Gadgets for humans

I tried a hand sanitizer-spraying watch and have never felt less clean

The coronavirus pandemic has made hand sanitizer a precious commodity — difficult to obtain, but necessary for the comforts of modern life. While it’s not a perfect solution, and no substitute for a hand-washing, it can help tide you over between soapy clean-ups when you inevitably have to touch door handles or stair railings, etc. So it’s natural that hand sanitizer-based gadgets will have sprung up to offer new ways of dispensing this liquid gold. The WatchOut, a wrist-mounted sprayer, claims to be the first hand sanitizer wearable.

While this is one of the more… low-tech products I’ve ever been given, I’m not opposed to giving a product like this a fair shake, and given the current state of the world, it might be very useful to some. So I tried it out for a couple of weeks, to see if it improved my life at all.  The WatchOut, which you can purchase on Shopify, comes in a variety of colors, and comes with a spare spray dispenser and a bottle of hand sanitizer to put into the dispenser. I got mine in pink specifically to keep from visually confusing it with my black Fitbit. One thing to note is that you want to get the most liquid hand sanitizer you can find, and forget about using gel (I found that out the hard way).

Now, let me say I get the idea behind this device. But it just didn’t work for me. It not only took up valuable room on my body that could go to a much more useful wearable, it also barely did the job it was assigned to do. My COVID-fried brain likes the idea of combining a wristwatch with a bottle of hand sanitizer, but now that I’ve actually tried it, I think I’d rather have them separately than combined.

First, the design is not great. I don’t know whose bright idea it was to make this into a square, wrist-mounted device. I assume whoever it was was hoping that potential buyers would give it a passing glance and mistake it for a Wish.com version of an Apple Watch. Oh, and if you have one of those — an Apple Watch, I mean — you can forget about wearing it because this thing is massive. I have what I consider to be a fairly normal-sized wrist (not that I ever really thought about it before) and the WatchOut dwarfed even my Fitbit Versa.

This wouldn’t be such a big deal were it not for the fact that the wrist is valuable real estate — even if you don’t want to wear a FitBit or an Apple Watch, then you might want to use that area for a regular old watch. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to keep glancing down at my wrist and not see a time. Sure, you could wear it on your dominant wrist, but then your trigger hand would be your non-dominant one, which is just an accident (namely, hand sanitizer sprayed in the eye) waiting to happen. Again, something else I found out the hard way.

Notably, because of the way the spray pump works, it’ll either be facing your wrist or straight out. Obviously your wrist is no good, and there’s no way to get the spray into your palm no matter how far up the wrist you push the device. If you point the spray out, basically the only place on your “trigger hand,” as it were, where the spray will actually land is on the bases of your fingers. You can work with that, sure, but it does feel like I lost some of the product between my fingers. Also, because of the way the product sits, you either have to put one hand over the back of your wrist and spray upwards, twist your wrist around and spray sideways, or wear the darned thing on the inside of your wrist. After a few uses, I almost began to wonder if my hands were the problem as I struggled to hold my wrist the correct way to pump the product.

Lastly, and this is probably the saddest part of all, I couldn’t get more than a vanishing amount of sanitizer out of the pump. The first time I got the WatchOut working, and sprayed the hand sanitizer onto my hand, I felt an almost carnal kind of disappointment. I looked down at it and said, out loud, “Was that all?” Keep in mind the process of putting the liquid in the dispenser isn’t easy: you have to fully dismantle the apparatus, removing it from the floppy band, taking off the guard, and then unscrewing the dispenser. You have to use the included bottle, or at least its funnel-shaped tip, to get any sanitizer into the dispenser. And then you have to reassemble the whole thing. And it was disappointing that, for all that effort, I got a spray no more forceful than an air kiss on the cheek. It felt like someone standing next to me sprayed their hands and I just got a light dusting of it carried over by a breeze.

Speaking as someone who keeps a bottle of hand sanitizer with her at all times, and who’s about as sick of having to use it as everyone else — the WatchOut actually made me love the bottled sanitizer again. Because at least I’m able to use that without breaking my wrist. At least I’m able to get a decent amount of product from the dispenser to my hands without having to pump away at it like I’m trying to draw well water.

So yeah, if you’re looking for a good, reliable dispenser of hand sanitizer that actually allows you to get it onto your hands — maybe just use an actual bottle instead? If you really must have a tiny amount of it on hand at every moment, and you’re okay with not wearing a watch or bracelets, then maybe you might enjoy the novelty of the WatchOut. But even then, I’d still recommend a bottle.

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Published August 31, 2020 — 23:55 UTC