This Water-Saving Faucet Forces You To Wash Your Hands The Right Way

Washing your hands the right way also happens to save a lot of water.

You might think you know how to wash your hands, but most of us are doing it wrong, at least according to the CDC and some recent studies. A new faucet is designed to force us to do a better job: After you get your hands wet, it stops just long enough–20 seconds–for you to properly scrub with soap. Only then can you rinse. The faucet also automatically saves water, because it uses the exact amount you actually need.


“In washing your hands, the soap does 100% of the work,” says designer Cole Smith, a student at the Virginia Tech School of Industrial Design. “We only need the water to build up a lather, and rinse it off afterwards. If you wash your hands in running water, you just wash it off too fast.”

In the new design, the faucet releases a set amount of water to get your hands wet, then refills over 20 seconds. As people scrub and watch the water build up, they can also think about water use.

That change, Smith says, could have a significant impact on how much water people use. “Normal faucets have two modes–on and off–and when the faucet is on, there’s no real way of knowing how much water you’re using, since it all goes down the drain immediately. Leave your faucet on for a little while, though, and you’ll see that it can fill up the entire sink in just a few seconds.” Compared to an average faucet, he estimates his design can cut water use by 88%.

The design also aims to meet Cradle to Cradle design standards. The faucet is made almost entirely from recycled materials like copper and PET, which can also be recycled again if someone decides to change to a new sink later. It was one of the winners of this year’s Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge from the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute and Autodesk.

Though it’s just a concept at this point, Smith is interested in the possibility of manufacturing it. “I’d be curious how a more business-savvy person thinks the market would react to it,” he says. “I do have a drawing for a fully functional model, although I have not built it yet. At the moment it’s simply a design concept that sends a powerful message on its own.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.