Germs lurk everywhere. Number buttons in the elevator, door knobs, money, keyboards and mobile phones are just a few of the surfaces people touch every day. But, how many people wash their hands each time they touch these surfaces?
Hand washing and its benefits cannot be emphasised enough. It is of such vital importance that leading accreditation bodies like the Joint Commission International specifiy stringent standards and prescribe tools to promote hand hygiene in all healthcare organisations. Hotels, malls, airports, train stations and other places with high traffic are also increasingly concerned about germs being transmitted between people and infections arising due to slack in hand hygiene just as those who handle food and its preparation have to be careful to see that good hand hygiene is maintained at all times.
One effective way to ensure hand hygiene is to avail and use good liquid soaps dispensed automatically as opposed to manually pressed liquid soaps in washrooms at high traffic areas. When no one touches the pump, bacterial transmission is eliminated. This is where the advancement of the automatic soap dispenser has become a revolution in ensuring clean germ-free hands.
An article in the American Journal of Public Health declared in 2000 that ‘the advances of hygiene, such as that of the automatic soap dispenser, can be considered as one of the more silent victories of public health and continues to be an important disease prevention strategy.’ In an automatic soap dispenser, the user’s hands are placed under the nozzle and before the sensor. The activated sensor then activates a pump that dispenses a premeasured amount of soap from the nozzle.
Some dispensers use photo sensor technology composed of two parts - a source of focused light (usually a laser beam) and a light sensor. When the user’s hands are placed in line of the beam of light, the pump mechanism is activated by the disruption that is sensed by the light sensor. The energy for activation of the pump is usually from batteries installed in the system.
Electronic soap dispensers use infrared light sensors. The sensor employs an emitter and a collector. The emitter emits pulses of infrared light while the collector, which is positioned to face in the same direction as the emitter, 'sits' dormant waiting to sense the emitted pulses. When hands are present in the path of the emitted light, a portion of the emitted infrared light is bounced back in the direction of the collector which then becomes excited by the light and generates voltage to switch the pump on.
Excel’s Sanitex® MVP touch-free soap uses the infrared sensor dispenser, which offers maximum hygiene to the user. The dispenser comes with a choice of disposable refill cartridges for luxury foam soap; foam antibacterial soap and instant hand gel. Waste is minimised as the Sanitex® MVP pump delivers the optimum amount of soap, whilst the sealed refill cartridges reduce the risk of contamination usually associated with bulk fill dispensers.
“Every aspect of the Sanitex® MVP range has been rigorously tested and monitored to ensure its trouble-free performance. As the most crucial component of the system, the integral pumps have been designed to withstand thousands of activations and have been subjected to a series of automated robotic tests before being printed with a unique identification number,” informs George Oommen, Managing Director, Excel Group, which has been providing cleaning products and hygiene services to clients in Qatar, UAE and India.
Brightwell Products LLC, which provides handwash soaps and dispensers of different brands offers automatic sensor-type soap dispensers in mainly liquid and foam types. Models of both types function with a sensor mechanism, which makes them ready to use without need of touching the dispenser body part. They are also more economical as they work on batteries.
The foaming mechanism
“The sensor foam soap dispenser is an innovative concept, which is ideal to control consumption of soap. One has to use very little in order to wash hands and keep them fresh all the time. The dispenser comes with a foaming function, which dispenses foam soap solution in the form of cream lather,” remarks Linoj Mathew, General Manager of Brightwell Products.
The foam pump instantly turns liquid into foam by mixing liquid and air via two pump chambers, to create a long lasting, quality foam structure. The foam looks richer and feels milder, and is housed in a fully disposable bottle and pump together as one unit, thereby eliminating the risk of contamination. The pump is also part of the refill. The chemical is never in contact with air or germs, and formulation integrity is guaranteed.
The automatic foam wash process provides greater convenience to the user and lower usage costs to the supplier. Foam soap is also quick and pleasant to use and is often preferred by users. It claims to reduces usage of soap by as much as 50 per cent for each hand wash.
This type of soap is regularly being installed in hotels and other high footfall areas. Amartya Chakraborty, Cluster Executive Housekeeper, Ramada Downtown Dubai and Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham JBR, explains. “We prefer automatically dispensing foam soap in our washrooms because it is environment friendly, cost effective and sustainable. As it is a diluted form of liquid soap and less soap is used per hand washing session thereby conserving water and minimising soap in the environment. Less soap for each hand wash makes the same amount last longer, which costs less.”
Industry-specific hand hygiene solutions
Foam soap dispensers are indeed supplied on the basis of the location’s requirement. The need for a reliable, good quality dispenser differs from one client to the other. A high profile client like a five-star hotel, luxury resort, health club and spa may opt for touch-free sensor dispensers that also look luxurious and aesthetic. Some want their washroom dispensers to match their modern design and are also more concerned about style, technology, being up-to-date with the latest trends and with cost-in-use. On the other hand, schools, hospitals, busy shopping malls, etc., would opt for practical, heavy-duty type soap dispensers that would be suitable for large-use applications that are also cost effective.
Food establishments and kitchens that need to be careful not to contaminate the food they serve, choose touch-free automatic dispensers of foaming anti-bacterial soap. More importantly, healthcare organisations opt for more high quality certified anti-bacterial foaming soap that uses the best and the latest of technologies.
The latest technology
Hand hygiene electronic compliance systems are a growing trend in healthcare and are becoming more critical for healthcare facilities given the number of hospital-associated infections. The primary reason for implementing an electronic hand hygiene monitoring system is that it allows for the collection of robust real-time data that is statistically significant, unbiased and actionable. Plus, it offers 24/7 tracking. In order to improve hand hygiene, hospitals need the tools to measure it and the clinical education resources to interpret and act on the data.
Renowned hygiene brand GOJO is one of the leaders in hand hygiene compliance monitoring with its SMARTLINK™ Hand Hygiene Solution launched in 2013. This compliance monitoring platform includes clinician-based on-site support, superior hand hygiene formulations, advanced technology dispensing systems and technology that allows for monitoring at a group, individual, role and area level. “By using SMARTLINK™, our customers receive better insight and, in turn, are able to deliver a higher standard of care by increasing patient safety,” affirms GOJO Spokesperson Samantha Williams.
In tune with the environment
In addition to cleaning and anti-bacterial properties, strong environmental credentials of hand soaps are also seen to be increasingly influencing its usage and sales. Customers prefer products that are healthier and greener. The EU Ecolabel established in 1992 by the European Commission, helps consumers identify products and services that have a reduced environmental impact and that are of good quality. To qualify for the EU Ecolabel, products have to comply with a tough set of criteria. These environmental criteria, set by a panel of experts from a number of independent stakeholders, including consumer organisations and industry, take the whole product lifecycle into account - from the extraction of raw materials, to production, packaging and transport, right through to its use and then the recycling bin. In the USA, the Green Seal™ Environmental Standard is a certification for hand cleaners and hand soaps used for industrial and institutional purposes, based on their reduced human and aquatic toxicity and reduced smog production potential.
Ramada Downtown Dubai and Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham JBR use liquid hand soap that is tested and certified as per Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) test guidelines that stipulate the most stringent definition of biodegradability, ready biodegradability. Ready biodegradability, also known as readily, is a material that will biodegrade rapidly in the environment and, when discharged as wastewater constituents, will be effectively broken down during wastewater treatment.
Liyakath Ali, Executive Housekeeper at Ramada Hotel & Suites, Ajman, considers foam soap as the environmental winner as it is biodegradable and the lather is created by the forced air rather than chemicals used in liquid soap. He says, “When we choose soap from our suppliers we ensure it is eco-friendly and the least energy is used to produce it, its lather is chemical free and less soap is used for a single hand wash.”
Turning to IoT
As people become more aware of the benefits of good hand hygiene, it falls on the suppliers of hand soaps and dispensers to keep the supply steady and replenish on time. Early this year, GOJO and Amazon teamed up to launch both soap and hand sanitizer smart dispensers. Called the INTELLIGENT REPLENISHMENT™ System of the GOJO® and PURELL® Smart Dispenser, the system works with the Amazon Dash Replenishment Service and is equipped with automatic ordering technology based on actual usage.
For the healthcare industry, GOJO has launched GOJO SMARTLINK™ Service Alerts, an Internet of Things (IoT) solution that through the use of predictive analytics helps to ensure that hand soap and hand sanitiser are always available for critical hand hygiene events in a healthcare facility.
Antimicrobial is still a buzz word in the soap dispensing world, and new antimicrobial technologies are being researched constantly to further protect users against harmful bacteria. These are independently laboratory tested for antimicrobial efficacy against microorganisms such as MRSA and E-Coli, and form a protective coating on the surface of a dispenser. Combined with a good anti-bacterial soap, these dispensers are all set to ensure efficient germ free existence.