While each manufacturer typically will give their individual ‘take’ on a hand hygiene dispenser at the end of the day they can be broken down into three main categories: bulk fill, automatic, and manual. There are clear pros and cons to each, at the end of the day it is up to the customer to select the dispenser type best suited for their budget and establishment.
The first, and most widely debated, dispenser type is the bulk fill dispenser. Many people select bulk fill as their hand hygiene dispensing method for budgetary reasons; product is cheap and with attentive janitors ‘topping off’ dispensers soap is readily at all times. Win/win, right? In actuality the apparent ‘pros’ of bulk fill soap and dispensing are quickly dwarfed by the cons.
The first con, and most major drawback of bulk fill, is the potential risks for contamination and bacterial growth. Bulk fill dispenser manufacturers, along with the CDC, all suggest that in order to keep a bulk soap dispenser as hygienic as possible a user should NOT top off the soap dispenser as needed, instead each fill should be allowed to empty completely followed by a thorough cleaning of the dispenser prior to a refill. In reality, how often is this procedure actually followed? It’s time consuming, daunting and quickly negates any budget savings by purchasing a bulk product with the increase labor needs to make soap hygienic when used. When dispensers are refilled without a complete cleaning, not only can the dispenser stop working effectively due to clogs but bacteria in the air (which bulk fill products are constantly exposed to) can thrive in the moist environment of the dispenser and contaminate the soap itself. If a dispenser becomes contaminated hand washing with product from those dispensers becomes ineffective and can actually contribute to the spread of germs. You might say, hey, why bother? Soap is soap, it’s self-cleaning. Well… Not exactly. Soap essentially lubricates the hands capturing the germs so they are washed down the drain. If the germs are in the soap it instantly becomes less effective, if a sanitizer is being bulk dispensed it can actually deposit germs on the hands completely defeating the purpose. The risk is the germs that develop after surviving hand sanitizer exposure are exactly the ones you do not want.
In an effort to pull away from bulk filled hygiene products manufacturers have switched their focused dispensing systems that utilize sealed-soap (or sanitizer)-dispensing systems therefore reducing, if not eliminating, airborne germ exposure. While the look of the dispensers can vary wildly manufacturer to manufacturer ultimately it boils down to two options: automatic or manual.
The case for automatic dispensers seems to make itself; since there’s no contact needed to trigger a ‘push’ the opportunity for germs to transfer from the touch point to a person’s hands is taken away. In reality, since a person is cleansing their hands after touching a dispenser the automatic function isn’t necessary. Automatic dispensers also require batteries to keep functioning which can add to the cost quickly and if the batteries aren’t changed there is no manual way to get the soap to dispense. And as with any battery and sensor opperated device automatic dispenser can sometimes delay the trigger push or even trigger on their own dispensing product onto sink counters or floors causing damage. It is not uncommon to see floor wax stripped by leaking hand sanitizer dispensers.
At the end of the day the most hygienic, cost effective, and reliable dispenser option is a manual dispenser that utilizes enclosed products.