Restroom dispensers are a vast category within facility supplies and there are many different approaches to drying your hands, and the soap you use to wash your hands. We are going to examine the most popular methods and compare and contrast them from a sanitary and cost perspective.
HAND DRYING METHODS
There are four ways to dry your hands after washing in the restroom, and each comes with a catch: pull towels, hand dryers, 'universal' roll towels, and 'proprietary' roll towels.
Pull towels are typically regarded as the most expensive way to dry your hands. As the amount of towels in the dispensers gets low, the bottom 20% of the towels tend to fall out. You also have no way of controlling how many towels your patrons use. Most pull towel systems only fit a few packages of refills, and they are not designed for high-traffic areas.
Hand dryers are also another common method to dry your hands. The idea of not having to replace the paper is very attractive to many people and while these systems are touted as the most environmentally friendly option, they are the least sanitary method. When the warm air blows the water off, the bacteria on your hands gets spread all over the restroom. You should not forget to factor in the cost of electricity to run these systems when doing your comparison.
Roll towels are the most cost-effective and sanitary way to dry your hands. Two distinct systems exist with roll towel dispensers:
'Universal' roll towel systems aim to be cost-effective but they lack necessary features that allow you to control how much product is being used. Most systems accept a maximum 800-foot roll and don't offer high-quality paper refills. Patrons use more of the low-quality paper to dry their hands than with high-quality paper.
'Proprietary' roll towels systems are the most cost-effective and sanitary option when it comes to drying your hands. They have features to control the amount of paper per hand dry. Dispensers are typically free and accept refill rolls with up to 40% more paper on them than their 'universal' counterpart. High-quality paper is available that encourages less paper per hand wash. Kimberly Clark and Tork have some very good options for 'proprietary' roll towel systems.
Soap is supposed to be your ally in killing germs, but this isn’t always the case. There are three (3) kinds of soap dispensers used in restrooms: bulk unsealed refills, sink top dispensers, and sealed soap refills.
Bulk unsealed soap is the cheapest way to buy soap but also the least sanitary. According to the National Institute of Health, "bulk-soap-refillable dispensers (ones in which new soap is poured into a dispenser) are prone to bacterial contamination, and several outbreaks linked to the use of contaminated soap... have been reported." In the long term, once you factor in sick days, and a workplace that no one wants to frequent, this can quickly become the most expensive way to dispense soap.
Sink top dispensers are not all that common but we do find them in smaller organizations. Yes these soap dispensers are sealed and more sanitary than bulk soap (unless you open the top and refill it.) The biggest problem with this method is the waste the container creates having to dispose of it once it's empty. It is common for these to walk out the back door into employee's homes, and they are just flat out the most expensive soap on cost per use basis.
Sealed soap cartridge refills are the most sanitary and cost-effective way to wash your hands. Since it is a closed system, bacteria have no way of entering and since the cartridge is replaced after each use, there is no chance of creating a system that is contaminated. Costs for these types of dispensers are minimal and since employees don't have the dispenser at their homes, there is no incentive for these to be stolen.
TOILET PAPER DISPENSERS
When it comes to toilet paper dispensing, there are three questions to consider: excessive waste, theft, and sanitary qualities. The most common types of toilet paper rolls are residential, jumbo, and hybrid.
Residential standard size rolls come in many different shapes, lengths, and qualities. These rolls do tend to disappear since they are easily usable at home. There are no high capacity systems to support these types of rolls and labor to continue stocking these systems should be calculated. Residential rolls are not a terrible option for low-demand restrooms but their cost is usually higher than the next two options.
Jumbo rolls offer a more cost-effective solution than residential rolls however, most jumbo rolls are not perforated (think of perforated sheets on residential rolls) which leads to excessive usage and waste. They don't come in high-quality options and can send the wrong message to your staff that you don't see their comfort as a priority. Dispensers are available for these rolls that keep the unused paper protected when the patron flushes the toilet and can be great solutions for high traffic areas.
Hybrid rolls represent the best of residential and jumbo rolls and are our favorite option. They come with perforated sheets to discourage waste. Many hybrid rolls have a proprietary core system so they will not fit in a standard residential bathroom. The dispensers can hold multiple rolls making them a great choice for high traffic areas. High-quality paper is available for these systems to still create that residential feel but get the cost-benefit of a jumbo style roll. Dispensers are free.