Commercial soap dispensers play a crucial role in promoting proper hand hygiene. Viruses and bacteria are easily transmitted through contact between people, and indirectly via surfaces such as door handles, but the simple act of hand-washing can prevent a great many occurrences.
“Most health care-associated infections are preventable through good hand hygiene – cleaning hands at the right times and in the right way.”
World Health Organization, “The evidence for clean hands”
A World Health Organization publication notes that “hand hygiene is the primary measure to reduce infections,” and states that the use of soap is an essential component of an effective hand-washing regime.
Numerous public information sources emphasise the vital role of soap in hand-washing. For example, this Hand Hygiene guide published by the UK government’s NIdirect service advises that individuals should “apply enough soap to cover all surfaces of hand”. By reducing the surface tension of the water and by binding to fats and greasy residue, soap greatly enhances germ-removal during washing.
For businesses, encouraging proper hand-washing makes sound commercial sense. According to the 2017 ‘Britain’s Healthiest Workplace’ survey, absences and under-performance due to sickness cost the economy £77.5 billion per annum. By ensuring that washrooms are properly equipped and by encouraging a culture of hygiene-awareness, employers can make many of those costs avoidable.
“Soap and water don’t kill germs; they work by mechanically removing them from your hands. Running water by itself does a pretty good job of germ removal, but soap increases the overall effectiveness by pulling unwanted material off the skin and into the water.”
Harvard Medical School, “The handiwork of good health”
Exactly the same principles apply in other environments, of course: in healthcare and educational premises, leisure facilities and a host of public venues.
Encouraging a Culture of Hygiene
The importance of using soap is beyond question and yet studies repeatedly find that significant numbers of people fail to wash their hands after using the bathroom. What’s more, of those that do, most fail to wash effectively or for long enough; one study by Michigan State University found that only 50% of people used soap, and only 5% washed for the recommended length of 15 seconds or longer.
Part of the problem stems from people feeling rushed; they might be conscious of queues in busy workplace bathrooms or feeling pressure to return to their activities. However, washroom designers can encourage people to spend those crucial extra 15 seconds by choosing washroom soap dispensers that are visible, reliable and easy to use.
Choosing the Right Washroom Soap Dispenser
There are countless commercial soap dispensers available on the market, and choosing the right one means taking account of factors such as the washroom size and layout, footfall, servicing requirements and the risk of damage.
Material Choice: Plastic and Stainless Steel Soap Dispensers
If budget is a limiting factor, then there are some good plastic products available. They tend to be very affordable, often attractively designed, and they come in a variety of shapes and capacities.
However, for washrooms that are likely to see heavy use, stainless steel soap dispensers offer the benefits of added robustness and long-term reliability. For the same reasons, they also make an excellent choice for public bathrooms where there may be a risk of vandalism and abuse. Stainless steel is hardwearing and will not rust, so it retains its attractive ‘engineered’ finish. Similarly, the material’s strength enables it to withstand the rigours of frequent use, refilling and cleaning, so it should offer many years of hygienic, trouble-free performance.
Commercial Soap Dispensers for Small Washrooms
Choosing the right commercial soap dispenser depends largely on the environment in which it will be expected to work. Space is one obvious factor. In compact washrooms, a small, wall mounted soap dispenser could help to afford more elbow room, while in larger rooms, the emphasis might be more on capacity or style.
Servicing costs tend to be higher in bathrooms with higher footfall, so in such cases it will usually make sense to opt for a higher capacity unit. Common options are 375ml, 500ml and 1 litre. However, in less busy bathrooms, a 1 litre dispenser might well be under-used, which might risk the soap hardening or even spoiling. If in doubt, seek advice; a good washroom equipment manufacturer should be well placed to help you make a sensible choice.
Soap Dispensers: Other Design Considerations
For many customers, aesthetics are an important criterion. A clean, stylish washroom can say a lot about an organisation, and the look and finish of its various elements will contribute to that. Here, the choice will be a matter of personal taste, though it’s useful to note that stainless steel soap dispensers can come in a wide range of shapes, and with special textures and finishes, including a lacquered surface that will not show grease marks or fingerprints.
For organisations that take advantage of a washroom servicing contract, it’s also important to consider how soap dispensers are refilled – i.e. whether they are bulk-filled (topped up from a larger container) or whether a replacement cartridge is fitted. A consistent format between dispensers will make for quicker and easier maintenance, which should translate into lower costs.
Best Commercial Soap Dispensers for Hotels / Restaurants
For hotels, restaurants and other hospitality venues, aesthetics will be one of the most important considerations. Here, stainless steel is a popular choice, delivering robustness and reliability while also conveying an image of quality. Plasma-welded dispensers are frequently chosen by architects and interior designers for their sleek lines and precise angles.
Some hotels and guest houses opt for plastic bottles of hand soap in their public washrooms. These might be appropriate for guest en-suites, but wall-mounted soap dispensers are generally a more practical choice for frequently used bathrooms. Dispensers produce less waste packaging, and they are much less prone to theft, abuse and accidental damage. They also leave counter-tops free for easier cleaning.
The aesthetic preference for clean lines has also underpinned the development of ‘behind the mirror’ washroom equipment, such as soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers and hand dryers. These products help to create the sleekest of bathroom designs, keeping all equipment neatly concealed.
Best Washroom Soap Dispensers for Schools
Fitting the right soap dispensers in school bathrooms is important; a unit that is visible and easy to use will help to instil good personal hygiene habits from a young age. Key considerations will include fitting the right size of dispenser for the room (since many school washrooms may be quite cramped) and matching its capacity to the likely footfall.
Robustness is also important. Bathrooms tend to be less closely monitored than other parts of a school. If there is any risk of vandalism, a stainless-steel soap dispenser with a sturdy, reliable lock will be a logical choice. It’s also helpful to look for units that have a push-button activation rather than a pull-out action; this is simply because repeated pulling will tend to put stresses on the wall-mountings, which could accelerate the need for maintenance.
Best Washroom Dispensers for Care Homes and Healthcare Premises
Britain’s population is ageing. The Office for National Statistics reports that by 2041, 26% of Britons will be aged 65, and people in the 85+ age-band will make up 4% of the population. This trend is placing increasing demands on care homes, which will have to swell in numbers in order to accommodate a growing body of seniors.
When it comes to choosing a washroom soap dispenser, the usual selection criteria apply: capacity, size, format, aesthetics and – most crucially – ease of use. However, there are also some special considerations to bear in mind, one of which is the rising incidence of dementia.
According to a 2014 study carried out for the Alzheimer’s Society, 7% of people aged 65 and over had dementia. The proportion rose to 17% for those aged 80 and above. As we noted in our blog article, ‘Creating a dementia-friendly washroom’, one significant symptom of dementia is an impaired ability to distinguish between colours. To address the problem, Dudley Industries has created a range of washroom products whose housings and powder-coated wall plates have strongly contrasting colours. This makes them much easier to identify and therefore encourages an effective hand-washing routine.
In some healthcare environments, there may be risk of self-harm, in which case, it is useful to specify soap dispensers and other washroom products with anti-ligature designs. Here, sloping tops and special mountings help to prevent ligatures from being attached.
Fit The Best Commercial Soap Dispensers in your Washrooms
Stainless steel soap dispensers are a popular feature of many washrooms. Partly, they are chosen for reasons of style; they convey an image of quality and are available in a range of striking designs and finishes. Equally importantly, they offer distinct practical benefits. They are durable, reliable and will withstand aggressive cleaning regimes, so they help to maintain the highest standards of hygiene while also keeping repair and maintenance costs to a minimum.
In this article, we have set out some of the most common selection criteria, but it’s always a good idea to seek good advice before making a final choice. Dudley Industries are experts in the design and manufacture of stainless steel washroom equipment, so we’re well placed to help you choose the best soap dispensers for your specific needs. In addition to this, information on how to select products to fit out your whole washroom can be found in this helpful guide.