Bulk Soap Contamination Study Summary


Microbiological contamination of soap has been shown to result in infections and nosocomial outbreaks.1-4 Several studies conducted during the last 25 years have demonstrated that soaps can become contaminated with microorganisms. This contamination can occur after the product reaches the user (extrinsic contamination).2;3;6 This includes both germicidal (antimicrobial) and bland hand washing products. Bacterial contamination has been observed in nonmedicated3 and antimicrobial products including those whose active ingredients were PCMX2, Benzalkonium chloride6;7, Triclosan1, and CHG.4-6;8-11 All types of soap regardless of the active ingredient or preservative system used are susceptible to contamination when exposed to adverse circumstances. Soap dispensers with sealed refills were developed in response to this contamination challenge. By contrast, open refillable soap dispensers continue to present significant risk of contamination during use. As a result of this evidence, the CDC recommends against using soap dispensers that allow for users to add soap to a partially empty dispenser since it can lead to bacterial contamination.12

A recent study conducted at the University of Arizona by a prominent microbiologist, Dr. Charles P. Gerba, revealed that liquid hand soap collected from open refillable (commonly known as bulk) dispensing systems are a public health risk. He found unsafe levels of bacterial contamination in open refillable dispensing systems, while no bacterial contamination was found in soap from sealed (a.k.a. bagged or cartridge) style dispensers. Dr. Gerba intends to submit his research findings for publication.

Study Overview


The objective of the study was to determine whether soap from open refillable dispensers in public restrooms contain significant levels of bacterial contamination, and to identify contaminating organisms. Samples of liquid soap were collected from open refillable dispensers and showers from across the country and their bacterial content analyzed.


Unsafe levels of bacterial contamination were found in 25% of the samples from open refillable dispensers. The average contamination level was over 1,000,000 bacteria per mL of soap. This level of contamination is 1000 times greater than recommended by cosmetic industry standards.13 Coliforms, which are organisms associated with fecal contamination and which are known to cause illness, were present in 16% of the samples. Klebsiella was the most frequently isolated bacteria, followed by Enterobacter and Serratia. In contrast, no bacterial contamination was found in soap dispensed from sealed systems.


Since these samples represent a diverse cross section of geographical locales and individual sites, it is concluded that soap from open refillable dispensers commonly found in the US are routinely contaminated with bacteria. The type and level of bacteria found in these systems represent a potential health risk to users. All unsealed, open, bulk dispensers should be eliminated and users should switch to the safer alternative, sealed soap dispensing systems, to avoid unnecessary public health risk.

UniChem Turns 25!

From a humble home/office set up in 1983 as a local distributor, UniChem (Penang) Sdn Bhd, developed into a full line importer with nationwide distribution network and established offices in Penang & KL. With exclusive/master distributorship of High & Proven World Quality range of Cleaning & Housekeeping Chemical, Machines & Utensils, UniChem has grown more than 60 times in yearly turnover from the first year of set up.

On 11th of November 2008, UniChem celebrated 25th Anniversary with the official opening of the new annex building in the headquarter in Penang, Malaysia.

The new building with more than RM 1 million investment, was inspired 18 years ago by the Managing Director Mr Tan Joo Lim during the visit to Taski facility in Switzerland in 1991, as the appointed exclusive distributor for Malaysia.

The new building houses

The new building houses

  • The KleenShoppe – Commercial / Household Cleaning Supplies Shop with Professional Advice
  • The Excel Centre – A Centre for
    • UniChem Cleaning Academy
    • A library for Cleaning & Building Care Trade
    • Building Care’s Trade Professionals & Associations Converge to Exchange Ideas
  • New Showroom – A Comprehensive Showcase for Ranges of Products

celebrations The celebrations culminated in a business partners’ appreciation night at the Shangri-La Traders Hotel in Penang. At the dinner, UniChem attributes its success for the long term supports received from business partners and presented awards as tokens of appreciation to customers, suppliers and long service staff, all without which UniChem would not be such a success. It was a night of dance, cheers, laughter and celebration, a fitting end to the first 25 years.