Aloft Seoul Gangnam
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Wall Mounted Dispensers Versus Small Bottles of Amenities in Hotels

A debate pertaining to the controversy of replacing the small bottles of amenities in hotel and resort properties versus dispensers mounted on walls in rooms has been bubbling for years — and this soap opera has erupted in recent weeks.

Wall Mounted Dispensers Versus Small Bottles of Amenities in Hotels

“Those little bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash in hotels — icons of travel — are disappearing, replaced by bulk dispensers mounted on shower walls”, according to this article written by Scott McCartney of The Wall Street Journal. “And some travelers are in a lather.”

Marriott International, Incorporated will reportedly switch to larger bottles situated in racks mounted on the walls of rooms in 450 hotel and resort properties at five different brands; and plans to expand to 1,500 hotel and resort properties in North America by January — while InterContinental Hotels Group will introduce bulk dispensers mounted on walls in the rooms of hotel and resort properties at four different brands in 2018.

With regard to the initiative to save plastic as part of the Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction of Marriott to refresh sustainability and social impact efforts by 2025, “Environmentally, the program is expected to save an average of 250 lbs. of plastic per year for a 140-room hotel — approximately 23,000 plastic bottles.”, according to this article written by Robin McLaughlin of Lodging Magazine. “Replacing small plastic bottles with the dispenser also positively impacts owners’ bottom lines, saving between $1,000 to $2,000 per year.”

Advantage: Wall Dispensers Versus Small Bottles and Tubes

Tru By Hilton Oklahoma City Airport
Dispensers of body wash, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner hang on the walls in a bathroom of a room in a Tru by Hilton hotel property in Oklahoma City. Photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The advantages of wall dispensers versus small bottles and tubes of toiletries and amenities include:

  • Less liquid product is wasted — guests can use as much or as little as desired
  • Reduced amount of trash in terms of the number of used plastic bottles, tubes and boxes which are disposed
  • Significantly more economical for each hotel and resort property as a measure of saving money
  • Less time for housekeeping to prepare the room
  • Small bottles and tubes already used by other people may not be replaced with fresh product; whereas the product inside of wall dispensers can be considered untouched by other people
  • More counter and sink space for guests

Advantage: Small Bottles and Tubes Versus Wall Dispensers

Hilton Sharjah
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The advantages of small bottles and tubes of toiletries and amenities versus wall dispensers include:

  • Wall dispenser could be rendered useless if it falls off of the wall; is broken; or is simply not functional due to lack of proper maintenance
  • Dispensing product can be more difficult than necessary — such as pumping numerous times just to use enough product
  • Housekeeping staff must be called if wall dispenser was never refilled
  • Guests can potentially tamper with wall dispensers, depending on their designs
  • Potential contamination of germs with the number of people who use wall dispensers if they are not cleaned or disinfected properly
  • Guests can take small bottles or tubes of unused products with them, as they are convenient for traveling
  • Greater than ten million people benefited from the Clean the World Foundation, which integrates used soap — which would otherwise be discarded — and integrates it with a comprehensive water, sanitation and hygiene program
  • As with other environmental measures, wall dispensers are touted to guests as environmentally friendly when really the main focus may be to save the hotel or resort property money


This has been an ongoing issue for at least ten years. I first reported in this short article on Saturday, July 12, 2008 on Marriott embarking on a practice of providing less soap in its rooms than it used to while maintaining similar dimensions; while Hyatt Hotels had bulk dispensers in rooms at one of its properties instead of individual containers for the shampoo, conditioner and bath gel it provided, as had been the precedent.

I have mixed feelings about this, as I do not particularly care for using liquid products from dispensers mounted on walls, as this lends an industrial feel to the room, in my opinion; plus, I have experienced at least two times through which while attempting to take a shower is only when I found that the dispenser was empty at the most inopportune moment.

Park Inn by Radisson Budapest
There was no more shampoo or soap in the dispenser in the shower at the Park Inn by Radisson Budapest hotel property — but I found out too late while I was already attempting to shower. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Once was at the Park Inn by Radisson Budapest hotel property, at which the dispenser mounted on the wall was clearly empty — unlike the other time at a Holiday Inn hotel property in Munich, at which a dispenser mounted on the wall was empty; but one could not determine whether it was full or empty due to the fact that it was opaque with no indicator.

I do like the idea of saving the environment, though. As I reported in this article on Earth Day, Sunday, April 22, 2018, thousands of bars of used soap — as well as small plastic bottles of toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, mouthwash and skin cream — can be discarded from one single hotel property daily; and wall dispensers could help to significantly reduce that waste. I also like the idea of helping people to whom cleanliness is considered a luxury, which is where the aforementioned Clean the World Foundation comes in.

Regardless of whether a hotel property uses wall dispensers or small bottles and tubes of amenities is not going to significantly affect my trip either way. All I care about when I am a guest in a hotel room is that I am clean, comfortable, relaxed and refreshed while I am traveling.

All photographs ©2014, ©2015 and ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Let’s be honest, hotels are not doing this to save the environment but to save a buck. Those little bottles and soaps add up to millions of dollars.

    1. Well, James, at least this is not as egregious as those energy surcharges hotel and resort properties had charged temporarily in addition to the room rate. Remember them?

      1. HI Brian , Thank you for the article and I agree they have always been a great idea for the environment and yes they do save the properties financially, but what was missing was a fixture that presented a branded product and did not take away from the guest experience. I am the inventor of such a fixture and one that is nothing like what you have shown in the article. Ours is locking tamper resistant and provides the guest with the products that they recognize. current properties are saving ups to 1000 bottles and just under 5 gallons of partially used products per room from landfills annually. Please take a minute and look at our fixtures we have received positive accolades from guests and hoteliers alike. Thank you,

        All the Best,


  2. I have more than 100 hotel nights a year just for business and I publicly rate hotels with wall dispensers lower on sites like google and trip advisor.

    Good blog post but I disagree with a couple points. It should takr housekeeping more time with wall dispensers if they are properly checking and filling them. There isnt a wall dispenser lock in the world that couldnt be tampered with. I think one benefit that hotels miss on this is the advertising. I don’t usually take the small bottles home but the few that do make it home always remind me of that hotel or chain. Some even have the hotel brand on the bottle much like the ballpoint pens. Of course I guess they could also start chaining the pens to the desk to save money as well. Personally I could live with wall dispensers for shampoo and conditioner as I’ve gotten used to them in Europe but I still strongly prefer bars of soap.

  3. Agree with DaninMCI about bar soap. So now I have to go back to college days and bring my own soap with me when I travel?

  4. Hi Brian,
    I want go get the yellow and blue squeeze bottle dispensers for my special needs adult son’s apartment. I know where to order the tubes, where can I get wall unit? Thanks. Great article. Jennifer

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