Refill Hygiene Advice

We know the pandemic has been a challenging time for many of you and we appreciate there’s been a lot of confusion and concern around hygiene and reusables. That’s why REFILL UK has shared with REFILL.SWISS the following strategies for hygiene.


Brought together over 20 cross-sector organisations to form a reuse taskforce called REPEAT to share good practices.

Created industry guidance on how you can safely offer Water Refills and Contactless Coffee.

Working to promote reusables and reduce plastic waste.


  • Over 120 health scientists have stated reusables are safe as long as basic hygiene is followed i.e. wash your hands!
  • There have been 0 cases of COVID-19 being transmitted through food or food packaging. Whilst no-one can say it’s “impossible” (as it’s a new virus and everyone is UBER cautious), even the FCA says “it’s very unlikely”.
  • Compliance teams at big chains like Starbucks are accepting reusable coffee cups. And zero waste retailers  never stopped people using their reusables.

So it IS safe for our Refill Stations to offer refills, providing the guidance and checklist below is followed and basic hygiene standards are adhered to.



We know there are different ways that Stations offer refills. So, working with experts and with the backing of our partners REFILL has developed the following guidance demonstrating different options for safely accepting reusable bottles.

Whilst contactless options are preferable – as this means a reduced risk of contamination from surface contact – barriers, hand-washing and increased cleaning can all be effectively utilised to minimise the risks to these methods of offering water refills.



  1. Create a designated area on the counter for the customer to place their reusable water bottle on a tray. We suggest using the Refill water bottle sticker, please get in touch if you’d like us to send you one.
  2. Customer removes lid from reusable water bottle, places the clean bottle on the tray on the counter then steps away.
  3. Server steps forwards, pours water from a jug (ideally with a lid) into the bottle without touching the bottle and steps back.
  4. Customer steps forward, takes the bottle and moves away from counter before putting the lid back on.

OPTION 2 -using a barrier

  1. Customer removes lid from reusable water bottle, places the clean bottle on the sticker / tray on the counter then steps away.
  2. Server takes the bottle, using blue roll or a tissue to hold it (please don’t use disposable plastic!).
  3. Server fills the bottle from a tap and places it back on the counter removing the tissue / blue roll.
  4. Customer picks up the bottle and replaces the lid.
  5. Server washes hands for 20 seconds

Advice for Refill Stations offering customer
self-refills of water bottles

  1. Business creates designated Refill area – this should be a clearly marked space. We recommend using a closed container such as a large Kilner jar or a jug with a lid as this will remove the risk of contamination through respiration.
  2. Customer washes hands thoroughly and uses hand sanitiser provided at the Refill Station before and after touching the jug or tap. Refill Stations may also want to provide paper tissue for the customer to use when touching the Refill container.
  3. Customer pours water from Refill container into clean water bottle without touching the top of the bottle.
  4. At regular time slots, staff clean down the Refill Station and container.
  5. When Refilling the container, staff should wear a face covering to avoid contamination from respiration.
  6. The customer should maintain social distancing whilst queueing to use the water Refill Station.

Advice for Refill Stations offering water refills from a drinking water fountain

Water fountains should be maintained regularly as per standard guidelines.
  1. The fountain user queues a safe distance from the fountain and from anyone else waiting to use it. (Check the latest government advice for your local area on the recommended social distance guidelines).
  2. The user should wash their hands thoroughly or use hand sanitiser before and after touching the button/any part of the fountain.
  3. The user is advised to use an elbow/ back of hand/ knee to operate the fountain if hand washing facilities/hand sanitiser is not available. The user should be careful to not sneeze or cough in the direction of the fountain.
  4. The user should avoid touching the waterspout or water nozzle with their water bottle or their hands.
  5. The fountain needs to be regularly cleaned by the organisation who is responsible for maintaining the potability of the water.

Looking for more ways to keep reusables on the menu?

Perhaps you’re a Refill Station who also does takeaway coffee, or you offer takeaway food and want to make the right choices when it comes to containers and packaging. Have you checked out RECIRCLE

We’d love to hear how you get on with offering refills in the time of Coronavirus so please get in touch with any feedback on this Refill and COVID guidance.