faucet and soap dispenser
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Why Bother With a Touchless Faucet When…

T ouchless faucets — the type where all you need to do is wave your hand to activate it so that you do not have to touch it while washing your hands — have found their way in washrooms in airports all around the world…

Why Bother With a Touchless Faucet When…

faucet and soap dispenser
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…but what is the point of having one available when the dispensers for soap or paper towels require you to touch them to use them?


Assuming that the purpose of touchless items installed in a public restroom is to attempt to reduce the transmission of germs from one person to another to decrease the chances of spreading any illnesses, why would any component still require the user to touch it through manual operation? Should the washroom either have everything touchless or everything operated manually?

I have been in washrooms located in numerous airports and have seen all sorts of combinations of touchless devices combined with manually operated ones — for example, everything is touchless except for an electric air dryer, which has a button that must be pressed to operate it.

The question is not from a “germaphobe” viewpoint; but rather from a seemingly logical one — and I am interested to read your response in the Comments section below…

All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

  1. I am pretty sure the point is near entirely to limit water usage (including someone forgetting to turn it off) vs germs.

    1. Perhaps, AdamH; but then, I have also been to washrooms where the soap dispenser is automated — but the faucet is operated manually.


      I also wonder how much electricity is consumed as a result of the operation of these faucets…

  2. Well, the soap thing doesn’t seem to be a big deal, since your hands are going to be dirty until you start soaping up. But yeah, the paper towel thing is weird. Just a cost-cutting decision I imagine.

  3. The reason for the touchless faucet is not to reduce germs, but to save water and make sure someone doesn’t leave the faucet running like the wet bandits from home alone.

  4. With no touch faucets, you won’t put fecal matter, chicken juice, or whatever other unpleasant thing you can imagine, on the faucet handle or knob. If the faucet handle is contaminated, you touch it after washing, which makes the whole hand washing you just completed a worthless exercise.

    1. I either use a paper towel — which doubles to wipe any excess water off of the faucet — to shut off a manual faucet; or my shirt using my elbow if no paper towels are available, Christian

      …and let us not forget if you are required to pull the door to exit the washroom instead of push it…

    1. You are correct, betterbub. I have witnessed that myself numerous times…

      …and even worse: water wasted primarily due to lack of maintenance — not only of the faucet; but also of the toilet.

  5. Another perspective: touchless faucet or touchless soap dispenser or touchless papertowel dispenser is not there for health reason. Because it looks good. It looks sophisticated. It looks expensive.
    The contractors simply convince the developers (project owner) that their product can save water, save soap, save papertowel, looks good, etc. As long as you give enough kickback to the certain officer to approve it, the deal is yours.

    1. That is a very interesting perspective, Cipta — and most likely true…

      …but I do have to say that I have seen some washrooms with automated equipment which I did not exactly find impressive chiefly due to the lack of maintenance of the facility. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen the incessant hand-waving to attempt to get one of those devices to work…

      1. The simple reason for your question is: different contractors. One is to built or supply the material. The other is maintenance. The latter possibly didn’t understand or even care about the sophisticated faucet…..

  6. As already mentioned above, a manually operated soap dispenser is no problem, since you first use it and then wash your hands.
    You also mentioned that you sometimes find automated soap dispensers but manual faucets. Now that’s stupid indeed. Oh, and yeah, operating the door …
    So you use your paper towel to also open the door. If you can push instead of having to pull, you can use your feet to open the door.
    Sometimes I find a toe pull attached to the door. Nice idea.
    Or the way restrooms are designed in US airports with no door at all. I really like this design, a whole lot better than in Frankfurt for example. There you hope that the door is blocked open. Otherwise you would need to perform some martial arts to kick down the door handle and open it (no paper towels available).

    Oh, when it comes to electricity usage of automatic faucets. A clever way is to use small solar panels. Either the restroom is filled with daylight or electric lights are on anyway.

    1. On push doors, I simply turn around and use my body to push the door open, Ralfinho. That is especially useful when I have luggage with me.

      The no door at all design usually requires an entrance which resembles the beginning of a maze. I have no issue with that; but there are those people who barrel around the corner and almost blindly bump into another person — heading out as well as heading in.

      Photovoltaic panels are a good idea to save electricity in general; but I wonder if there is any issue with that first second or so when the public washroom is dark — especially when the floor is wet…

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