Drinking Fountains and COVID-19

Understandably, a large number of people have expressed concerns about the safety of using shared facilities, such as communal drinking fountains, in the light of COVID-19. As a supplier, the safety of our customers and the general public is paramount to all of us at MIW Water Cooler Experts.

On this page, you can find the very latest information and guidance on the safety of using public water bottle refill stations in a time of pandemic.

Guidance for the use of contactless water bottle refill stations

The touch-free indoor water bottle refill station is one of the safest options to use when it comes to shared facilities.

The automatic, no-touch operation means that refill units, such as our – Elkay & Halsey Taylor EZH2O bottle filling station , can be used without any need to handle the machine physically. Bottles or other receptacles are placed within a spacious alcove, which allows users to navigate without making any contact with the surface area. The smart sensor recognises user presence – releases water and ceases flow without any physical interaction. And there is never any need at all for any one to touch the faucet.

All of this means that this style of drinking fountain can be accessed by hundreds of people a day without acting as a potential contagion point, or posing any threat to the health of users.

The key safety precautions users and owners should follow are:

  • To maintain social distancing, in line with the latest government guidelines when waiting to access the water bottle filler.
  • When the unit is situated in a public area, all users are advised to wear face coverings to prevent contamination through respiration. And avoid touching the dispenser.
  • The organisation responsible for the water cooler should maintain a regular cleaning regime. The person cleaning and maintaining the dispenser should wear a face mask to avoid any potential risk of contamination.

The World Health Organisation lists contact as the primary way of contracting the virus. The use of hand sanitisers, face protectors and touch-free operation allows users to enjoy essential facilities without unnecessary exposure.

Guidance for the use of outdoor drinking fountains

Before the emergence of COVID-19, there was an incredible surge in the uptake of public drinking fountains. Since the advent of the pandemic, these have remained largely unused. And yet, a recent statement by more than 100 scientists, confirms that refilling drinks bottles at public facilities poses no greater risk than purchasing drinks in disposable plastic bottles in a store. In both instances, sensible precautions need to be taken. But there is no need to avoid the use of public water bottle fillers and water refill stations.


To make use of public refill points, users are advised to:

  • Be aware of other users and maintain social distancing according to government guidelines while waiting to access the drinking fountain.
  • Use hand sanitiser before accessing the bottle filler.
  • When dispensing, if the unit is not an auto-sense machine and no hand sanitiser is available, users should operate the device with their elbow or knee, where possible.
  • Users should allow the water to flow for about 10 seconds before placing their receptacle beneath, to ensure that freshwater is dispensed.
  • All bottle fillers have been designed with a dispensing area large enough to be able to refill without touching the mouth of a standard drinks bottle against the machine. Users must not touch the mouth of their bottle against any part of the bottle filler. And to make sure that lids or nozzles are not touched by the hand that has operated the machine until hand sanitiser has been reapplied.
  • Users should clean their hands again once they have refilled their drinks bottle.
  • The organisation responsible for the dispenser should maintain a regular cleaning regime. The person cleaning and maintaining the water fountain or water dispenser should wear a face mask to avoid any potential risk of contamination.
  • Lastly, users should make additional effort not to cough or sneeze upon or near the water dispenser.

Common sense is at the heart of these guidelines. If all necessary precautions are taken, water dispensers pose minimal risk of Covid-19 contagion.

How to safely clean drinking fountains

All water coolers and dispensers need to be cleaned regularly to maintain high levels of hygiene. For general cleaning, adhere to the following guidelines.

For stainless-steel, glass, chrome, plastic, powder-coated or polyvinyl surfaces:

Use an ordinary, mild antibacterial detergent and a soft cloth. Wipe the surface and towel dry.
Steel soap pads and harsh abrasive cleaners should not be used, as they will eventually harm the integrity of the units.

For composite surfaces: Use a soft sponge or cloth with water or non-abrasive foam cleaner. Wipe the surface and towel dry.

Mild abrasives such as liquid automotive cleaning compound or baking soda paste will remove simple scratches and stains. Harsh abrasive cleaners should not be used.

Please note, once you have used any disinfectant on a water dispenser, it is good practise to wipe over the surface again, with a clean, damp cloth, once the specified contact time of the cleaner has elapsed.

Continued access to clean, fresh drinking water is essential for a healthy lifestyle. Combatting the tide of waste plastic is also crucial. With basic good sense and some practical precautions, there is no reason why we can’t continue to safely do both, with the use of public water refill points, in the workplace, schools, social recreation points and in our high streets.

For further advice and guidance around Covid-19 safe water coolers and dispensers, please contact MIW’s friendly team today to discuss your requirements.

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