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Emerson Hands-Free Soap Dispenser Repair

So, we purchased this Emerson hands-free soap dispenser last year at a discount store for like $10.

We decided on buying this model despite already owning a Lysol hands-free dispenser (link), because the Lysol system requires proprietary soap and is half the amount per container versus a bottle of regular hand soap.

Long story short, the Emerson model allows you to use any soap you want, and that’s appealing and frugal. What’s not appealing is that the craftsmanship is a little shoddy in one major way. Allow me to explain:

On the bottom of the unit is a plastic switch which tells the unit that it is on a surface and, thusly, is safe to dispense without making a mess at the wrong time. This switch, when depressed, forces a metal strip inside the unit to engage the pump action; inversely, when the switch is not pressed, the cycle is broken and the motor will not start. Either way, you will see the red LED on if you’re within range of the infrared sensors. And that is the key to diagnosing a broken switch.

When I was trying to figure out why the dispenser stopped dispensing after a couple months, I noticed the LED would still light up, but literally no sound was coming from where the motor would be. I also noticed the switch was stuck and not depressing (heh). I tried to turn the unit off and back on again by holding down the silver button above the dispensing nozzle, but no luck.

So, I opened the thing. You’ll need a small Phillips-head screwdriver to do the same. And, I’m not responsible should you break the product or hurt yourself (how?).

Start from the bottom, removing the battery compartment and the batteries. Of course, it’s easier to do all of this without having soap in the reservoir. You can tip the unit upside down and pour out the soap, making sure you tip with the reservoir side down.

With the battery compartment open and cleared, on the bottom of the base you’ll see 5 plastic nubs which are used to keep the dispenser a bit off the counter/wherever. Pry those off by sliding a flathead screwdriver or something similar right around the edges, until they pop out.

With the Phillips-head screwdriver, remove the screws from the five holes. There will also be a silver screw near the switch that needs to be removed.

Once all 6 screws are removed, carefully remove the base (it’ll slide off), because there are very thin wires inside that connect the batteries and switch to the motor, sensors, etc.

Now that the unit is open, you can see where the switch is basically just a piece of plastic next to a bent piece of metal. If your switch was like mine (completely snapped), you’ll notice that moving the switch does not move the metal piece at all. Also, if your pump (when working) squirts barely any soap, the reservoir tube is visible (surrounded by a spring) and may need some attention (at your own discretion).

To remedy the faulty switch, you have some options: 1. Flip the switch over and force the metal piece to always be in contact (like I did), 2. Tape or otherwise permanently keep the metal pieces in contact, or 3. Fix/replace the switch (but the same thing may happen again).

The reason I chose option 1 is simple: you can turn the dispenser off by holding the manual button down, thereby negating a need for the switch when moving or refilling it. You can make your own choice. Be careful, though, because you may now have the switch mechanism just floating around in the base and need to plug the hole where the switch was to prevent water coming in & rusting parts.

After having solved the issue, you can put the base back on, ensuring you don’t pinch the wires (I gently stuffed ’em into a hollow side of the top). If the base doesn’t become flush with the top, you’re probably pinching a wire or the switch mechanism is in the way and needs repositioned.

If you have any questions, just ask and I’ll do my best to help. Planned obsolescence is a pain, but can be avoided if you try.


  1. Mark Mark December 26, 2014

    Would you have photos of the bottom opened? I used hot glue when I first got a replacement unit to waterproof it and that made it hard to open to service the switch and all the wires pulled loose. I don’t know where they go back. Thanks!

    • chris chris Post author | January 22, 2015

      We went with a Lysol soap dispenser + refillable container last year, so I don’t have the Emerson anymore. Sorry!

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