There are advantages and disadvantages to traveling and having a kid in competitive hockey. I’ve become a professional packer. I get to see some pretty amazing places and meet even more amazing people. The downside is that I use a lot of public washrooms.
Case in point, this week I spent several nights in a hockey rink for my son’s tryouts. I’m part of a great group of hockey mom’s. We cheer when our son’s do well and cry when something goes wrong. Last night we were huddled together over drinks cheering on our sons for their final skate. As expected, after a drink or two, the “facilities” are often needed. The washroom was surprisingly clean. There was nothing on the floor, the countertops and sinks were clean and the mirrors sparkling. Then I went to use the hand soap…
Did you know that refillable hand soap containers have been linked to bacterial contamination? In fact there have been a number of studies highlighting that up to 25% of refillable soap dispensers in public washrooms were contaminated with bacteria. Even worse, a study conducted by Montana State University found that not only was there bacterial contamination in refillable soap dispensers, but that that these dispensers also contained bacterial biofilm! The researchers found that the biofilm bacteria was able to attach to the inner dispenser surfaces. Furthermore, the cleaning and disinfection protocol used to clean the dispensers demonstrated that even when cleaning with highly concentrated disinfectants, the biofilm was not removed. They had in fact adapted to live in the soap environment.
Another study using students and staff at a school as subjects, looked at the levels of Gram-negative bacteria remaining on or transferred from hands after washing with contaminated soap found in the refillable soap dispensers. As expected, the levels of bacteria found on hands after washing with contaminated soap was higher than if using uncontaminated soap and the “dirty soap contaminated hands” were able to transfer more bacteria to a secondary surface.
Refilling soap dispensers is a double edge sword. Buying in bulk can be cost effective and reduces the amount of plastic and is better for the environment. Unfortunately, refillable soap dispensers are hard to clean and prone to bacterial contamination. What do you do with your hand soap at home? I used to buy in bulk, but no more. While I’m using more plastic, I do look for soaps that are environmentally friendly, packaging that contain recycled content and make sure that I recycle my empty soap containers.
As I head for yet another hockey tournament, you can be sure that I have a supply of premoistened hand wipes and lots of alcohol hand sanitizer!
PS – my son made the hockey team last night, but we shed lots of tears for our friends that did not.