Following last year’s successful Yale College Council campaign, most students now have a University-provided soap dispenser in their bathrooms — all of them filled with foam soap or in the process of being changed to foam dispensers. But even while using the new dispensers, few Yalies stop to wonder how the light and foamy substance actually works.
“Foam soap is already activated in the sense that it is all ready to start working,” said Edwin Bickel, president of FoamAir, a company that develops foam-related products. “It is faster-acting and it rinses easier, thereby saving water over time,” he said.
Foam soap is more effective than other types of soap, he said, because it goes on more smoothly. Typically, he said, when a blob of liquid or gel soap is used, much of that blob can end up in the sink without being used.
Bickel said the foaminess of foam soap is created by mixing air with the liquid inside the dispenser. The main ingredients in the liquid help carry the dirt away and make the foam we put on our hands, he said.
Robert Crabtree, a Yale chemistry professor, said foam soap helps minimize waste by cutting down on the amount of soap used.
“The nature of the soap I doubt is very different from the standard,” he said.
But the fact that foam soap is mostly air, he said, means a much smaller quantity of soap is used for each handwashing.
“It’s an economy and antipollution strategy that the University has no doubt adopted,” he said.
YCC Vice President Steven Engler ’07, who led last year’s effort to have soap dispensers installed in all bathrooms, said the type of soap Yale chose to buy was not a priority for the YCC. Like Crabtree, Engler said foam soap was probably chosen for economic reasons.
“Foam soap was proposed because it uses less soap per volume, so it’s probably a more affordable product for the University,” Engler said.
One reason the University was hesitant about installing soap, he said, was that people tend to overuse it and allow it to drip.
Some students on Old Campus have yet to benefit from the new soap program. Although students in Lanman-Wright, Vanderbilt, Bingham and Welch halls said Tuesday that they had foam soap dispensers in their bathrooms, students in Farnam, Lawrance and Durfee halls said they did not. Farnam, Lawrance and Durfee bathrooms are all in-suite, but so are those in Welch, which do have soap dispensers.
“I don’t think a conscious decision was made not to install them everywhere,” Patrick Gallagher, an associate director of the customer services group at Yale facilities operations, said. “It’s possible they just haven’t gotten there yet.”
Student opinions about the new soap dispensers are for the most part positive.
“I like foam soap,” Bingham resident Danielle Delee ’10 said. “I think liquid soap isn’t as good because sometimes it’s harder to wash off. Foam soap just seems to clean better than the other types.”
Liz Woods ’09, a Davenport College resident, also said she prefers the current option.
“As far as soaps from dispensers go, I think foam soap is the best,” she said. “It’s not as messy as liquid soap.”