Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels

Why We Feel Hand Dryers are the Better Choice When Comparing Paper Towels

Please keep in mind, we are a national distributor of both hand dryers and paper towel dispensers.

Most (if not all) negative studies on hand dryers have been funded by the paper towel industry. It is a massive industry and hand dryers threaten the paper market.

Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels

Hand Dryers and paper towels use energy and environmental resources to produce. It’s no secret that energy is used to produce metals and mechanical machines. However, one must consider the life of a quality hand dryer is about 7-10 years on average. Traditional hand dryers typically use about 2,200 watts of power turned on or activated. Today’s energy efficient models use only 1500 watts, and as low as 500 watts (The new Excel Dryer Xlerator ECO). That’s a huge improvement in technology. Keep in mind; most studies you may come across have been performed on old traditional hand dryers vs. paper towel. But worse yet, most were funded by the paper industry and promote bad methods of study with irrelevant measures or just plain bad science. Accounting for the improvements in energy consumption with current hand dryer technology is essential when comparing the environmental foot print caused from paper towel. For example, many hand dryers today use HEPA filtration to eliminate bacteria from air ensuring pure clean air is used to dry hands. Furthermore, hand dryer technology is always evolving. Recently, American Dryer decided to use cold plasma and couple that technology with the concept of drying hands. Cold plasma is a natural and safe known method of destroying bacteria. Hospitals use it to treat surgical wounds. The ExtremeAir CPC hand dryer uses cold plasma to kill 99.6% of all germs on and around hands while drying. So as technology evolves, it is becoming more difficult for the paper industry to spin shady studies. Yet, they continue to fund these bad studies and for good reason. Hand dryers eliminate the need altogether for paper towels, and business owners are happily moving to them because they slash operational and maintenance costs. Imagine a huge facility (such as a major league baseball stadium or a concert venue) having fans use paper towel to no end. The costs for running an operation where extremely high traffic volume takes place in a restroom just doesn't make any logical sense when it can be totally eliminated. No more paper towel costs, no more waste management, no more vandalism with paper towels stuffed in toilets, no more maintenance costs associated with restocking the paper, no more angry customers or fans from paper towel dispensers running out of paper, and all this while promoting a cleaner and more sustainable environment. It's a total "no-brainer" for businesses. Yet, the main problem still exists; the vast majority of people (restroom users, customers, and fans) prefer paper over hand dryers. Mainly because people have not been properly educated on new technology such as HEPA filtration and cold plasma.

More on Paper Towel and the Debate with Hand Dryers

There is a huge variation on how paper is produced. Starting from how trees are harvested. Most American paper is produced from forests that are replenished, lessening the sting on the issue of destroying trees. But what about the expenditure of fossil-fuels and transporting logs in mass quantities? Surely, these operations produce environmental challenges of their own. One must account for the pulping process which is known to produce potentially harmful emissions that may find route into nearby rivers or streams. There’s also a cost associated with transporting the paper towel across the globe. Hand dryers must be transported as well, but keep in mind; they last from 7-10 years on average. Paper towel is replenished frequently making the transportation costs much higher. Trucks are huge contributors to polluting our air and using up precious resources such as oil and gas.

The EPA claims that the production of recycled paper requires 40 percent less energy than making virgin paper. Thus, using recycled paper would be a much better study. However, paper towels are not recyclable after the first use; they remain an item that collects dampness and create a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, still add to landfill space, and all the production problems outlined above. In fact, recycled paper towel have been found to hold higher counts of bacteria then virgin paper towel. Yep, that’s right, “unused” recycled paper towel!

Franklin Associates ran a study in 2002, comparing the Excel Dryer XLERATOR hand dryer life-cycle to that of paper towels. The study closely compared the energy used to cut down trees vs. the mining of raw ores. Franklin Associates concluded that recycled towels result in an energy expenditure of 460 kilojoules per use, versus 222 kilojoules per use for a standard dryer. The Climate Conservancy has done similar research. Both rely on the assumption that the average person uses two paper towels. Many people waste more than 2 paper towels when drying wet hands in restrooms, but I suppose the average could be two per person. The Climate Conservancy is a non-profit organization founded by scientists at Stanford University to inform decision makers about the green house gas emissions embodied in the products and services they buy, and to foster market mechanisms that will lead to reduced emissions.

With rising energy costs, the choice is very clear that new, bold, cutting edge technology in hand dryers such as the XleratorExtremeAir, and Dyson Airblade (just to name a few) are far superior in cost savings, energy savings, and bacteria reduction. In fact, the ExtremeAir offers a version (the no heat EXT7), that dries hands in 12-15 seconds and uses 540 watts, costing only 18 cents per 1,000 hands dried. It’s also about 40% smaller than most other hand dryers; thus, needing less metals to produce the cover in terms of mining raw ores. And, as we mentioned above, the ExtremeAir CPC uses cold plasma to kill 99.6% of all germs such as C.diff, Staph, E.coli, MRSA, Salmonella, Influenza A and more. Paper towels can't kill bacteria. In fact, bacteria has been proven to live well on all paper towel, even unused paper waiting for the next person in line. The EcoStorm hand dryer by Palmer Fixture is made 100% from recyclable materials, making the EcoStorm one of the greenest products produced. The Dyson Airblade hand dryer uses a HEPA filter to reduce 99.9% of bacteria from the air. In terms of hand dryers vs. paper towel, the paper doesn’t stand a chance. Paper towel ends up collecting water from hands that contained bacteria. Rubbing the hands together brings skin cells to the surface carrying bacteria.Damp places are a breeding ground for bacteria. Have you ever been in a restroom where the paper towel had run out? However, a study from the Mayo Clinic shows that there is no difference in bacteria removal from hand dryers or paper towel. But take close notice; the study used a hand activated drying machine.In other words, they used an old push-button hand dryer that is irrelevant to today’s technology. All too often, people read these studies and fail to understand the study is doomed from the start. Had they used something like the Dyson Airblade, which has achieved National Sanitation Foundation certified status, the paper towel wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Many studies have since shown that paper towel and bacteria go together like bread and butter. Try reading these studies and you’ll think twice about using paper towel in the restroom as a hand drying solution:

So the next time somebody says paper towel is the cleanest method to drying hands… send them to this page so they can learn the truth.

Note: We do not want to discourage all paper towel use! Many restrooms could benefit by using a paper towel dispenser near the door as many people prefer not to touch the door handle.

The amount of money a company can save over paper towel is eye-opening. For example, visit Excel Dryer’s cost savings page.The cost savings for each manufacturer’s high speed energy efficient models will be very comparable. 

Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels

  • Hand Dryers are maintenance-free
  • Paper Towels can create unpleasant messes and overflowing trash cans
  • Paper Towel must be replenished and costs never end
  • Hand Dryers last 7-10 years and pay for themselves in a matter of a few months
  • Hand Dryers improve paper towel mess
  • Paper Towel Dispensers often run out of paper towels
  • Hand Dryers save millions of trees per year
  • Reducing the use of paper towel also reduces land-fill space