Introduction: Pedal Operated Hand Sanitiser - With Basic Tools, Pallets, Screws and Zip Ties.

At the agricultural store yesterday, everyone used the supplied hand sanitiser on the way in. I thought this was a good idea but it occurred to me that this was the one thing in the store that everyone had touched without exception.

On the way home I wondered what the cheapest, simplest and quickest way of making a pedal operated system.

The following instructable will make a cabinet maker shudder. I didn't use a spirit level, tape measure or carpenter's square.... and it shows.

This might be good enough for a local agricultural or builders merchant but you might need a little more finesse for supermarkets and other food shops.

Go easy on me - this is my first Instructable.....


You will need:

30 minutes

A pallet

Pump action hand sanitiser

Screws - I used 4x40mm

Zip ties - I used 150mm


A saw

A drill with a bit large enough to pass a zip tie through the hole.

Screw driver



Adjustable spanner or water pump pliers for precision carpentry

Either a permanent marker or printer and laminator for explanatory signs.

Two saw horses make life a lot easier.

I didn't use a sabre saw or jig saw as I was trying to minimise requirements, but concede it would be quicker, especially when notching wood.

This is enough to build the mechanism that can be screwed or zip tied to a post. If you also want to fix it a pallet to make it free standing you will need:

Another pallet

Builders band

Metal shears to cut the band.

Step 1: Cut the Pallet

When selecting the pallet, you can make your life easier - ideally you want two boards between each support section rather than just one (basically a seven board pallet rather than a five board pallet) . If it is dry it will be much easier to saw as the saw won't bind. In this Instructable there are two models showing the different types. The prototype was made with a very lightweight, damaged seven board pallet. When it came to filming, I thought I would push the boat out and use a nice solid quality pallet that happened to have five boards and was wet. This was a big mistake - due to the thickness of the boards and the narrowness of the gaps the second version took me longer than the prototype even though there was little head scratching and general faffing the second time. This device probably won't be supporting a tonne [citation needed] so the more lightweight the pallet the better.

Ideally you want the gaps about 20mm narrower than the boards themselves. Narrower gaps mean more notching later. There are some pallets that are made out of plywood - they will delaminate fast if left in the rain. Although we hope the lockdown will be over soon, I can imagine hand cleanliness being a thing for quite a while.

When cutting up the pallet, you should not need to pry out any nails. Pallet nails are surprisingly robust and if you try you will have split boards and grazed knuckles.

Set to work

You need to cut the pallet lengthways, not quite in half, just to the side of the centre support section.

Of the two pieces you have now, the larger with two support sections will be your main frame.

The other piece with a single support section will be cut up to provide wood for the mechanism:

One pallet slat will not be nailed to a block - saw this one clear by cutting its lateral attachments - this will be the long riser at the back.

The rest of the pallet can be used later either as a base support or for constructing the hand sanitiser cradle. Other random pieces of wood might be required...

Step 2: Fit the Bottom Pedal and Top Button Pusher

This is the tricky part. You need to need to notch these two short planks so they sit between the slats on the pallet depth and extend about 50mm past the underside support sections. The lower (foot pedal) will sit on the lateral edge board so can be generously notched. The top board (button pusher) will be hanging there on its notches so don't go crazy here (but if it is too sloppy use a zip tie to hold it tighter).

You can't fit a standard panel saw in there to notch the pallet boards so you have to start slowly. Or use a jig saw or sabre saw. Once you have cut either side of the notch, use some water pump pliers or spanner to snap it out - there's a certain delight in using the wrong tool for the job.

The size of your notches will be dictated by the dimensions of your pallet, but I found a notch on both the pallet and the plank worked well with an angle to allow it to be gently tapped into place.

There should probably be more photos of these next two stages for clarity .... but let's just say that I am better at bodging carpentry than turning video on my phone into images on my computer.

Step 3: Add the Back Riser

With two saw horses at the right place you will be able to have the mechanism either face up or down with the pedals still free to move. With it face down, cut the long riser plank so that it just fits between the two pedals when they are at right angles to the main frame.

Drill holes in the end of the plank and the pedals and connect with zip ties.

Tip: When opening a bag of zip ties (or other small items) don't make the hole at a corner or edge - if you do this and it is jumbled around in your tool bag, the contents will slide out. 10mm in from the top edge usually works nicely.

This design relies on the wood taking the forces - the back riser is straight in compression between the two boards which are prevented from moving down (for the lower one) or up (for the upper one) by the lateral boards of the pallet which we know is very strong. The zip ties or screws are just to keep it all in place - if they are under load, they will sooner or later fatigue and fail.

Step 4: Add the Bottle of Sanitiser

Flip the frame over so it is face up.

Ensure that you have some movement in the mechanism and place your last remaining short plank across the front face approximately behind where your bottle will be.

Once this is screwed either side, you will need to add packing behind and a shelf underneath to hold the bottle.

This step is obviously dependent on the size of your bottle, but I didn't bother with a full wooden box, just a zip tie to hold the bottle loosely. I ensured the zip ties would not need to be cut each time the bottle needs replacing - although single use plastics do seem to be the unsung heroes of this pandemic, we can try and reduce their use as much as possible.

Builder's band would have worked here instead of zip ties.

I was trying to be a purist here and only use off cuts from the pallet, and in a rush before the teenager taking photos of the build got bored. If you have any other bits of wood lying around, you could make a much neater job than me - mine looks u-g-l-y.

Step 5: Check It Is Working

Stand it upright, press the pedal.

The weight of the riser bar behind should return the pedal after use.

You will need to add explanatory signs to distinguish it from a random collection of scrap wood. I have attached a .pdf

If it is to be strapped to a post then go do that, otherwise you will need to screw it to another pallet ...

Step 6: Adding a Baseplate

Remember the two blocks with a short plank connecting them? This can be screwed to the back at the base without conflicting with the foot pedal. The whole mechanism can now be screwed to the edge of the second pallet with angle brackets or builders band.

No matter how great you think this idea is, provision must also be made for people with reduced mobility - if you can't use the foot pedal, this isn't going to work for you, so a normal bottle should be provided as well.