The Great Dispenser Debate

by | Sep 24, 2009

Not all dispensers are created equal.

There are many types of dispensers. One that more and more facilities are using has a refillable container inside. To refill the soap, all it takes is opening up the dispenser, twisting off the top of the inner container and then pouring new liquid soap inside.

Other dispensers work differently. They come with sealed plastic bags or containers. When empty, all you do it open the dispenser, pull out the empty bag/container and replace it with the new full one.

One of the drawbacks of sealed bags/containers is that they are usually proprietary. If you have one manufacturer’s dispenser you must your their bags/containers, even if they are more expensive.

And even if they are not proprietary, the pre-sealed bags/containers systems tend to be much more expensive. We have found that oftenwe can save a facility about 40% by switching from sealed bags/containers to refillable containers!

Why is there a debate?

Because an unpublished study by the University of Arizona found that 23-25% of samples taken from open refillable bulk soap reservoir dispensers were contaminated with unsafe levels of bacteria, as well as coliforms, illness causing fecal-based organisms, which were found in 16-22% of the bulk soap dispensers tested.

On the other hand, the study only sampled dispensers in public establishments such as restaurants, gyms, retail stores and offices, whose staff are presumably not as bacteria-cognizant and professional about cleanliness as those in Healthcare facilities. (By the way, unsealed dispensers in offices were almost more than twice as likely to have bacteria as any of the other establishments sampled.

Furthermore, one of the Arizona researchers acknowledged in a private email that although he knew of “several outbreaks in hospitals” he knew of none in nursing homes and no lawsuits related to alleged soap dispenser contamination.

What do we recommend?

Is the risk so minimal that it is better to go with unsealed refillable containers and save up to 40%? Or is no risk worth saving 40% compared to the costs of a possible lawsuit, especially given the litigious society in which we live?

At the end of the day, this is a decision for facility ownership and/or administration, although the expert PrimeSource staff is ready, willing and able to help the decision-makers wrestle with this matter.. The purpose of this article is to bring the issue to your attention so that you can think about things you may not have thought about before.