In today's post-COVID world, restroom hygiene is more important than ever before. Now, organizations are going out of their way to keep their employees (and guests) safe and healthy and reduce the spread of harmful germs. 

According to the CDC, one of the best ways to keep yourself and other employees healthy is to clean your hands after using the restroom. Of course, this probably sounds obvious, but the way you dry your hands can also make a difference. 

From air dryers to folded towels and roll towels, these are three of the most popular ways to dry your hands. While we do not recommend air dryers, we do think it's worth breaking down the difference between folded towels and roll towels. 

In this article, we'll help you understand the difference between roll towels and folded towels (and the dispensers), as well as how they compare in certain categories, and which one is the best fit for your business restroom. 

Rolled Towels vs. Folded Towels: What's the Difference? 

What are Roll Towels? 

TORK Matic Hand Towel DispenserTork Universal Hand Towel Roll

Rolled towels range anywhere from 350" to 1,200" in length. Available in white and natural brown, rolled towels are typically packaged in six or 12 rolls per carton, depending on how big the rolls are. 

What are Folded Towels?

Folded paper towelsFolded paper towel dispenser

Folded towels refer to single fold, c-fold or multifold paper towels. Also available in white and natural brown, there are usually 125 to 400 folded towels per pack. Generally, there are 8 to 16 packs of folded towels per carton

Rolled Towels vs. Folded Towels: How Do They Compare? 

1. Cost Per Use

When you're looking at towels for your restroom, the first thing you're probably going to look at is the price. However, simply looking at the prices of folded towels versus rolled towels can be deceiving. 

Generally speaking, folded towels are going to be cheaper at face value, but your cost per use is going to be lower with roll towels. In fact, rolled towel systems can reduce your paper usage anywhere from 25 to 30 percent. 

Rolled towels usually dispense in lengths of 9 inches (or 18 inches for two towels), so a typical hand dry will require 23.75 inches of paper towels. Some rolled towel dispensers can be set to 12 inches or 15 inches so users will only need to take one towel, while other dispensers can be programmed to offer a second towel on delay.

On average, folded towels require anywhere from two to four sheets to dry hands. Each towel is around 9.5 inches in length, meaning a user can waste up to 38 inches in folded paper towels. 

Folded towels also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, as all towel dispensers do. If you install different dispensers throughout your building, you'll waste a lot of money (and time) on folded towel refills because there's no one-size-fits-all. 

Additionally, people regularly load folded towels the wrong way. When this happens, users accidentally grab a handful of towels instead. They also leave folded towels on the counter, which means they're more likely to get wet and cross-contaminated, spread harmful germs and get thrown away. 

2. Aesthetic Appeal & Additional features

When you're building or remodeling a new office, it's best to be involved in the process as early as possible. Otherwise, the general contractor will pick the dispensers that go into your restroom, and they'll likely choose hand dryers or a recessed waste can and folded towel dispenser combination. 

These options may sound aesthetically pleasing, but folded towel dispensers (and air dryers) will cost a lot of money due to towel waste and overuseThat being said, there's no reason to sacrifice aesthetic appeal or additional features for cost savings. 

Apart from the recessed version, folded towel dispensers are usually available in white, black or stainless steel. Rolled towel dispensers, on the other hand, come in a plethora of style and color options, including stainless steel, black, white and faux stainless steel. 

Kimberly Clark Scott Pro Dispenser (Stainless Steel)Kimberly Clark Scott Pro Dispenser (Black)Scott Towels

Brands like Kimberly Clark offer roll towel dispensers you can easily mix and match for a different look. Plus, all the dispensers use the same towel for easy refills. For example, the Scott Pro dispenser system is available in stainless steel and black, and both versions use the same towel. 

In addition, rolled towel dispensers offer manual, hands-free and automatic (battery-powered) options. All rolled towel dispensers help reduce towel waste and cross-contamination in the restroom, as well as the number of paper towels dispensed.

4. Space

Whether you're building a new office, or you want to install new towel dispensers down the road, planning ahead is extremely important. If you don't plan ahead, you may find yourself in an unavoidable situation at a later time. 

Depending on the size and shape of the restroom, you may not have enough room to install rolled towel dispensers, which can be bulky and take up more space. Instead, you may have to go with slim folded towel dispensers

Fortunately, Tork recently released PeakServe, a hand towel dispensing system that alleviates a lot of waste for standard folded towels. This dispenser is a great option if you don't have space for a roll towel dispenser but want to maximize towel usage and reduce waste. 

5. Hygiene

As we already mentioned, workplace safety and employee hygiene are more important than ever, which is why rolled towels (and rolled towel dispensers) are the obvious winner in this category. 

Think about it: how many times have you went to dry your hands in a restroom and there's a stack of wet paper towels sitting on the sink? Or perhaps the dispenser wasn't refilled correctly, and you were forced to reach your hand up inside to pull out some towels?

With rolled towel dispensers, there's no reason to worry about any of the above. Rolled towel dispensers protect the towel inside until you need to dry your hands, preventing others from touching the same towel and the spread of germs.

5. Time and Labor

Compared to roll towel dispensers, folded towel dispensers require more time and labor to refill. Whether someone refills the dispenser incorrectly or people take too many towels, both scenarios lead to constant refills, wasted towels and wasted time for your cleaning staff. 

Rolled towel dispensers, however, are easy to load. Plus, most have a stub roll feature. When the pre-existing towel roll is close to running out, this feature lets users place a new full-sized roll in the dispenser. 

Then, the dispenser uses all of the smaller towel roll before moving onto the new roll. The stub roll feature helps your janitorial staff spend less time refilling dispensers, reduce waste and make sure you use all of the roll towels you buy.  

6. Towel Capacity

One of the top benefits of rolled towel dispensers is their ability to hold more towels than folded towel dispensers. In the video above, you can see exactly how much product a rolled towel dispenser holds when compared to a folded towel dispenser. 

With a higher towel capacity, rolled towel dispensers reduce the amount of time you need to spend worrying about towel refills, as well as the overall costs of replacing towels.  

Rolled Towels vs. Folded Towels: What's Right for You? 

When making the decision to use rolled towels versus folded towels, there is one clear winner: rolled towels. The long-term cost savings (and the reduction in wasted products) make roll towels an economic choice for any business. 

On top of that, rolled towels can also be beneficial to your cleaning staff. With rolled towels, they'll spend less time refilling dispensers, and they'll reduce cross-contamination of germs and bacteria in your restrooms. 

That being said, if you have limited space in your restroom, roll towel dispensers may not be an option. In this case, we recommend Tork PeakServe, a folded towel dispenser that offers all the benefits of a rolled towel dispenser. 

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Andrew Stephens

Written by Andrew Stephens