Skepticism

Hands-free, germs-free, logic-free.

UK TV just started showing ads for a new product (although these are not a new idea) from Dettol – the ‘No-touch’ automatic handwash dispenser.

DON'T TOUCH GERMS OR YOU'LL DIE

Check it out here. It’s £9.99 and has a sensor that detects when your hands require a splut of liquid soap so you can wash ’em. Their reasoning is, dirty germ-ridden hands touch the regular soap dispenser which then gets covered in germs. So the next person to touch it GETS COOTIES. With the £9.99 kerjigger you can avoid touching those second-hand germs entirely! Amazing. No-one wants cooties.

Except it doesn’t make any sense to me because surely after you’ve touched the germy soap dispenser to dispense soap…you wash your hands. Your existing germs, plus the new evil ‘used’ germs that you just picked up all get washed away. I’m not sure under what circumstances you would touch the soap dispenser but then carefully scrape off the soap without actually using it.

Am I missing something or is this actually overpriced useless crap using OMG COOTIES scare tactics?

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52 Comments

  1. Not only that, but there’s also the question of everything else that you touch whilst washing your hands. I guess I should also rip out my sink and replace it with one that can can detect my presence and shower my hands with water.
    Also, how do I dry them once they are washed? Throw away all of my towels and install auto-hand driers just in case I don’t wash my hands properly.
    And then there’s the question of the doors!
    Arggh! I spot an endless cycle of automatically activated crap! :(

  2. This would make more sense in a doctor’s office or hospital where really nasty germs might be on the handle. Sure, you’re washing your hands, but maybe that flesh-eating bacteria or HIV from Hank the Junkie sticks around under your fingernail.

    For most other places though this is as useless as “antibacterial” soap.

  3. You know, when I first saw this weeks ago my first thought was the scare tactics. Then I made meatloaf. I can turn my faucet on using my wrists (to not get everything gross) but picking up the bottle of dish soap to squirt it in my hands gets the bottle greasy nasty. It would be nice to have an automatic squirter.

  4. You Critical Thinkers always ruin everything! Hello! This is a great marketing scam. Don’t interfere with the capitalist way of life, which demands that we don’t use sense but buy on fear and impulse.

    In fact its possible that ‘you and your kind’ are the very reason the economy is in the toilet! People need to buy as many useless products as possible in order to keep the economy strong.

    If you have any patriotic sense at all, you will immediately delete this entire entry before you spread your critical thinking to others.

  5. My office has automatic flush toilets (that don’t automatically flush most of the time, so you have to push the button anyway) and sensor soap dispensers and sinks. Oh, and crazy mega-air-blast hand dryers. But the door doesn’t open by itself, so I often find myself stuck in the bathroom trying to figure out how to get out without getting any of those nasty, nasty germs on any of my skin.

  6. Tracy,

    You make a good point that while automatic sinks, motion sensitive towel dispensers, and hands-free doors make sense (because you have to touch them after you wash your hands), automatic soap dispensers don’t really add anything.

    @Limadean — I feel your pain. Way too many restroom doors open in, so that you have to grab the handle and who knows if the last person washed their hands before they grabbed it.

  7. I agree that germophobes go too far, but as someone who loves eating wings, and a Marylander who eats crabs several times a year, it is a nice concept to get soap in your nasty hands without needing to wash the soap dispenser afterwards.

    Especially with crabs, the old bay gets everywhere and then you have to clean the faucet handle and the soap dispenser once your hands are clean (or get a friend with clean hands to help you :P).

    Regardless, this doesn’t solve the faucet dilemma so I’m uninterested.

  8. @limadean: See, that’s why the automatic flush/dispenser/whatever stuff sucks. They never work properly! We have sinks with sensors, and it’s not uncommon that they just…don’t…work. It’s obnoxious. And they are only 2 years old!

  9. Is it soap or no water hand sanitizer stuff in the dispensor. The product I’m thinking of is an alcohol gel that evaporates after killing the bacteria.

    A sensor based system for that product does actually make sense considering it only kills a certain percent of the bacteria. The university I work at has them at the exits of most bathrooms.

  10. As others noted, its a good idea for hand sanitizer dispensers in a high traffic area. Hospitals have switched over to motion activated ones when hand foaming wasn’t as effective as it should have been. It turns out that the dispensers were becoming contaminated with bacteria from constant use, meaning that every use would lead to some level of exposure. I keep two bottles of sanitizer in my office. A huge one right at the door for students and a little one on my desk just for me. That way, its at least my germs that I get exposed to.

  11. @breamarie: They use foot levers in surgical scrub rooms so perhaps there’s a marketing opportunity for public restrooms.

    I first recall seeing the auto hand sanitizers while in Vegas for TAM a couple of years ago. They were everywhere and I had visions of desperate drunks huddling underneath them frantically waving their hands while the alcohol sanitizer ran into their mouths.

  12. Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield has (or had, I haven’t been in a couple of years) sinks that you put your hands in, at which point it automatically dispenses soap, then the tap automatically starts, and 10 seconds later the drier starts.

    At least that’s the idea – the reality is that you have to go to three different sinks because only one thing ever worked properly on each one.

  13. OK so my friend has the really high priced version of this. ANd frankly I really liked it when I visited her. The reason was I was baking and cooking (she was working and I did it as a treat) and my hands were a mess. She had those kitchen sinks thing you can kind of grab with your wrist to turn on… and the soap thing was GREAT. Frankly I didn’t have to clean that. And the amount of soap was just right. I have to say I bought one of those cheaper soap things at walmart (for $10) and well, I really like it. The amount of soap is just right. It also just works way better than the pumps do. Ever hit it and then hit it again and then it splurts out? This is a simply just right amount squirt to the LAST DROP OF SOAP. Seriously ZERO wasted soap. Why they are marketing it for “germs” is stupid. It is a good product, the soap is the same price as any other pump soap, but it’s more just so much nicer than a funky pump.

  14. It’s the faucet handles that are generally the problem with germ spreading (you touch them with dirty hands, soap up your hands to clean them, and then touch the handles again with your now clean hands), so unless you have paddled handles you can manipulate with your elbows, motion sensor faucets are great for avoiding re-cootying.

    As someone mentioned this might be easier for people with mobility problems. I admit I’d like this for my Mom right now – she’s on chemo, and washes her hands a lot since she’s justifiably scared of secondary illnesses. But the chemo has left her with peripheral neuropathy so handling things wet is difficult for her. A consumer-available motion sensor soap dispenser would be great for her.

    But as far as cootie-spreading goes…*shrug* Kinda pointless.

  15. Um…I’d like to point out a couple of flaws that make this kinda pointless.

    Since this is soap, you’re supposed to rinse it off. If there isn’t an automatic sink, then you’ll have to turn on the water, then turn it back off, redepositing the germs you just killed.

    Then, you leave, and unless its an automatic door, you’ll have to pull the door handle. If the person before you didn’t wash their hands, then you’ll be getting their germs.

    So, the best logical solution would be to sanitize your house, hermetically seal your home, never go outside, and work from home.

  16. @infinitemonkey: And then as soon as you walk outside, you will get sick and die, because your immune system hasn’t built up any immunities. Awesome.

    Honestly, people are far, far, far too germ-phobic nowadays. Just wash your hands before meals, after using the restroom, and when they get dirty, and of course more often if you work in the medical field, daycare, with food, etc. There really isn’t a point to being so anal about being 100% germ-free.

  17. yet another useless piece of plastic that will one day be thrown away :(

    Have you guys seen the electric scrubbies for your face? it’s a little battery operated thing that apparently does a much better job scrubbing your pores than you do. Stuff like this pisses me off soooo much. One day, it’s just going to break and get thrown away and add even more plastic to the landfill. When a plain old bar’o’soap will do just fine and leave a lot less behind. I hate plastic.

  18. @here_fishy: I’d say it’s probably more environmentally friendly than plastic pumps that get thrown away after they are empty, since this is re-usable. I use a re-usable decorative pump and get the big, huge bottles of (generic) hand soap refills because it’s easier for me. I’ve had the same huge bottle for like, a year.

    I don’t like bar soap. Bar soap sucks. It’s slippery. It can get gross. I hate when I get strands of hair on it, because it’s impossible to get them off off. It leaves behind a gross, squishy film in my shower/on my sink. Meh.

    Besides which, most bar soap does have paper and/or plastic wrappings, and boxes…

    At least this re-usable auto-pump isn’t thrown away after each use, unlike the boxes and plastics that hold bar soap.

  19. Oh my god, YES. This causes me to go into mini rage-rants whenever I see the ads on TV. Admittedly, as people upthread have pointed out, this could be useful for high-traffic areas such as hospitals, for the mobility-impaired, and for greasy/messy things like baking, but the way it’s marketed? For everyday germs at the bathroom sink? You touch those icky, nasty germs and then IMMEDIATELY WASH YOUR HANDS. That’s the POINT.

    Drives me crazy.

  20. @jogleby: ………….

    Perhaps because one is (usually) not peeing in your mouth during oral sex?

    Besides which, it’s actually recommended to urinate after (especially for women, who are prone to UTIs), and then wash yourself. I generally wash my face, hands, etc., after sex, including oral sex.

  21. A little urine never hurt anyone – it’s the poo that does it. It’s full of nasty. A former flatmate of mine got really sick after eating at a restaurant once because someone there didn’t wash their hands after going for a crap.

  22. I agree, a silly thing at home. But if someone you know is in the hospital, make certain everyone sanitizes their hands before touching them. Watch someone die of sepsis and you’ll be a little more respectful of bacteria.

  23. Incidentally, I used to work at a supermarket deli once, and we were supposed to wash our hands after dealing with raw chicken… problem was the soap dispensers weren’t automatic. I don’t even know how often the soap dispenser button got cleaned. *shudder*

  24. @BeardofPants: Does it matter, considering you washed your hands directly after touching the button?

    @tiberious: Indeed, it’s a good idea to be as clean as possible in a hospital — but (most) anywhere else, and it’s really pointless. Unless, perhaps, you are a caretaker of someone with a compromised immune system.

  25. The problem with liquid soap is that bacteria can grow in it. Even liquid soap with anti-bacterial crap can have bacteria growing in it. But guess what, the only bacteria that grow in anti-bacterial soap are resistant to the anti-bacterial crap.

    There is cross-resistance between resistance to anti-bacterial crap and antibiotics. That means every time you use soap with anti-bacterial crap in it, you are exposing bacteria to sub-lethal doses of the ant-ibacterial crap and fostering antibiotic resistance. That includes bacteria on your hands, in the sink, in the sewage system, in the sewage treatment facility, in the dischrge from the sewage treatment facility, in the river downstream of the sewage treatment facility and in the ocean.

    Using something like this and then using soap without anti-bacterial crap in it is a better approach. The anti-bacterial crap in liquid soap is only a marketing gimick. It doesn’t do anything except allow them to make anti-bacterial claims on the packaging. It is the mechanical removal of dirt and bacteria that is the reason for washing your hands.

    Alcohol gels don’t do this, only soap with anti-bacterial crap (the most common is triclosan which can degrade to dioxin but is otherwise quite stable and persistent).

  26. @Quaap:
    Meh, neither of those are too difficult to kill. In my university’s micro lab, were we did handle things like flesh eating bacteria soap was more than enough to kill the fuckers. And HIV is incredibly fragile. Soap is sufficient to kill whatever microbe you throw at it. What is does is the molecules of it disrupt the cell wall and cell membrane by inserting themselves between the molecules of these structures. By doing this, it no longer functions as a barrier and opens up the inside of the cell to the outside world. It’s the cellular equivalent of evisceration. Just soap up and wash your hands for 30 seconds, it really doesn’t matter what microbe you have on your hands, it’s dead.

    Incidentally, this is also why frequent hand washing leads to dry skin, the soap is also destroying your cells.

  27. Actually, I think this could be useful in public toilets, just not in a private home. I always turn the faucet off using the paper i just dried my hands with, and use the same paper to open the door before i toss it in the thrash. But yeah, if anything it would be a nice touch, not really stopping the next pandemic…

  28. We were given something like this by my sister-in-law. It seemed silly and we’ve never even unpacked it. I mean, you have to touch the water tap to turn it on anyway. Plain old liquid soap (for convenience) is what I use and pushing down on the plunger doesn’t seem to have destroyed my immune system.

    The only time I use antibacterial stuff in the house is if I’m trying to keep one cat from infecting the other with something, so I gel my hands after touching each one. But that’s a pretty rare occurrence.

  29. At the beginning of the winter, when H1N1 was still something people thought about, my office building put purell dispensers on every floor. About two weeks later, they came back and replaced them all with purell dispensers that dispense automatically.

    The problem, of course, is that they didn’t think of airborne germs that I might be catching by standing in the same spot as someone else while waiting for the dispenser to dispense. I proposed that they implement a new system that detects whenever someone is in the room and automatically shoots purell in their direction, thus eliminating further possibilities of contamination.

    My idea was clearly ahead of its time, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for them next winter.

  30. One of the gas stations downtown…you know, the one next to the Pizza Hut? Yeah, that one…has an “automatic” towel dispenser in the bathroom. It says on it, “Wave Hands To Dispense Towel.” Of course, no matter how violently you wave your hands at it, nothing ever comes out. Wave at it, flick your hands, waggle your fingers, do the “shocker,” Jazz Hands! Nothing works.

    But then it hits me; that’s the point! If it doesn’t roll out a towel, the station saves electricity, and they never have to buy more towels. And after waving your hands at the thing for 10 minutes, your hands are dry!!

    Devious bastards.

  31. I know that this is a fairly young crowd, but doesn’t anybody here have kids? My grandson wouldn’t have to be forced to wash his hands if the soap came out of a cool automatic dispenser.

    I agree that their marketing is heavily into scare tactics, but there’s really a good use for this.

  32. Every few years they come around and hang up a new set of hand washing instructions in the kitchen I work in. I think it’s up to like 13 steps. Every time I look at it and point out where you are going to touch something dirty. In my experience all these insanely complicated rules are just making people tune out the entire message. When hand washing was a 4 step process people would follow it, now they see a list of 13 steps and just totally ignore it.

  33. @rider: I think it’s more than just hand washing instructions. Have you picked up a candy bar lately? Most have instructions now telling you how to *open the damned package!* I work for a garbage collection company that has the following instructions on the carts: 1. Grasp Handle 2. Tilt Cart 3. Push or Pull To Desired Location

    Corporate America thinks we’re all idiots.

  34. We’ve got similar devices in the bathrooms at work. No-touch soap, no-touch faucets and no-touch paper towel dispenser. Its so damned annoying to have to stand there waving your hands in front of the sensors to try to get them to work!

    Also, I think it was at TAM last year in the bathrooms at the South Point, they had automatic soap dispensers. However, they put them so close to the faucets that as I was rinsing my hands, the dispenser would activate and spit soap all over my rinsed hands before I could pull them away. Wasted a lot of soap.

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