- High-tech handwashing stations have been popping up in grocery stores around the country as businesses fight the spread of the coronavirus.
- One popular high-tech handwashing station designed by Meritech is “100% touch-free” and can clean your hands in 12 seconds.
- Executives of the company hope the handwashing stations can replace traditional sinks in the future.
- View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.
A high-tech handwashing station that kills 99.9% of harmful pathogens could become a common fixture in the future.
The handwashing stations, invented over 30 years ago by the small Colorado firm Meritech, have recently become popular in grocery stores as awareness over good hygiene practices has grown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike traditional handwashing stations, the ones made by Meritech are fully automated, chief technology officer Paul Barnhill said. After placing your hands in the machine, 40 nozzles rinse them with water and soap. The process takes 12 seconds and is “100% touch-free,” Barnhill said.
“Every time somebody washes their hands, they may do it a little bit differently, and so they don’t necessarily always get the same effect,” he said.”By automating that process like so many other automations that we have throughout our life is that you’re really being able to change that behavior, being able to give you a scientific process very quickly, very easily, every single time.”
A 2013 study found that only 5% of people in public restrooms were properly washing their hands long enough to kill germs and bacteria, and 33% didn’t use any soap.
Before the coronavirus, handwashing stations like these were mostly used at healthcare facilities and food production facilities across the US that have higher hygiene standards, Meritech CEO David Duran said.
But due to the pandemic, public spaces like malls, schools, and restaurants are paying increased attention to hygiene guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that handwashing can prevent about 20% respiratory infections.
The new awareness has led to a spike in Meritech sales. Duran said the company’s seen a 200% increase from last year — “significant improvement in our demand,” he said.
The handwashing stations have been installed at the Astoria Co-op in Oregon, part of the National Co+op Grocers group that operates over 200 stores nationwide. While they’re still keeping Purell dispensers around the store, general manager Matt Stanley says the stations have been a huge hit with customers.
“I think it is a machine that people will start to see more in public now that the pandemic is here,” Stanley said. “We certainly want to minimize traffic to the bathroom, I think was part of it. And we also wanted it to be really front and center center. And something easy that people could do.”
The Meritech machines produced and assembled in the US cost between $3,000 and $27,000 for industrial-sized equipment. Barnhill hopes the high-tech handwashing bays could replace regular sinks in the future.
“I would love to have one someday after 28 years of working, but the system isn’t really designed for that right now,” Barnhill said. “But I do see an evolution of that equipment being designed in the future to where they could be used in a home.”
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