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Usually the end of summer is a time of magic and wonder for parents. With the kids going back to school, what will we do with all that extra time? How will we fill our suddenly-free days? I mean, the answer to those questions is pretty much just “work”, but as summer becomes fall, there are usually things to look forward to regardless.

However, this is 2020 – Year of the Great Lord Chaos. Here in Central Florida, the schools are opening like the world somehow isn’t burning down around us. This has me concerned. Not just for the mini-humans that typically attend schools, but also for the full-size humans that pour knowledge into their little heads. We like our school, and it would be great if it didn’t turn into a 13th century plague town.

As usual, when I’m concerned about something, my first reaction is to build something that probably no one needs. That seems an appropriate reaction, in this case, since a little extra clutter ought to dovetail nicely with the other challenges facing the school.

So, I built a hands-free dispenser for hand sanitizer.

So shiny!


I’m taking design guidance from Adapt & DIY’s excellent video on YouTube. It’s not an identical build, and I’m taking liberties with the design in a few places (making a few extra mistakes too), but you can see that the results are similar.

Design Criteria

This isn’t the first DIY sanitizer dispenser out there. For all its evils, COVID-19 has unleashed a wave of DIY Hero moms and dads, and there are a number of excellent dispenser designs available. For mine, I wanted to meet a few specific requirements:

  1. It can’t rely on the bottle’s internal spring to reset after every pump. Let’s be honest, in those cheap plastic bottles that little spring is not going to last very long as a reset mechanism, and if the dispenser doesn’t reset, it won’t be very useful. Gravity is an ideal replacement, because if that stops working, this truly is a year to remember.
  2. It needs to be reasonably skookum. This is for an elementary school, so chances are it’ll get hit, kicked, stomped on, knocked over, and otherwise not live an especially gentle life. Kids aren’t abusive, but they are kids. It should keep working through whatever gets thrown at it.
  3. It should require absolutely minimal maintenance and adjustment. It’s not like the school’s teachers and maintenance staff need another task. This thing needs to pretty much just work.
  4. It should fit a variety of “normal” sanitizer bottles. Hand sanitizer isn’t as scarce as it was this spring, but the major brands are still having a hard time keeping up, and there’s no way of knowing which bottles the school will have access to. The bollard should be easily adjustable to accommodate a variety of common bottles.
  5. It should be reasonably inexpensive. These are a donation to the school we love, and if they don’t cost an arm and a leg, I can make more than one.


For the design criteria, PVC seems like an obvious choice. It’s tough, easy to work with, and doesn’t cost very much. The larger 33oz bottles of sanitizer generally fit inside 4″ PVC, so I’m using that for the main body.

Some parts will also need to be fabricobbled. I’ve got some spare project panels laying around, and various other scrap wood, plus the tools to manipulate it, so I’m using that. If you’re buying fresh materials, 1″x6″ lumber or 3/4″ plywood ought to do just fine.

There are various other bits and bobs involved. Some were purchased for this project, and others I just had laying around (seriously, my garage is a disaster, send help).



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