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When to Select Manual vs. Touch-Free Dispensers

Good hand hygiene is a fundamental daily practice, particularly in businesses and facilities where many people gather and where there are shared surfaces and common areas. Increasingly, there is an expectation that businesses and facilities offer hand sanitizer at key locations, in addition to soap at all sinks. In fact, three in four people expect hand sanitizer to be offered in public spaces – more than half of those expect that hand sanitizer to be the PURELL® brand.* Rather than cluttering up a facility with tabletop bottles, dispensers are a natural solution that eases maintenance, reduces bottle theft, provides a portion-controlled amount of soap or hand sanitizer, improves aesthetics, and makes it easier for the user.

One of the significant decisions when selecting the appropriate dispenser is whether to choose a touch-free dispenser (automatically dispenses a pre-programmed amount of hand soap or hand sanitizer once activated by the sensor) or a manual dispenser (where you depress a push bar to deliver the product). Counter-mount dispensers are another option used for soap and are the most permanent option available – these are ideal for high-traffic restrooms and are also available in manual and touch-free.

Considerations of manual dispensers

Push-style dispensers require you to depress a push bar and are wall-mounted, requiring appropriate clearance space on a nearby wall.

  • No worries of frequent battery replacements.
  • Less opportunity for false or accidental actuations/dispenses.
  • Push bar adds an increased touchpoint.
  • Manual dispenser can allow more control over how much product is dispensed, which can be ideal in K-12 and other youth-oriented environments.
  • Certain settings prefer manual-style dispensers, such as prisons, behavioral health settings, and exterior settings where extreme weather can impact batteries.

When to select touch-free dispensers

Touch-free systems, which are activated by a sensor, are perfect for freestanding dispensers when walls aren’t nearby.

  • Aids in the reduction of and transmission of germs.
  • Easier and faster to use.
  • Touch-free is very popular – the majority of people indicate they are more likely to use a publicly provided hand sanitizer if it is a touch-free dispenser or a PURELL® dispenser.*
  • Typically, can be used from several angles or directions, while manual dispensers need to be engaged directly from the front.
  • Tends to suffer less from wear and tear.
  • Need to maintain batteries.
  • While they come with additional battery costs and maintenance needs, there are dispensers on the market that have the technology to overcome this burden.
  • Electronic hand hygiene monitoring systems typically use touch-free dispensers.
  • Limits potential waste or misuse by controlling output.

Market considerations

Some markets benefit more from leveraging manual or touch-free dispensers. For example, in healthcare settings where hand hygiene compliance is necessary, touch-free systems with integrated smart-system technologies like PURELL SMARTLINK® can enable ready compliance monitoring and service alerts. Conversely, in wet environments like some industrial food processing settings, where employees wash down the facility regularly, manual dispensers with no electronics can work more consistently.

For more on what to look for in dispensers, including ease of use, placement, style, durability, and the dispenser refill attributes, please read my article in Maintenance Sales News“Finding the Best Hand Hygiene Dispenser for Your Wellness Program.”

Innovation meets reliability in PURELL® dispensers

GOJO has been developing innovative dispensers for more than 70 years – since our co-founder, Jerry Lippmann, invented the first-ever portion-control dispenser in 1952. We have many manual, touch-free, and counter-mount dispensing systems and hand sanitizer stands.

The PURELL® ES8 dispensing system eliminates dead batteries and streamlines maintenance with AT-A-GLANCE™ refill technology, giving you a dispenser that’s sleek, reliable, and sustainable. This system also has the option to add on PURELL SMARTLINK® service alerts or electronic compliance monitoring.

For more about our PURELL® dispensing systems, visit Businesses interested in learning more about PURELL® products should contact their GOJO distributor, click here to schedule a meeting with our representatives, or find a distributor now.

* Results based on a nationwide online survey of 500 individuals, May 2023