Whether you’ve been handling raw chicken or buttery dough, there’s an easy way to lather up without dirtying your soap dispenser.
Last Updated Dec. 7, 2022. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 20: Rustic French Fare
Recently, our top two automatic hand soap dispensers, both by Simplehuman, were discontinued. We tested the latest model from Simplehuman, which is rechargeable, and a new battery-powered dispenser from Secura. We like and recommend both models but prefer the Secura 17oz / 500ml Premium Touchless Battery Operated Electric Automatic Soap Dispenser, which is our new favorite automatic hand soap dispenser.
Handwashing is imperative during cooking—and sometimes problematic. If our hands are coated in grease or if we’ve been handling raw meat or poultry, we need soap. But we don’t want to contaminate our soap dispenser. It’s a culinary catch-22: Our dirty hands are the reason we need soap and an obstacle to getting it.
Automatic soap dispensers are designed to help. These hands-free, battery-operated dispensers help you lather up without pressing a pump. Instead, they have sensors that, when activated, prompt the dispensers to squirt soap. We hadn’t previously tested automated dispensers, so we were curious to find out if they made cleanup easier.
We selected four motion-activated hand soap dispensers, ranging in capacity from 6 to 17 ounces. After filling each model with the nationally best-selling hand soap, we conducted two separate tests, repeatedly handling raw chicken and coating our hands in olive oil, using soap from every dispenser to wash our hands after each handling of chicken and application of oil. We also assessed the stability, sensor activation range, and durability of each model.
When we finished our testing, we had clean hands and a clear winner. Here’s what we discovered: First, some dispensers were harder to fill than others. Some of the dispensers had too-small openings, and one was especially difficult to fill because the sides of its soap chamber were opaque; we couldn’t see how much soap it held, and the soap overflowed while we were filling it. Our favorite was especially easy to fill, owing to its completely transparent chamber that allowed us to monitor the soap level as we poured.
We also looked at the amounts of soap the dispensers released by activating each model 15 times and calculating the average amount of soap per squirt. One dispenser averaged 1 gram of soap per use, which was sufficient, and another gave us a more generous 1.5 grams. Our favorite allowed us to choose the soap amount—from 1 gram up to 6 grams, and to set that amount with a volume dial. Another model we liked let us choose amounts from 1 gram to 3 grams by placing our hands nearer or farther from the spout according to a simple graphic on the front of the device.
Next, we looked at how well each dispenser, well, dispensed, based on two rating criteria: speed and soap release. Our top performers emitted soap in less than 1 second. The slowest models took about 4 seconds, meaning that we had to stand and wait before we could wash our hands. Two dispensers neatly released soap, and two gave us soap that left a trail of messy, wispy threads. Both of the poorly performing models had open, circular nozzles. The two models with ...
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Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.