In health care, food service and scientific industries, regular hand-washing is vital to sanitation and safety. Hand sinks add utility to the restrooms, workrooms, kitchens and corridors in a variety of commercial settings and make it easy for your staff to comply with your rules and regulations regarding hygiene. As the most common material for hand-washing sinks, stainless steel helps maintain sanitary conditions in your place of business by limiting the growth of bacteria on its surface. You'll also find the metal easy to clean and benefit from how well it holds up against corrosive cleaning agents and chemicals.
Selecting a model can feel like an overwhelming process. Even if you think you know exactly what will work best in your commercial setting, the subtle differences between styles can make it difficult to compare similar models and fully understand their differences.
We created our Stainless Steel Hand Sinks Buyers' Guide to make these subtleties more obvious and simplify the buying process. If you're unsure where to get started with your mission to find the perfect style, this guide also highlights the major differences between the various types available on the market today. Whether you're purchasing a replacement or upgrade for a sink you already selected or have never shopped for one before, this guide is sure to become your ultimate resource.
The first thing you'll need to determine when shopping for a stainless steel hand sink is the type that will best suit your space. Manufacturers produce three primary types of hand-washing sinks, each of which has its own benefits and considerations.
- Freestanding sinks sit on a base or pedestal and are raised off the floor. Because of their construction, this type is sometimes called a pedestal sink.
Benefits: Freestanding sinks are incredibly easy to set up. The fixtures only need to be connected to the plumbing in their space and are then ready for use. The type of sink is also sturdy and durable, even when people lean their body weight against the fixture while washing their hands.
Drawbacks: Generally, freestanding sinks take up more room than other types, though some manufacturers have sought to remedy this by offering smaller, more streamlined models. Freestanding sinks may also be too tall for use in places where they will need to be accessed by children or handicapped individuals. The added pedestal on freestanding sinks gives you a larger surface to clean than the other available types.
- Wall-mounted sinks come with hardware that secures them to the wall. Of the types of sinks available on the market, wall-mounted are the most commonly used.
Benefits: Wall-mounted sinks do not take up as much wall space as most freestanding models. As long as the plumbing allows, the sinks can be positioned at a height that is easily accessible for people of all heights, and below mirrors, which some businesses like to include above sink areas. Some manufacturers produce elongated, trough-like wall-mounted sinks that can be used by more than one person at a time, making them convenient for washing up at shift changes in restaurants, hospitals and other settings.
Drawbacks: Wall-mounted sinks require secure installation to ensure that they fit tightly against the wall. Although it is rare, these sinks can loosen or be damaged if large or overweight users lean on them while washing their hands.
- Drop-in sinks fit down inside of cabinetry, similarly to a kitchen or bathroom sink that you have in your home. This type of hand-washing sink may also be called self-rimming or topmount.
Benefits: Drop-in sinks use your cabinet space rather than your free wall space and are ideal for replacing traditional sinks or outdated sinks located in cabinetry. The rim or lip that encircles the bowl of drop-in sinks covers up the cabinet edge and can hide signs of wear. The style of hand-washing sink can be used with any type of countertop. Since they fit into your cabinets, drop-in sinks have the smallest surface area to clean.
Drawbacks: The biggest drawback to drop-in sinks is that they require cabinetry, making them unsuitable for areas without existing counters. It can also be challenging to cut holes into solid countertops where there were not previously spaces for sinks.
Unlike other types of sinks, which may be customizable, sinks for hand-washings are generally made in only one size per style. This makes it important to carefully review the dimensions for all of the models that you are considering.
First, you'll need to look at the overall dimensions for your sink fixture. These include the length (the distance across the front of the fixture) and the width (the distance across the side of the fixture). You'll also see the height of sinks provided in product descriptions. Keep in mind that for freestanding models, the height represents the distance from the floor to the top of the sink, while for other styles, the height is just the size of the unit; how high a wall-mounted or drop-in type stands will depend on where you place it on the wall or the height of your cabinetry.
In addition to the dimensions for the overall fixtures, you'll find the dimensions of their bowls included in product specifications. While for sinks for hand-washings, the size of the bowl is not as crucial as it is in standard sinks, you should still keep the bowl dimensions in mind, particularly if your sink will ever double as a fixture for washing small tools and equipment.
Bowl dimensions will always include the length and width as well as the depth. The latter measurement is similar to the height of the bowl, but is measured from the lowest point immediately adjacent to the drain rather than from the drain upward as many people mistakenly believe. Some models may provide additional bowl dimensions, such as the taper, which tells you the steepness of the slope of the bowl as it progresses from the top to the drain. The greater the depth and taper of the bowl, the more water it can hold when filled to capacity.
You may also see the radius of the bowl referred to. This term describes how much space is lost at the corners, where the sides of the bowl intersect with the bottom. The smaller the radius, the larger the capacity of the bowl; zero capacity bowls, which have no lost space thanks to their squared off corners, and have the largest capacities.
For freestanding and wall-mounted sinks, you should also keep the backsplash height in mind. The backsplash is the metal plate found at the back of the sink that covers the wall to protect it from splatters. Depending on your industry, health codes may require your sink to have a backsplash of a minimum height.Accessories
Most of the other differences found in stainless steel hand sinks are related to their accessories. Some models, particularly drop-in styles, have no pre-mounted accessories or feature only the faucet and handles. In these types of units, their construction may allow for the addition of accessories. To recognize these versatile models, look for drop-in sinks with pre-drilled holes or search the product descriptions for information about possible add-ons.
Stainless steel hand sinks that do come with pre-mounted accessories may have increased utility for your business, depending on your needs. As you explore styles, remember that a special feature is only beneficial if you and your employees or customers will use it on a regular basis. Never opt for a "fully-loaded" model over a simpler style just because it does more.
Some of the accessories that you may find useful include:Hands-free accessories
Studies show that 229,000 germs reside on each handle found on sinks that are used frequently. This means that even if your employees wash their hands thoroughly, the minute they reach out to turn off the water, they have re-contaminated their skin. The solution to this common problem is hands-free sink accessories, which allow you and your workers to turn the water on and off without having to touch any handles. Three primary types of hands-free accessories are available.
- Foot pedals are available for freestanding styles and get the water flowing from the tap with just a gentle press on a lever that is similar to those found on flip-open garbage cans. Unfortunately, foot pedals are typically not practical for handicapped individuals, making them unusable in some settings.
- Knee pedals are featured in both freestanding and wall-mounted styles. Like foot pedals, these hands-free accessories allow you to begin the flow of water before you put your hands under the tap by pressing on knee or thigh-level levers. This type of pedal is usually handicapped accessible.
- Electronic faucets are versatile and can be included on any type of sink for hand-washing. With an electronic faucet, electronic sensors detect when you place your hands under the sink and automatically begin the flow of water. When you remove your hands, the sensor signals that the water should be turned off. Some users find electronic faucets awkward and have difficulty knowing where to place their hands to start the flow of water. In some cases, electronic faucets might have a slight delay and waste small amounts of water by allowing water to flow after you've stepped away.
Some models of hand-washing sinks include built-in soap dispensers, which prevent you from having to install a separate unit on the wall or placing a bottle of soap on the edge of the sink. For areas where there is a risk of irritation to the eyes from liquid chemicals or gases, eye wash mounts are a great safety feature. Another beneficial accessory common in all styles of sinks is overflows, openings that serve as a sort of emergency drain; if the sink becomes backed up or if the tap is left running, water can escape the sink through this hole and be returned to the drainpipe rather than spilling over onto the floor.