Handwashing Station

Handwashing Station

Updated 05.11.20 at 20:20 PST

We are developing handwashing stations for homeless encampments and quarantine areas.

The City of Seattle reached out to us to develop a handwashing station for homeless encampments and quarantine areas. With many businesses and resources closed, the homeless community is left without a place to wash their hands. Without a solution, the virus will continue to circulate among our most vulnerable communities and the city as a whole.

The City of Seattle has deployed commercially available options (you’ve seen them at concerts and outdoor festivals). The plastic ones with the foot pumps). Unfortunately 4 out of 6 of these were soon stolen and/or destroyed.

The new model must be theft-proof, tamper-proof, and ADA compliant.


We put together a proposal for a metal-clad (read: heavy, tamper-proof) solution that can be safely placed in remote locations, and drained and refilled as necessary. It will also be designed to look like a giant hand soap pump, a visual aesthetic that will communicate its purpose.  Here is an early cardboard rendition (without catchment sink):

Prototype of handwashing station made of cardboard
Component pieces of handwashing station prototype made of cardboard

Maketeer Richard Albritton put together a proof of concept with an IR sensor to start the pump, and a timer to allow for 20 seconds of handwashing.

The prototype will have a 55 gallon barrel for clean water, a metal shell, and a tank to store greywater. The prototype will be battery powered at first (with batteries swapped during refilling), with future models including solar charging.

Our Team

Seattle Makers co-founder Jeremy Hanson is the lead coordinator and designer for the project, and co-founder of Seattle Makers.

Chris Broughton, owner of Seattle Pedicab, researched and sourced materials, and gave feedback on the metalworking of the design.

Rusty Oliver, “Chief Executive Lunatic” of the Hazard Factory, provided additional feedback and design ideas. Rusty and his team (and amazing metal fabrication studio) are prepared to produce the units at scale, and deploy them quickly.

Richard Albritton, IOT expert and Seattle Makers maketeer, has developed a proof-of-concept, and worked with Adafruit to supply parts.

The City of Seattle has provided rainwater barrels from the Parks Department, provided all requirements for the stations and is searching for funding.


Richard’s design is programmed to limit water use for 20 seconds of handwashing, and features cost-saving and sanitary elements including:

  • Water Level Reporting to know which locations need refilling in near real-time, communicated via LoRa (a Long Range communications networking protocol) using very little power, and reaching 2-3 km. This will save trips, time, and money, and ensure people will always have access to handwashing facilities.
  • GPS capabilities, which will let the City know the exact location of of the station, in the unlikely event of it’s disappearance.
  • Infrared or microwave sensor to turn on the water pump with no contact necessary.


Funding through the City, State, or Federal level can be a long process. We’re looking to fund and build the first one, which with the help of Seattle’s amazing maker community, we estimate we can develop for $2000, and build for $5,000.  This is half the cost of the commercial stations available from national outhouse companies.

Let’s Make It Happen

We’re asking for your help to reach the $20,000 mark on our fundraising goal, at which point our team will be able to develop and build the first prototype. Once we’ve finalized the parts and plans they will be made publicly available, and maker communities can implement this much needed solution worldwide. We’re all in this together, and our most vulnerable communities need a place to wash their hands and reduce the spread of the virus. Please help us by donating so we can all beat COVID faster.