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Are refillable hotel & motel bathroom dispensers hygienic?

As the industry moves to be more sustainable, our clients often ask, “How hygienic are refillable bathroom dispensers?”

They ask this because refillable dispensers are perceived as less hygienic than the traditional small individual toiletries or cartridge systems. Here are the top five hygiene concerns we come across and how you can minimise the effects in your hotel:

1. Using the same toiletries bottle as a previous guest:

The initial thought is that because the new guest is using the same bottle as the previous the dispenser has become less hygienic. To overcome these concerns and uphold good hygiene standards your housekeeping team must thoroughly sanitise the dispensers from the pump top to the bottle base after each guest checks out. If you communicate your hygiene procedures to your visitors it will eliminate any worries they may have.

2. Germy pump tops:

The pump top on the dispenser is the main touchpoint and gets frequently used by your guests during their stay. Because the bathroom is damp, humid and warm it’s the perfect setting to grow bacteria. To prevent the spread of germs it is imperative that your housekeeping team sanitise the entire bottle after each guest. You wouldn’t leave a toilet or vanity uncleaned or unsanitary before your next guest arrives, so this should also be the same for the pump top.

3. Bacteria contamination:

When continuously refilling your dispensers you run the risk of contaminants getting into the bottles. The pump tops are frequently removed by your housekeeping team during the refilling process and every time the bottle is opened the contents are exposed to the air which carries a haven of bacteria. To adhere to good hygiene practices, the dispensers shouldn't be refilled in the bathroom environment, but rather in a sterilised space. This process helps you avoid the risk of cross-contamination and reduces the possibility of bacteria getting into the opened bottles.

What does this mean for your team and what’s the best process to follow?

  • Swap the empty dispenser with a ready filled bottle from the trolley. Depending on the product, size of the bottle and what your liquid refill level is this could be as often as once or twice a week.
  • Your team must remove the bottles from the bathroom and take them to a clean, sterilised area at the back of house.
  • Unscrew each bottle pump top and refill the dispenser with a 5 Litre or 20 Litre container.
  • Replace the bottle pump top, wipe down the dispenser and remove any overflow to ensure the product looks its best.
  • Once the dispensers are ready they are put on the trolleys to be redistributed back to the rooms as needed.
4. Refilling on top of old liquid:

Because the dispensers are refillable it means the liquid at the bottom of the bottle can become old which increases the chance of bacterial build-up. We have come across situations where the liquid in the bottle starts to smell as a result of the build-up and from the old remnants being contaminated during the regularly scheduled top-ups. To overcome this and prevent any hygiene issues, your hotel or motel should have a rigorous replacement program where the bottles are completely swapped out every 4 months. This ensures that the liquid inside the bottle has not been comprised and you’re keeping your guests safe, which is always key. If you’re not sure how to dispose of your bottles The Hotel WEKA is a great end-to-end recycling program that makes it super easy for you.

5. Guests tampering with the liquid:

It is a horrible thought that guests tamper with the dispensers, but alas it happens. Guests have been known to open up the top of the bottle and add other contents or liquids, such as blood, into the refillable toiletries. Talk about a major hygiene breach and not to mention gross! The only way you can overcome this is by having tamper-proof wall brackets. Having this system ensures the products your guests are using are fresh and more importantly safe. It also gives you peace of mind you won’t have any unwanted guest complaints or worse yet health and safety problems.

In summary, the refillable dispenser systems are not the real winner against closed cartridge or single-use toiletries but we hope our tips around hygiene, guest safety, contamination and germ prevention have helped you find ways to overcome these challenges.

For more insights check out our comparison article: Refill Dispensers vs Non-Refillable Bathroom Dispensers -What's Best For My Hotel or Motel? Or get in touch with our team, we’d love to help you find the best solution for your property and budget. 


About the author

Greg Beatson

If you are in the accommodation industry you know that returning Guests and rave reviews really matter– you might even say that’s what it’s all about, right? That’s why I am passionate about working with Hotels to increase profitability by providing a Superior Guest Experience.