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Hand Dryers VS. Paper Towels

There is a war going on between supporters of the two major hand-drying options in public restrooms: The battle between electric hand dryers and paper towel dispensers is a fierce one. Both offer distinct benefits and drawbacks. While there will likely not be a conclusion to this debate anytime soon, it is possible to analyze the pros and cons of each option to help you better decide which choice suits your facility's needs.

Electric Hand Dryers

On the off chance you have never encountered an electric hand dryer, they are electric devices that use a motor to blow air over the hands to help removed excess water left over from the hand washing process, and are usually operated with the push of a button or via an infrared sensor. These devices come in one of two designs, the warm air blower and jet dry models. Warm air blowers usually have a single nozzle that blows warm air at lower speeds attempt to evaporate and spread out water molecules. Jet dryers rely on sheer force to blow water off the hands and blow air at speeds of up to 400 mph.

The Good

Hand dryers are generally touted for their long term cost savings. Because they do not require restocking with paper towels, a hand dryer can save a company a significant amount of money per year. A facility that spends around $2500 per year on paper towels could pay as little as $14 dollars per year to operate a hand dryer on average, though the specific number is dependent on electricity rates in the local area.

Electric hand dryers also tend to be lower maintenance than paper towel dispensers. Patrons need not pull a handle, potentially too hard, nor is there any opportunity for the machine to jam as with paper towel dispensers.

The Bad

The most common complaint about electric hand dryers is the noise. These devices, especially jet dryers, can be incredibly loud, although some newer models have managed to minimize the noise, for a price. They also often take longer to achieve a completely dry hand than paper towels, so patrons often give up and resort to just wiping hands on clothing or just leaving with wet hands.

Recent studies have also found evidence that hand dryers, even touch-less hand dryers, are actually less sanitary than paper towels. Research indicates that people who used hand dryers actually had an increase in the amount of bacteria on their hands from pre-wash levels, as much as 250% more. Jet dryers also proved to be capable of transferring the bacteria from one patron's hands to other patrons as far as two meters away.

Paper Towels

Whether in roll dispensers or left out in baskets as loose towels, paper towels are by far the most commonly used hand drying apparatus.

The Good

Most patrons find that paper towels are the fastest way to completely dry their hands. The absorbency and friction provided by a towel are simply more effective at removing excess water from hands.

In addition, paper towels have proven in recent studies to be far more sanitary than hand dryers, including manually activated paper towel dispensers. Not only do they tend to remove more bacteria from the hands, they also do not risk blowing them onto other bathroom patrons the way jet dryers do.

The Bad

As noted above, paper towels can become a significant expense for facilities that see heavy traffic in their restrooms. The volume of paper towel usage can also be significant source of waste, which may be unappealing to facilities maintaining a "green" image. Discarded paper towels can also become quite a mess on the floors and can clog toilets.