simplehuman Sensor Pumps Review: the Best Automatic Soap Dispensers
As washing hands extensively with soap and water has become an even more important ritual in the fight against the current coronavirus and many other bad bugs, soap dispensers are a critical weapon in your arsenal. The problem with many traditional soap dispensers is two-fold: you have to touch them in order to dispense the soap, and you create more single-use plastic waste than necessary.
Of course, many places have automatic soap dispensers, but they’re usually some form of heavy duty installed commercial solution that is overkill and potentially not possible for many homes. But what if there was a way to get all the benefits of a commercial no touch soap dispenser, in a smaller and sleeker package?
Enter the sensor pumps from simplehuman. I’ve been testing the two different versions they offer for five years since receiving them as wedding gifts, using them dozens of times every day, and I couldn’t recommend them more highly. Eliminate one more place for viruses and bacteria to live with these cool soap dispensers! Let’s look at each one in turn.
Option A: 8 oz. Touch-Free Compact Sensor Pump – Liquid Soap
The slightly smaller option among the two, this sensor pump works by simply putting your hand underneath the nozzle, and a predetermined amount of soap shoots out. It never drips after the fact, keeping your counters clear from gunk. You can adjust how much or little comes out with each pumping action, so you can dial it in to just the amount you want. It’s very easy to refill – the top / back part lifts off, and you can use simplehuman brand soap or “soap without exfoliants,” according to the website. For a very cost-effective solution, I use Softsoap Advanced Clean Hand Soap 80 fl. oz., 2-pack from Costco. It dispenses well and I’ve never had an issue with clogging.
So depending on how you look at it, the biggest drawback, or benefit, to this model is that it’s powered by 4 AA batteries. And they are a pain in the tuchus. If you have any soap in the reservoir when you need to change the batteries, it becomes an agility test. The battery door is at the base of the unit, which isn’t too difficult to access. But loading new batteries is challenging, as each chamber takes two batteries stacked vertically. Due to our friend gravity, unless you tip the whole unit on a slant, the first battery will fall right out as you try to insert the second. Tip too far and and soap risks spilling (or at least gumming up the cap – I haven’t tested to see if it will hold if too much soap + gravity is pressing against it, and I don’t really want to find out!). I’ve gotten quite adept at changing the batteries through practice, but it’s definitely annoying.
Then there’s the excess waste of throwing away four batteries every time you change them. I finally realized how ridiculous this was, and bought this nice rechargeable battery set. Now I have no qualms about swapping out the batteries. Yes, I have to go through the rigamarole of changing them more often than I used to, but the environmental impact is worth it I think.
They also make a larger, 13 oz. version of the same model that has a removable sponge caddy, in case you’ll be using this in your kitchen and want to minimize the amount of stuff you have out in different places.
Overall, I like the 8 oz. size for bathrooms – it seems to fit better and not look so monstrous, depending on the size of your vanity / sink area.
Option B: Rechargeable Touch-Free Sensor Pump – Liquid Soap
If you want to not deal with traditional battery swapping and would prefer to plug in your automatic soap dispenser like you would any other device, simplehuman makes a rechargeable version as well.
In full disclosure, the model I have (and have thoroughly tested) is now the previous generation, but the overall concept is close enough. They’ve even made some significant improvements over the last model – I’ll summarize those briefly.
First and foremost, the latest rechargeable sensor pump is waterproof. You’d think that would be standard for a piece of tech that is, ya know, constantly around water – but it’s not (especially for the previous generation).
A quick tangent that is very related to both waterproofness and simplehuman customer service. So, the original rechargeable sensor pump we got for our wedding, well, took a bath. Try as I may, I couldn’t get it to start working again. I called up simplehuman and their helpful support staff got me a new one with minimal hassle. Each option listed here has a 2 year warranty – longer than usual and very helpful!
I like the previous design, but this new design is even sleeker, as they’ve removed the buttons on top that control how much soap comes out with each pump. It’s now controlled by the distance your hand is from the sensor. I guess that’s cool, but I’m not sure I’d like it in practice – I kind of like the consistency of knowing each pump will have the same amount of soap without having to think about where my hand is. Plus, you could always just pump again…but I digress. That must be part of the waterproofing – the previous design probably allowed for water to seep into places it shouldn’t.
I use the same liquid soap from Costco that I use in my other pump, and I’ve had no issues with it. They claim a charge lasts 3 months. This one lives by our kitchen sink, and is bigger, but is not a problem as the overall counter space is larger and so doesn’t seem overwhelming.
Option C: Rechargeable Touch-Free Sensor Pump – Foam Soap
If you’re a fan of the foam, simplehuman also makes a version for you. I haven’t tested this in any way, so simply wanted to mention it as an alternative to the traditional liquid varieties. Functionally, it shares the same features as the latest gen rechargeable – Option B. But, ya know, with foam instead.
Here’s my issue with it: it uses proprietary refill cartridges to make the magic happen. Now, I don’t know what would happen if you tried refilling the cartridge with an inexpensive foam soap – it might be totally fine. And they do have a wide variety of options available. But they’re not exactly cheap – ranging from $7 – $24 at the time of writing. They do have a “refillable” cartridge that you could try putting cheap soap in, but again, your mileage may vary.
Overall I think it’s something to look into if you absolutely want a foam option that is touch-free.
So besides battery changing issues and lack of waterproofing previously mentioned, what are the downsides? The only true downside, in my opinion, is the cost. These are not cheap, because there’s a lot of cool tech packed into them – if Apple started making home appliances, this is what they would look like. And if you’re used to buying $1 hand soap pumps – it’s going to take a while to break even. But I think these are long term investment options that again provide that touch-free experience that just works, and is backed by a great warranty and customer service team. So if you can swallow the initial investment, you’ll enjoy these for many years to come, saving a lot of plastic in the process.
Is this Stuff Adam Likes?
Absolutely. It’s funny to think of loving something so functional, but especially these days when I feel like I’m washing my hands constantly, it’s nice to have an experience that sparks a small amount of joy each time. Due to the price, this is definitely an “upgrade pick” and more of a long-term investment.