I never know when inspiration for a blog may come along. Sometimes it’s a result of a question I received, or a newspaper, magazine or peer reviewed article I’ve read, or some ridiculous post on Facebook. This week, it happened when I checked into my hotel room after a rather brutal travel day that kept me up for over 22 hours. After ending up in the wrong hotel and charming my way into a room and a cancellation at my other hotel, I crashed - but not before I took the picture that happens to be the inspiration for this blog.
Maybe it was because I was punch drunk from being over tired, but the sight of these refillable containers in a well-respected hotel chain made me cringe, and yet it didn’t stop me from jumping into the tub to take a picture. I was also sure to avoid the use of any of the soap they had offered the next morning. Why? Because topping up bulk soaps is just plain gross. In fact 1 in 4 dispensers in public bathrooms are contaminated. Combine that with the fact that there is enough evidence from published studies proving that bacteria can be found and thrive in soap dispensers, you can be sure that I will not be using it and risk spreading those germs all over my hands (or body or hair).
One example is a study by Zapka et al that looked at bacterial hand contamination and transfer after use of refillable soap dispensers. The study showed that washing hands with contaminated liquid soap actually increases the number of gram-negative bacteria on hands, directly demonstrating that bacteria from contaminated hands can be transferred to secondary surfaces. The researchers concluded that washing with contaminated soap not only defeats the purpose of hand washing but may contribute to the transmission of potentially harmful bacteria.
Don’t believe that the problem only lies with hand soaps. The disinfectants we use for daily disinfection, particularly if you’re using a concentrate that needs to be diluted can be just a bad. There have been reports of bacteria growing in solutions of QUATs and that surfaces were dirtier after cleaning than before cleaning when conducting ATP tests. One of my favorite questions from the field is whether you can add some of the same “juice” found in premoistened wipes and poor it into the wipes to re-wet them because they have dried out. The answer to that is NO. If you do not want your wipes to dry, ensure the lid on your wipes container is closed!
I hope I haven’t scared you from using soap dispensers in public. Hand hygiene is of course critical to our well-being. I do hope that you’ll look at refillable soap and disinfectant containers in a new way and join me in the “war” against topping up!