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Which is better in a commercial restroom?  Hand dryers or paper towels? 


There is no question that hand dryers are much less expensive to operate than paper towels.  A hand dryer costs between .02 cents and .18 cents in electricity per dry vs a paper towel that typically costs about 1 cent per sheet.  (that equates to $20 in hand dryer costs vs $250 in paper towel costs if the average use is 2.5 sheets per dry.)  In fact, it takes more energy just to manufacture even a recycled paper towel than it does to operate a hand dryer.  And that doesn't include the costs of chopping down trees, transporting the paper towels and the chemicals that go into the paper towel manufacturing process and the cost of ordering and stocking them.

Hand dryers also create much less waste than paper towels.  A big complaint for many companies that use paper towels is that they have to clean up after the towels, which can be all over the restrooms.  Worse yet, some people flush the towels down toilets, causing them to be clogged.  When this happens, the cost and the hygiene problems with having paper towels goes through the roof.  Then of course the towels must be thrown out.  Someone has to bag them, cart them and truck them to a dump, taking up valuable land-fill space. 

It is easy to see that environmentally, hand dryers beat paper towels - even before including the trees that are destroyed. 

So what is there to complain about when using hand dryers?

1) Some people are afraid to touch the door handle when leaving a restroom and they want paper towels.  For very dirty restrooms, this is a legitimate issue.  But for most restrooms, I don't see how it is any different than opening a door to a bank or filling your car with gas.  One solution is to keep some toels next to the bathroom door, but not at the sinks so that those who really want them have them.  (Don't forget a waste-basket there because otherwise they will end up on the floor.)  A restroom without a door - like in an airport - is ideal. But if you do have a door that requires a handle, we offer a number of hygienic door handles so that you can open the door without touching anything with your hand.  http://www.restroomdirect.com/sanitary-door-openers.aspx

2)  Some hype has been blown around the industry saying that hand dryers blow the dirty air that is all over the restroom onto your hands.  If there is fecal matter floating through the air of a restroom, you have other problems that a hand dryer certainly will not make worse.  But others say that the hand dryer itself can get dirty and add to the problem.  A hand dryer cover should be opened once a year (more in high use situations) and blown out to get any dust out of there.  But even if this is not done, we don't see that any more bacteria than anywhere else is present in the hand dryer.  The high speed hand dryers are better in this regard because the force of the air will naturally keep them cleaner. The Dyson Airblade has a Hepa filter and this is a really nice feature that leads to cleaner air exiting the dryer than entered it.  The filter has led to an NSF certification and we see it being specified by a number of food service mills and kitchens for that reason.  Other hand dryers such as the World Dryer Airforce have anti-microbial compounds imbedded in the paints and plastic components to minimize the potential for bacteria.  But the nice thing about almost all automatic / sensor activated hand dryers is that one does not have to touch them at all, whereas you really can't avoid touching a paper towel, can you?  (Although in really messy situations a paper towel is nice because you can rub things with it.  On the other hand, a hand dryer is nice for drying.  We could debate forever.)

We will populate this page with a number of studies that have been performed over the past few years.  A recent study by researchers at Laval University in Quebec City, and published in the American Journal of Infection Control, says that bacteria and germs thrive on paper towels and some of those germs could be transferred to people after they've washed their hands. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500165_162-57350204/paper-towels-actually-carry-germs-study-shows/.