I hate automatic bathroom fixtures

This showed up in the men’s room at work recently, and I rejoiced aloud.


Yes, it’s a soap dispenser pump. It replaced an automatic dispenser. the kind that squirts soap into your palm when you stick your hand under it.

The concept is fine. Futuristic, even. Very House of Tomorrow.

Except that it was overactive. If your hand moved anywhere near it, soap immediately squirted onto the counter. What a mess! And after a while, its squirter grew weak and it took four or five squirts for one handwashing. The facilities guy tinkered with it and tinkered with it, and finally threw in the towel. He put in this old-fashioned pump, which provides endless trouble-free service.

Most automatic bathroom fixtures just don’t work right:

  • At my last job, at one of the sinks the automatic faucet would randomly decide to run for five or ten minutes even though nobody stood before it to wash their hands. This went on for two years, despite frequent repairs trying to get it to behave.
  • The towel dispensers where you wave your hand by a sensor to eject a towel seem only to sometimes recognize your wave. And the towel is tiny, meaning you need to wave six or eight times to get enough.
  • Don’t even get me started on forced-air hand dryers. Well, except for the high-powered Xlerator and the Dyson Airblade; those both work incredibly well. But as for the rest, it’s just faster and better to wipe your wet hands on your pants.
  • But most of all I hate automatic toilet flushers. So you’re sitting there, minding your own business, when you shift ever so slightly. The flusher thinks, “Aha! He’s gone!” and flushes – which sprays some of the toilet’s contents all over your naked butt.

Look, I understand the promise of automatic fixtures. Less wasted paper and water. Toilets that are always flushed for no unpleasant surprises when you approach. No need to touch anything so germs aren’t spread.

But they usually don’t work. Can’t we just go back to flush handles, faucet handles, and paper towels you pull out of the dispenser?

At least in my office, they finally got the soap dispenser right.


22 thoughts on “I hate automatic bathroom fixtures

  1. All of your remarks are oh so true! I hate automatic hand dryers for the same reasons as well as the simple fact that I then have to use my clean, still wet hands to touch the door handle. It disgusts me when people don’t wash their hands! I usually make a comment out loud and they always pretend that they didn’t hear me……

  2. N.S. Palmer says:

    Amen, again! We’ve got those damn things at our offices, too. However, I have learned how to solve the toilet problem. You just take about three feet of toilet paper and wrap it around the sensor to cover it up. Then when you’re ready to leave, you uncover the sensor and throw the paper in the bowl.

    It illustrates a lesson I learned when I automated a synagogue auction back in the 1980s. They had been using paper slips to bid and buy on items. I designed a nice PC database system for them. (No charge, of course, because it was for charity.) However, when they started the auction, it took about twice as long for each transaction as the paper slips. They quickly switched back to their old method. I wish we could do that in the men’s room! :-)

    • N.S. Palmer says:

      The lesson was: If you’re going to automate something, make sure that the automated solution is at least as good as the manual solution it would replace.

    • Yup. Great analogy. Automation for its own sake seldom solves problems.

      I discovered the toilet-paper trick too, and have taken to using it unfailingly.

  3. Oh boy this is funny however totally agree. About the Dyson Airblade, well, they can’t dry my face after i washed it definitely, and have a hard time drying my glasses and other tools easily.
    Don’t ask me why I dry things other than my hands with them….. :D

  4. That needed to be said. A few years back, when a local watering hole automated its restroom, most were OK with it, a few were elated, and I was upset because I missed the finality of yanking on that chrome handle above the urinal before leaving.

    There are some good responses, too, and I find myself wondering if the name “Automated Synagogue Auction” has ever been used for a band.

  5. I don’t care much for them either. It is funny in that I used to look forward to the latest technology, however the older I get I could pretty easily be happy with what we had thirty or forty years ago.

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