment before the product is being used to wash hands. The risk of contamination is reduced to a minimum.


The use of antimicrobial technology is also effective in reducing the number of germs on soap dispensers. A recent study found a clear reduction in the total number of bacteria present on various surfaces and products treated with BioCote®.[3]


  1. “Touch-free dispensers are a better option.”

While hands-free dispensers seem like a glamorous option, they have their own drawbacks, including drips and leaks. If not properly used or accurately portioned, this type of dispenser can sometimes lead to significant product waste. There are many factors to consider when looking at automatic soap dispensers, including battery life, sensor effectiveness, reliability and ease of refill access.

  1. “Dispensers never provide the right amount of soap.”

Many people don’t know that there is a proper amount of soap to use when washing their hands. When hands are visually dirty, users will wash until they appear clean, but the greater challenge is effective microbial cleansing, which is more difficult to assess at a glance. In recent times, some manufacturers have promoted smaller and smaller hand soap dosages, enabling them to claim an economic benefit due to more doses per liter of soap.


So how much soap should you use? A 2012 study reported that 0.7ml of foam soap is the optimum single dose.[4] Unfortunately, the study also found that many manufacturers suggest using much lower doses however in testing, a dose of 0.4ml only covered 53 percent of the hand surface area and did not produce a cleaning result any better than water alone. Therefore, it’s important to work with a reputable manufacturer when selecting dispensers for your facility. 


  1. “Dispensers are limited to dispensing soap and hand sanitizer.”

While the first thing that comes to mind when you think of dispensers may be soap, there are many products that can be stocked in a dispenser. Sunscreen, hand lotion, body wash and more can all be dispensed from various types of dispensers that contribute to different aspects of health and wellness.


  1. “All dispensers are created equal.”

There are a variety of dispensers on the market today, and none of them are created equal. From manual to automatic, bag-in-box to cartridge and wall to counter mounted dispensers, each one is refilled and operated a little differently. For example, a collapsible bag with liquid soap ensures less wasted product, but a foaming soap dispenser has a lower environmental impact. Each has their own specific benefits, so it’s important to research your options thoroughly before deciding on which dispenser is best for your facility.

Learn more about dispensing systems


Deciding on a Dispenser


Debunking the myths around dispensers is essential because hand hygiene has a direct impact on our health. In fact, most communicable diseases are transferred by hands. Keeping hands clean can prevent the spread of dangerous illnesses and protect against risks such as the flu, food poisoning and other healthcare associated infections.


When deciding what dispensing program to implement for your business, it’s essential to do your research and be aware of misleading information. Each business is unique, so take the time to engage in thoughtful product selection and choose the system that works best for you.


For information on Deb Group’s dispensing systems, visit




[2] Lorenz, L., Ramsay, B., Goeres, D., Fields, M., Zapka, C., Macinga, D. Evaluation and remediation of bulk soap dispensers for biofilm, Biofouling 2012; 28:1 99-109


[4] “Optimizing Foam Soap Dose for Hand Washing”; Deb Group, January 2012

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