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The best hand sanitizer dispenser

A touchless hand sanitizer dispenser does offer some advantages over traditional dispensers, including less risk of cross-contamination and improved portion control.
A touchless hand sanitizer dispenser does offer some advantages over traditional dispensers, including less risk of cross-contamination and improved portion control. (BestReviews)

The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a number of public safety measures, including social distancing, face coverings and increased sanitation. Hand sanitizer became an important component in this response since many germs and viruses are spread through cross-contamination on common surfaces. One major issue with hand sanitizing, however, is the method of dispensing the sanitizing solution safely and efficiently. Some hand sanitizer dispensers feature automatic “touchless” technology that senses the presence of a hand. Others use a mechanism to deposit a measured amount of sanitizer, soap or lotion.

The key to shopping for the ideal hand sanitizer dispenser is to evaluate your household or business' specific needs in terms of sanitation and capacity. A hands-free may be perfect for a busy office or small business, but a household model may not need to be touchless to be effective. One of the best hand sanitizer dispensers for institutional or home use is the CalmMax Automatic Hand Sanitizer Dispenser with Adjustable Stand, an affordable freestanding touchless dispenser that includes signage and a sturdy stand for easy positioning near entry points or existing sanitation stations.

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What to know before you buy a hand sanitizer dispenser

Construction and design

There are essentially three common designs for dedicated hand sanitizer dispensers, including models that can dispense other products, such as lotion or hand soap. The least expensive type of hand sanitizer dispenser is for countertop use. A pump-driven bottle of sanitizer can be included with other products on a bathroom sink, sanitation station or waiting room table. One disadvantage of a countertop dispenser is the possibility of cross-contamination due to a common point of contact.

A wall-mounted hand sanitizer can either be manual or automatic and generally has a higher capacity than a countertop model. Users may need to use a communal pump to dispense the sanitizer, but the mounting allows it to be positioned near a bathroom sink or point of entry.

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At the higher end of the price spectrum is a freestanding hand sanitizer, which almost always features an automatic or touchless dispenser for maximum sanitation. A freestanding hand sanitizer dispenser can be positioned near elevators, lobby entrances and church sanctuaries, and also may contain signage to encourage use.

Manual or automatic product dispensing

For homeowners with minimal foot traffic, a hand sanitizer with a manual pump may be all that is required. There are countertop dispensers that can be converted into hand sanitizer dispensers, or inexpensive wall-mounted models that can be added to bathrooms, kitchens or entrances. A wall-mounted manual dispenser can also be safe to use in a small office or institution, as long as it is cleaned periodically to reduce cross-contamination.

Automatic or touchless hand sanitizer dispensers offer an additional level of protection since users are not required to touch the dispenser itself. An infrared sensor or other electronic mechanism detects the presence of a hand and automatically dispenses a measured amount of hand sanitizer. Touchless hand sanitizer dispensers for home use are not necessarily expensive, but they do require batteries and refills. A commercial-grade touchless dispenser is a good investment for offices and institutions with a generous amount of foot traffic.

Hand sanitizer dispenser features

Signage

A freestanding touchless hand sanitizer for commercial use often includes a method for creating customized signage, either to identify the product, encourage its use or promote a service or brand. This feature is not usually found with wall-mounted or countertop dispensers, however.

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Refills

Some countertop hand sanitizer dispensers hold a small container of commercial sanitizer, so the user must make a one-for-one swap at some point. Buying commercial hand sanitizers in bulk could make good economic sense. A wall-mounted or freestanding touchless dispenser could require users to refill a bag or bottle with new sanitizer sold in bulk sizes. There may also be disposable refill bags for replenishment when a low volume sensor is activated.

Other purposes

Many dispensers capable of dispensing hand sanitizer could also be used to dispense other sanitation products, such as hand soap, degreaser or lotion. Having a touchless method of dispensing these other cleaning products can make the entire process much more sanitary.

Hand sanitizer dispenser cost 

Personal hand sanitizer dispensers designed to be worn on the wrist can be found for less than $15, but a model suitable for an entire household can retail from $20-$50. Freestanding touchless hand sanitizer dispensers for office, church or classroom use retail for $80 or more.

Hand sanitizer dispenser FAQ

Should I wash my hands before using a hand sanitizer dispenser?

A. A quality hand sanitizer is effective against household germs and viruses, but should not be considered a replacement for traditional soap and water. You should wash and dry dirty hands thoroughly before using a hand sanitizer for maximum protection.

If I have a virus or other infection, can I still use the same hand sanitizer dispenser as the rest of my family?

A. If your hand sanitizer is considered touchless or contact-free, you should still be able to use it without creating cross-contamination. If you need to use a pump or open a cap to dispense the product, however, you should consider using a separate supply until you are completely recovered.

Which hand sanitizer dispenser should I get?

Best of the best hand sanitizer dispenser

CalmMax Automatic Hand Sanitizer Dispenser with Adjustable Stand: available at Amazon

Our take: This freestanding automatic-sanitizer dispenser is ideal for large families, small businesses and offices that require a touchless system.

What we like: The touchless dispenser works automatically. The unit offers both a drip and spray nozzle for different sanitizing products. The stand is adjustable for child and adult users, with a solid steel base. A detachable sign promotes use and the container is refillable.

What we dislike: The stand has stability issues. There are some complaints about product leakage.

Best bang for your buck hand sanitizer dispenser

PLUSSEN Automatic Soap Dispenser Wall Mount, Hand Sanitizer Dispenser: available at Amazon

Our take: The Plussen automatic dispenser's affordable price point makes it ideal for households with multiple bathrooms and workplaces with multiple points of entry.

What we like: The dispenser uses an infrared sensor for touchless service. A 20-ounce capacity reduces the need for replenishment. The unit is easy to mount to a wall or door. It's designed to dispense hand sanitizer, hand soap, liquid detergent, lotion and other products.

What we dislike: There are complaints about the dispenser not shutting off after use. The battery compartment can be challenging to access.

Honorable mention hand sanitizer dispenser

Alpine Industries Manual Hand Sanitizer Dispenser: available at Amazon

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Our take: The large capacity and ease of operation make this midrange hand sanitizer dispenser appealing for institutional use, such as hospitals, schools and libraries.

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What we like: A manual button dispenses a minimal amount of sanitizer, reducing waste. The design meets ADA standards for disabled users. It can also dispense other liquids, such as hand soap and liquid detergent. A clear window allows users to gauge the remaining level of hand sanitizer.

What we dislike: Product leakage is the most common consumer complaint. The plastic housing is not as durable as expected.

Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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