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Restroom Dispensers | Workplace Safety

Air Dryers vs. Paper Towels: The Most Hygienic Hand-Drying Method in 2022

May 6th, 2021 | 5 min. read

Air Dryers vs. Paper Towels: The Most Hygienic Hand-Drying Method in 2022

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Picture this: you're in the process of building a new office. You've spent countless hours picking out the best furniture and supplies, but now you want to focus your attention on creating a safe and hygienic restroom experience in a post-COVID world.

In these types of situations, the general contractor usually picks out the restroom dispensers. However, they're not thinking about the most hygienic solutions for your space, which is why they typically go with air dryers.

Now, you're probably thinking, what's wrong with air dryers? After all, they use minimal energy and don't require refills. While this is all true, hand dryers are extremely unhygienic, especially when compared to paper towels. 

Here at Egyptian Workspace Partners, we do not recommend hand dryers. Still, we believe it's important to have a trusted partner who will explain the science behind why they're not a good option. 

In this in-depth article, we'll compare hand dryers and paper towels in four main categories. Plus, we'll help you decide which option is best for your business restroom, so you can keep your guests and employees safe and healthy for years to come. 


Air Dryers vs. Paper towels: How Do They Compare? 

1. Hygiene and Effectiveness 

Air dryers may seem like a healthy option, but the research shows they're not hygienic at all. In almost every study, it all came down to the same conclusion: paper towels are the most hygienic way to wash your hands

According to a University of Westminster study, air dryers can increase the germ count on fingertips by up to 42 percent, while hot air dryers can increase germs on fingertips by up to 194 percent. Air dryer surfaces also have contamination levels 75 times higher than the average toilet seat. 

In addition, air dryers blow water droplets containing bacteria as far as six and a half feet (and spray all over your restroom). Air dryers also cause cross-contamination, making them unsuitable for hospitals and medical clinics. 

Paper towels decrease germs on hands by up to 77 percent. As the recommended hand-drying method of the World Health Organization (WHO), the rubbing process of paper towels physically removes bacteria and moisture. 

61 percent of users feel that paper towels leave their hands dryer and 71 percent feel they dry faster. Paper towels also provide greater flexibility, helping people look their best, whether they need to wipe their face or remove pesky stains from clothing.

2. Cost

Air dryers always have an upfront cost. Some air dryers, like high-powered jet dryers, can be very expensive. Unlike paper towels, hand dryers are a one-time purchase, and they require minimal electricity with each use. 

However, hand dryers also come with serious long-term costs. As science has proven, hand dryers are much less hygienic than paper towels. If there are hand dryers in your office, you may notice an uptick in employee sick days, as well as a decrease in engagement and productivity (which can affect your bottom line). 

Typically, you can order paper towels for free (or a deep discount) from a supplier. You'll have to purchase towel refills, which will be a recurring cost depending on how often your dispensers need to be refilled and the brand of towels you buy.

If you partner with someone like Egyptian, you can also choose from a variety of dispenser styles, colors and sizes to find the best solution for your space. Stainless steel dispensers usually have an upfront cost, but black and white dispensers are almost always free, depending on the quantity you need. 

3. Space and Style

No two restrooms are the same. Regardless of the type of business you run, you probably want to create a restroom that promotes proper hygiene, keeps people safe and leaves a lasting first impression. 

Both air dryers and paper towel dispensers come in a variety of styles and colors. But, if you want to achieve a certain look in your restroom, towel dispensers are probably going to be the best option.

Paper towel dispensers (and paper towels) are available in a plethora of sizes, shapes and styles. They vary in finish, color and height, as well as dispensing methods and additional features, so you can find a dispenser that fits into your space perfectly. 

4. Maintenance

Have you ever been in a restroom and ready to dry your hands after washing them, only to realize the dispenser was out of towels? This typically happens with multi-fold towel dispensers that can be difficult (and annoying) to refill and maintain. 

If you've ever been in the situation described above, you may be considering air dryers because there's less upkeep and maintenance involved. While this may be true, you'll still have to worry about the spread of harmful germs and bacteria

Paper towel dispensers can be a nuisance, but there are plenty of solutions that make maintenance and refills as easy as possible. For example, most roll towel dispensers and even some folded towel dispensers (like the Tork PeakServe) offer higher towel capacities to handle larger crowds and eliminate frequent refills

Air dryers vs. Paper Towels: Which should you choose? 

When you give your guests and employees access to hygienic hand drying options, it does more than reduce the spread of harmful germs and bacteria. It also promotes a positive brand image and results in fewer sick days so your people are more engaged and productive

Paper towels (and paper towel dispensers) come in a variety of colors and styles, are cost-effective and are easy to maintain. Most importantly, they're the most hygienic hand-drying method of all, according to the World Health Organization. 

Hand dryers may be easy to install and require no refills, but they're not hygienic at all and do more harm than good. If you're set on an automatic dispenser, you may want to consider a solution like the Scott Pro dispenser system instead. 

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