Enabling Technologies for Handwashing with Soap

 John Sauer/Water Advocates

Enabling technologies are some of the external or environmental factors that influence individuals’ opportunity to perform a behavior, regardless of their ability and motivation to take action. Often overlooked in the design of handwashing initiatives, enabling technologies have been shown to facilitate handwashing behavior in several studies.

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Enabling technologies for handwashing with soap can help do any of the following:
  • Store and regulate the flow of water in sufficient quantity to facilitate handwashing. Tippy-taps – which are devices made from commonly available materials (such as a jerry can suspended on a stand) - are perhaps the best known example.
  • Manage or store soap within a household or institution (e.g., school, workplace). The end purpose is to prevent wastage, theft or spoilage or to facilitate access. Soap nets, soaps on a rope and soap dishes are examples.
  • Bring together water and soap in one place. Enabling technologies such as handwashing stations provide a designated space to wash hands with soap in the household or in an institutional setting that is, ideally, in close proximity to the toilet or the food preparation area.
This webpage is meant to serve as a as a “one-stop shopping” online reference on enabling technologies for handwashing with soap for program managers. Specifically, the following resources are available:
  • A searchable database where program managers can find key information on various types of enabling technologies and find purpose/benefits, key product features/specifications, pictures or illustrations, and contact person for further information. Program managers can submit information on technologies not found on the database, allowing it to grow over time.
  • Knowledge products related to enabling technologies produced by WSP.

Knowledge products from Global Scaling Up Handwashing Project
Enabling Technologies for Handwashing with Soap: A Case Study on the Tippy-Tap in Uganda (2011)
WSP conducted qualitative research in six villages in Uganda to assess the acceptance and uptake of tippy-taps to promote handwashing with soap at critical junctures. Uptake appeared to be driven more by the “push” of the intervention and concerns surrounding household inspections by health workers rather than the “pull” of the technology. In addition, there seemed to be little knowledge of tippy-taps in non-model villages.
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Insights from Designing a Handwashing Station for Rural Vietnamese Households
Key findings:
  • Designing a handwashing station must take user preferences and practices into account.
  • A universal design for a handwashing station may not be possible.
  • Multiple iterations of prototyping and field-testing of a handwashing station prior to manufacturing are critical to identify user preferences and practices.
  • The use of a designer experienced in human-centered approaches is highly recommended.