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A downloadable PDF of this blog post and assembly guide is available here.

A video overview of a DIY Handwashing Station can be seen here.

Handwashing has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of transmission of human pathogens between people. But, sometimes we are inconveniently far from the closest wash room and sink. Hand washing stations provide a portable means of washing hands on farms, at farmers’ markets, and at recreational sites. This guide was motivated by a desire to improve current handwashing station practice with a focus on minimizing or even removing all contact between the user’s hands and surfaces of the station.

The key design features of a handwashing station include

  • Clean supply water that is safe and of adequate sanitary quality.
  • Hands free operation of water which allows thorough washing of hands with full attention and also prevents cross contamination via faucet handle and other surfaces.
  • Gray water collection for controlled disposal to prevent direct discharge of used water on the ground in order to minimize cross contamination and pollution.
  • Hands free dispensing of soap to avoid cross contamination.
  • Touchless or low contact paper towel dispenser to prevent cross contamination.
  • Paper towel receptacle with a liner and a closing lid to ensure waste is contained.
  • Sturdy construction leading to durable use over a long lifetime. Consider weather resistant materials or paint to prolong the life of the unit.
  • Stable design that won’t tip over and which keeps parts intact.
  • Portable so that it can be easily moved to where it is needed.
  • Easy to maintain so that it remains useful and pleasant to use.
  • Cleanable so that the handwashing station itself can be kept in hygienic condition. Surfaces should be smooth and cleanable and materials should be compatible with water and soap.

Stations destined for farmers market and PYO may also want to consider:

  • Family friendly design (e.g. height or stool) that ensures a child could use the station with little or no assistance.
  • ADA compliant and otherwise designed to allow improved access and use by those with physical disabilities.

The CDC’s “Five Steps to Wash Your Hands the Right Way”

Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals. Follow these five steps every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Putting it into Practice

The following images provide a general approach to a touchless handwashing station and two specific build plans. The build plans include (1) a DIY framed stand and (2) a purchased stand.

The Basic Parts and Pieces

This schematic shows the basic elements to the handwash station.

DIY Framed Stand

A visual guide to the features and specifications used to build this handwashing station
The foot pedal is connected to the spigot using a 2” snap ring. This allows for easy disassembly to change the water tote or to move the unit. A hole needs to be drilled near the far end of the toggle handle about halfway across the short side. The hole is 1/4”, but should be piloted with a smaller bit to prevent cracking and ensure proper location of the hole.
The high flow spring loaded toggle (HFSLT) valve used for the spigot has 3/4” UNF threads (straight) and the tote cap has 3/4” FPT (tapered). A 3/4” FPT to 1/2” FPT to 3/4 “ MPT adapter works well to connect them with a layer of Teflon tape on the 3/4” MPT side of the adapter and 2 layers on the 3/4” UNF threads of the spigot. Also note that the tote cap has a 3/4” knockout that needs to be drilled for water to flow. We used a 3/16” hole to restrict water flow.
The flush mount basin drain has a hose barb fitting that makes it easy to connect to a collection tote with a vinyl hose. The hose is passed through the tote cap where the 3/4” knockout has been removed. Label the totes “clean” and “dirty” to help ensure they are inly used for one purpose.

Bill of Materials (For Wooden Stand)

QtyItem Est Cost
32”x4”x 8 ft dimensional lumber – Cut List: [39”] [15-1/2] [15-1/2] [13-1/2] [12]
[39”] [15-1/2] [15-1/2] [13-1/2] [12]
[39”] [39] [12] [5]
113-1/2” x 18-1/2” 3/8” or 1/2” Plywood$5.00
124” x 18-1/2” 3/8” or 1/2” Plywood$5.00
25 gallon carboy tote (supply & grey water) with 70 mm cap (3/4” NPT thread, knockout)$22.00
16 quart Oil drain pan (basin)$3.00
1Bus tray (basin)$4.00
1Basin drain fitting (flush mount)$2.00
13/4” UNF HFSLT Valve (Spigot)$1.00
13/4” MPT to 1/2” FPT adapter$1.00
15 ft 3/16” vinyl coated steel cable$4.00
21/8” Galvanized Wire rope clip$2.00
16” length of 1/2” PEX or PVC (pedal)$1.00
1Spigot cable latch—2” CRD snap spring$2.00
1Trash can (foot operated with lid)$20.00
1Paper towel dispenser$16.00
1Hands free soap dispenser$35.00
MiscFasteners (deck screws)$2.00
MiscTeflon tape$1.00

Purchased Cart

A visual guide to the features and specifications used to build this handwashing station
Commercial soap dispensers were hard to find at the time of this build. This is a 400mL residential, battery powered touchless soap dispenser. It’s a little slow and you have to get close to the nozzle, but it works. Some users found these troublesome and used a simple low-touch bottle of soap with a pumper.
Shelf height is important for comfortable use and in order to meet ADA accessibility specifications. With wheels installed the middle shelf should be 27” above the ground and handle installed directly above that. This results in a basin top height of 34″. The top and bottom shelf should be installed all the way up or down.
The foot pedal is assembled by creating a loop in the cable. The left side is attached to the frame and the right side is threaded up to the spigot. The cable runs between the wires on the middle shelf.
A rubber strap secures the water jug and “jack chain” is used to hang the back of the basin to pitch the water toward the drain.

Bill of Materials (For Purchased Wire Rack Cart)

QtyItem Est Cost
1Wire Rack Cart$51.00
15 gallon carboy tote (supply water)$12.00
1Bucket “Lite latch” Lid$4.00
15 gallon “Lite Latch” Bucket for Drain$9.00
16 quart Oil drain pan (basin)$4.00
1Basin drain fitting (flush mount)$4.00
11 ft 1/2”ID, 3/4” OD Vinyl Hose/Tubing$1.00
13/4” UNF HFSLT Valve (Spigot)$5.00
13/4” MPT to 1/2” FPT adapter$1.00
15 ft 3/16” vinyl coated steel cable$4.00
21/8” Galvanized Wire rope clip$2.00
16” length of 1/2” PEX or PVC (pedal)$1.00
1Spigot cable latch—2” CRD snap spring$2.00
1Trash can (foot operated with lid)$20.00
1Paper towel dispenser$16.00
1Hands free soap dispenser$35.00
2¼”x3” Eyebolts and nuts$2.00
21/4” Nuts & Washers$2.00
112” Jack chain$1.00
1Teflon tape$1.00
1Rubber Strap$4.00
Misc3″x3/4″x11″ Board for foot pedal, zip ties$5.00

Video Overview of The Wire Rack Build

Useful Tips and Updates

Adding a keyring makes removing the clip from the jug easier
Use a hose clamp to secure the tubing to the drain fitting
Make sure to use a proper hole saw when drilling for the drain or cracking and chipping will occur.
Need warm water for cold weather use? You can use an insulated beverage dispenser!
Do you have plumbing already, or can easily add some? A stainless hand wash stink may be a good option.

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Funding for this publication was made possible, in part, by the USDA Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program through award LNE19-375, by the Food and Drug Administration through The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets via the Integrated Extension Educational Programming in Support of the VAAFM Produce Program Grant 02200-FSMA-2018-01. The views expressed in the publication do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the Vermont Agency of Agriculture; nor does any mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organization imply endorsement by the United States Government or the State of Vermont.

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