Many of the buildings we have maintained over the years have bulk soap dispensers installed in their restrooms. A bulk soap dispenser is one in which fresh soap is added to the remaining soap in the dispenser.
However, what we are learning, and what we suggest to our clients, is that these bulk soap dispensers should be removed and that cartridge soap dispensers be installed in their place.
Here’s why we are not a fan of this type of soap dispenser
In addition to the tendency of bulk dispensers to develop leaks over time, necessitating replacement of the whole dispenser, in order to refill a bulk dispenser, the lid must be removed, exposing the soap to airborne impurities. Further, the cap must be removed from the container filled with soap, again exposing it to airborne pollutants.
When refilling the dispenser, the soap at the bottom of the dispenser is rarely removed. Over time what can happen is that pathogens can develop in the old soap, the walls of the dispenser, foreign objects, and other items can accumulate in them. While these dispensers are durable, the pulling and pushing required to release the soap from the dispenser can also weaken the seal protecting the soap, once again potentially allowing pathogens in.
Further, these dispensers tend to be vandalized. If this happens, what often happens is the dispenser is put back into working order. However, once again, whatever soap was in the dispenser is still used. We also have no idea if the vandals tampered with the soap.
But don’t take our word for it. A study was conducted several years ago and published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. According to that study:
Bulk-soap-refillable dispensers are prone to extrinsic bacterial contamination, and recent studies demonstrated that approximately one in four dispensers in public restrooms are contaminated.
They also added the following:
This research confirms previous work demonstrating a strong association between open bulk-soap-refillable soap dispensers and extrinsic bacterial soap contamination and demonstrates that washing with contaminated soap poses a potential public health risk in community settings.
Often, we are asked if the bulk soap dispensers could just be cleaned instead of replaced. This is not usually effective. One reason for this is that some studies report that biofilm can develop in bulk soap dispensers. This biofilm can contaminate the soap.
Biofilm is a thin, slimy coating that houses many different forms of bacteria. It can be tough to remove, even with scrubbing, and biofilm tends to be resistant to many types of cleaning solutions and even disinfectants.
The best option is to switch out the bulk dispensers and use soap dispensers that use cartridges. These cartridges are sealed, helping to ensure their purity. We have helped many of our clients accomplish this and believe, based on all we have discussed here, it is a wise decision.
Further, when these cartridge soap dispensers run out of soap, replacing them is typically quick and easy. In addition, usually the cartridge has a “check valve,” so if there is a leak, replacing the cartridge will fix the leak. Another plus is they do not leave a soap residue in the dispenser, so there is little if any chance that contamination can develop.
The Secure Clean blog is designed to help building managers keep their facilities cleaner, healthier, greener, and safer, in the most cost-effective ways possible.
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