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Proprietary vs. Universal Towel Dispensers: An Honest Comparison

June 11th, 2020 | 5 min. read

Proprietary vs. Universal Towel Dispensers: An Honest Comparison

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Are you in need of new towel dispensers for your restroom facilities? From the initial installation costs to the quality of the towels it uses, the dispenser you choose can significantly impact your overall restroom expenses.

At Egyptian Workspace Partners, we offer two types of towel dispensers: proprietary and universal. Although we install more proprietary dispensers, we know how important it is to find a dispenser that works for you, your business, and your patrons. 

To help you make a decision, we'll compare the two types of dispensers in these categories:

  • Functionality
  • Cost
  • Towel quality
  • Style options
  • Warranty

What is a Proprietary TOWEL Dispenser?

A proprietary towel dispenser is designed so that only towels designed by the manufacturer can be used in a dispenser from the same manufacturer. 


Proprietary towels have a notch or end cap that prevents the use of towels from other manufacturers. For example, Kimberly-Clark towels won't fit in Georgia Pacific dispensers and vice-versa.

Additionally, proprietary towels from the same manufacturer are not all interchangeable with the same brand of dispensers. One exception to this rule is the MOD Dispenser System, which lets you use the same towel in multiple dispensers.

Popular brands of proprietary dispensers are Tork, Georgia Pacific, Kimberly-Clark, Cascades, and SSS

What is a Universal Towel Dispenser?


A universal towel dispenser is exactly what it sounds like. Universal dispensers like the Boardwalk hands-free mechanical dispenser are designed to use any universal roll towel from any manufacturer. 

Some popular brands of universal dispensers are Boardwalk and San Jamar


Proprietary Dispensers

Proprietary towel dispensers offer features such as hands-free, manual, and stub roll options to limit towel waste.

The hands-free capabilities lets users use a dispenser without touching it with their hands. Hands-free dispensers may require batteries, but not always.

The stub roll feature helps the dispenser use all the towel without wasting it. It also reduces service visits to the restroom and increases the capacity of the dispenser. 

Once the roll is partially used, it can be placed in the back of the dispenser so a new roll can be loaded in the front. The stub roll is dispensed until the roll is empty. Then, the new roll automatically dispenses. 

Special proprietary features like the MOD dispenser insert can fit 1,150 feet paper towel rolls to eliminate how often you need to change the rolls out. 

Universal Dispensers

Some universal dispensers have limited hands-free capabilities. However, if they do these functions, they can be more expensive than standard dispensers because of their quality. 

In the end, they'll still lack the options that proprietary hands-free dispensers have. 


Proprietary Dispensers

Proprietary dispensers are usually distributed by the manufacturer for free.

Before the dispensers are installed, some manufacturers require you to sign a contract stating that you'll use their paper towels for a certain amount of time. 

For instance, Essity (Tork) requires you to sign an agreement. On the other hand, Kimberly-Clark (Scott), doesn't require an agreement of any kind.

While you'll be required to buy paper towels from that manufacturer on a regular basis, you won't have to worry about the initial cost of dispensers or replacement dispensers if they break. 

Universal Dispensers

Unlike proprietary dispensers, universal dispensers are not given out for free by the manufacturer. You'll have to pay for it yourself, as well as the paper towels and any replacement dispensers down the road.

Universal dispensers can actually cost more than proprietary dispensers in the long run, depending on their usage. The universal towels can also be a lesser quality, which can affect how many towels you use when cleaning your hands. 

Towel Quality

Proprietary Dispensers

Proprietary towels have three levels of quality - good, better, and best.

800 feet roll towels are the standard option for universal and proprietary dispensers. However, proprietary dispensers can fit several other sizes as well, including 400, 700, 800, and 1,150 feet rolls. 

For most proprietary dispensers, you can choose between natural brown or white towels. 

Universal Dispensers

Universal towels are cheap because of their overall quality. Compared to proprietary towels, they only have two levels of quality: good or below.

Sometimes, the quality can be so poor that you'll end up using more towels than you would've with proprietary towels. 

Universal towels are natural brown in color. They usually come in a case of six standard 1-ply 800 feet rolls.

Style Options

Proprietary Dispensers

If you want to achieve a uniform look in your bathroom, proprietary dispensers can help you do that.

Available in several different colors and stainless-steel options, you can easily find a proprietary dispenser to match your existing toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and soap dispensers.

You can also retrofit your bathroom with proprietary dispensers. For instance, if you already have recessed stainless multi-fold dispensers, you can replace them with roll towel dispensers. 

Universal Dispensers

Universal dispensers are less customizable than proprietary dispensers. They usually come in black and are unable to be recessed in any space.


Proprietary Dispensers

Most proprietary dispensers have a three-year warranty. If your dispenser breaks within that timeframe, the manufacturer will replace it for free.

Universal Dispensers

When a universal dispenser breaks, there is no warranty. You'll have to pay for new dispensers, which can easily add up if you have to replace a large quantity all at once. 

Proprietary vs. Universal Towel Dispensers: Which One Should You Choose?

When it's time to make a decision, you should choose the dispenser that makes the most sense for your business. You should also consider the overall cost and functionality of each dispenser. 

Most companies use a combination of wall-mounted and recessed dispensers, which can be an issue since you'll have to order multiple types of towels if you don't go with a proprietary dispenser. 

Universal towel dispensers can be more expensive than proprietary dispensers. They offer less functionality and customization options, and there's no warranty to fall back on.

However, if you need less than five dispensers, universal dispensers may be a good option. 

Proprietary towel dispensers are typically distributed by the manufacturer for free, so you'll only have to pay for refills. They also have more customization and functionality options, as well as better warranties. 

If you need several different dispensers in your building, proprietary dispensers are the best way to reduce overall costs. 

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