/ / /

Toiletry Dispensers: Eco-Friendly Or Unsanitary?

August 3, 2011 at 4:55 PM | by | ()

Last year we took notice of how toiletry bottles were out to eliminate our precious free bottles of hotel shampoo and conditioner. This made us sad but yet we know it's for a good cause--the environment (or so we keep telling ourselves that.)

However, in revisiting the comments on this story, a few people expressed some dismay over how unsanitary these dispensers may be. Our own Juliab wrote:

two thoughts i'm all for green hotels, but dispensers always make me feel a little icky like i'm in a public toilet. i doubt they wash the dispenser bit every day, and i just find it a bit gross.

Another reader agreed with her but also went a step further talking about the potential expiration date of the products:

I like being green, however, not all rooms in a hotel would be used constantly especially in a less populated area. Therefore, the stuff in the dispenser would stay in the dispenser for months if not a year. Shampoo, bodywash, etc, are chemicals and all have a limited shelf live. When maids keep refilling the dispenser, they are adding new chemicals to the older ones. It is almost like putting poisons onto your skin. Unless hotels specified they empty and cleaned out the dispensers every 3 months or so, I would hesitate to use it at all.

Weighing in with our own toiletry dispenser experience at the Element Las Vegas, we found them convenient (we hadn't read the "old chemicals" comment yet) but the stuff inside them was awful. The shampoo and conditioner in one made our hair feel like straw, not the best feeling when you are about to step out into the desert heat.

But when we pumped the ones out at the James New York (pictured above), our hair and our body felt super smooth. So in short, we probably wouldn't mind toiletry dispensers if there was some good stuff in them.

What do you think--are toiletry dispensers a great way for hotels to go green or could there be some seriously yucky stuff up in them? Let us know in comments below!

Archived Comments:

gotta be good stuff

Okay I'm not paranoid enough to think about the chemical thing when I'm reaching for the shampoo in the shower. So in general, I'm a fan of the dispenser so long as the stuff that's in them is top notch. I'm a fan of Malin+Goetz and C.O. Bigelow, so brands such as those would be welcome.

Dispensers are the responsible solution...

Wow - I'm shocked that people are even bringing this issue up... a typical 100 room property disposes of over 123,000 tiny bottles of plastic every year... most are partially full, meaning that extra chemicals eventually leech into aquifers.  Also, those little bottles come in small boxes, which come on skids, which are wrapped in plastic, which are shipped by trucks, which require diesel fuel.  Same goes for dispensers, but you get a lot more usage out of them and they're refillable, so the waste is cut drastically.

If you use a dispenser, you can have as much or as little product as you want.  Since you're not fumbling for bottles and caps and squeezing/shaking/pounding/coercing the products out, you're taking shorter showers, meaning less water and less energy required to heat that water.

Regarding sanitation, most people should realize that there are tamper-proof solutions out there.  If you're truly worried about sanitation, start looking at your own home.  Restaurant kitchens and hotel rooms are probably fifty times cleaner than the average person's home - seriously, how often do you vacuum, dust, change your sheets/towels, and completely scrub down your house/kitchen?

Regarding the person who commented on shelf-life, you should realize that most miniature bottled amenities originate from China, where product is made there, or made in the US or EU and shipped to China, then filled, then warehoused, packed, shipped overseas, then distributed to hotels, where it sits on shelves for months before being put into rooms.

I was in Japan for two weeks in June - out of 7 hotels I stayed in only two - the Ritz in Tokyo and the Westin in Kyoto - still used "minis".  The rest of the hotels all used whole bottles, that weren't even in dispensers - they were just on a shelf, which I thought was pretty cool.

Frankly, I think minis should be banned... I bet that if someone were to look at the "miniature hotel amenity bottle" environmental impact, you'd probably have an impact that's very significant.  Not quite as bad as the bottled water controversy, but I bet pretty darn close.

That's my two cents... hopefully people will start to be in favor of sensible solutions such as larger bottles of products or dispensers...

Ben Bethel
The Clarendon Hotel
Phoenix, Arizona

going the other wy

Instead of minis or refill bottles there is another way..... The Malmaison chain in the UK has large bottles which they encourage you to take home.

Attention Ben

You must be using dispensers in your hotel. Who are you using??

New style of dispenser

Seems to me there is a product that needs to be created (or already has), where the pump action is at the bottom and refilled from the top so the oldest portion of the product is used first.

Mini dispensers?

What if instead of large dispensers that have the potential to leave the product to sit and expire, but smaller dispensers that won't stay full as long and will have to be refilled more often?

It has to be unsanitary

The dispensers are in a wetmoist location so waterborne bacteria will certainly arise.  Unless housekeeping cleans them thoroughly each day, which is unlikely, people will likely be infected. Just like mildew on the tiles.

There is a new style dispenser available! finally

There is finally a luxury branded dispenser that is tamper resistant and stainless steel.  the bottles are 9oz so they are changed often enough not to promote bacteria and large enought to last about 21 days.  

Each unit takes about 1000 bottles and about 6 gallons of unused product out of landfills per room per year the fixture pumps from the top but draws from the bottom. eliminating the leak factor and creating a fresh product flow.  
They are currently being used in several Kimpton properties as well as Destination Resorts.

Ben, I do believe that the dispenser proposition is the best possible step we can take to rid our landfills from billions of unused bottles.

The new biodegradable bottles still have to be carted to and from the hotel and you still have all those gallons of unused product!!!

The main worry that I would have is the person who was in the shower before me can they access the product? The fixture must  be tamper resistant and recyclable.

Stainless steel helps to minimize the growth of bacteria

Copan, I believe you will get more germs from the bedspread!
check out the fixture at aquamenities.com  thanks

Hear, Hear, Ben!

Thank you for saying it.  I could not agree more with your thoughts and feedback.  

Also, I think some people are confused.  When you refill a dispenser you refill from the top.  And when someone pumps product from the dispenser they are pumping from the bottom. Twist off the top and see that tube attached to the pump...yes, the one that reaches all the way to the bottom of the bottle.  The product pumps through that tube, which is at the bottom, which means the product is properly dispensed according to when it was added to the bottom.  Refill from the top, dispense from the bottom.  

That said, the argument of old product being left in the bottle and only new product being dispensed is baseless. You're just mad because you can't take them home with you!  

cooking classes

You demonstrate very well.