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7 weird, wonderful, ingenious ideas for dispensing hand sanitizer

Bubbles, capsules, and paint: Sanitizer gets a new look in 2020.

7 weird, wonderful, ingenious ideas for dispensing hand sanitizer
[Image: Terry Hearnshaw]

For society to safely reopen, we’ll all need to get used to cleaning our hands regularly, and that means applying hand sanitizer when a sink and soap aren’t available. Could clever hand sanitizer dispensers help us remember this crucial step—and even make it a little fun?

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Multisensory experience design studio Bompas & Parr thought so, and launched a sanitizer design competition in partnership with the British Red Cross and London Design Museum called Fountain of Hygiene “to design-inspired takes on the sanitizer pumps and hand-washing rituals currently explored across the globe.” The competition called for designs across eight categories, and the results are in. Though currently prototypes, one thing is for sure: They offer creative and delightfully weird takes on how to stay clean.

Hand sanitizer itself has been in high demand, and in April it was even hard to get a hold of. Distributors from luxury conglomerate LVMH to Budweiser’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, converted their supply chains to produce hand sanitizer and help meet the need. But the product design of the containers themselves hasn’t changed much.

Kate Strudwick, Amos Oyedeji, Alexander Facey & Nicole Stjernswärd. [Image: courtesy Bompas & Parr]

One concept in Bompas & Parr’s design competition called “Paint your hands clean!” looks more like a kid-friendly art set than a hand sanitizer bottle. A friendly cartoon smile greets you from a curved bottle with a bright gradient. An equally bright paintbrush replaces a typical handpump and dispenses natural pH-responsive pigments that change color as you rub it into your hands.

Door handles—basically, germy petri dishes we have to touch to go in or out of virtually anywhere—are usually among the worst offenders for spreading germs. Another design, called “Handle sanitizer,” makes the door handle a purveyor of good hygiene, by covering it with a sponge that dispenses sanitizer onto your hand as you grip it.

Doorbells are another place for to germs to hide out. A project called “Hygiene Friendly Visits” makes the doorbell multifunctional, with an attached automatic hand sanitizer dispenser: Ring the bell to alert your friend of your arrival, and clean your hands at the same time.

Conrad Haddaway, Twomuch Studio & Inga Ziemele. [Image: courtesy Bompas & Parr]

Sure, you can wash your hands, but that doesn’t make much of a difference when you then tap away on a phone covered in 25,127 bacteria per square inch. Should you have a bouquet of flowers on your dinner table, replace it with “Centrepeace” a yellow, mint, and pink plastic tower that aims to encourage dinnertime conversation by holding your family’s phones hostage, and peace of mind, by disinfecting them with UV rays at the same time.

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The competition’s winning design, “The Bubble Party,” has the look of a sleek humidifier with copper metal details, but it’s actually a sanitizing bubble machine. It could be a drag to greet guests (whenever that might be) with a bottle of hand sanitizer at the door, but this bubblemaker turns a chore into a playful activity. A guest activates the bubblemaker with a wave of their hand and then catches the bubbles to disinfect without touching a thing.

Sally Reynolds [Image: courtesy Bompas & Parr]

Another concept, “Step One,” resembles a sophisticated public water fountain, with a thin curved, copper spout and a foot pedal, but it’s actually a no-touch hand sanitizer station and encourages public buy-in with a tall, colorful mosaic base and an approachable aesthetic.

Terry Hearnshaw [Image: courtesy Bompas & Parr]

Perhaps the simplest design in the competition is the “seaweed capsule,” an ingenious way to reduce the mess of dealing with a bottle of hand sanitizer by producing it in single, breakable liquid capsules. The individual units of hand sanitzer are packaged either kind of like a pack of gum, or in a public dispense machine. Out pops a capsule, and you simply burst it open in your hand. No plastic required—the casing is made of seaweed.

The design prototypes will be auctioned off by Christie’s at the launch of a corresponding exhibit at the London Design Museum when it reopens.

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About the author

Lilly Smith is an associate editor of Co.Design. She was previously the editor of Design Observer, and a contributing writer to AIGA Eye on Design.

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