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The Great Debate – Electric Hand Dryer vs Paper Towel

Jun 1, 2021

We all understand that good hand hygiene is one of the biggest defences we have against infection and transmission of bacteria and viruses but did you know that drying your hands correctly is an important step in the hand hygiene process?

As the transmission of bacteria is more likely to occur from wet skin than from dry skin, the proper drying of hands after washing should be an essential component of the hand hygiene procedure.

When it comes to drying our hands, which option is better, using an electric hand dryer or paper towel? Let us consider a few factors:

Cost

The upfront cost of an electric hand dryer is far more expensive than that of a paper towel dispenser, however, the running cost of an electric hand dryer is far cheaper than refilling the paper towel dispenser.

Environmental

Whilst some paper towel is made from recycled paper, used paper hand towel is not recycled. This is partly because paper towel is treated with chemicals so that it does not fall to pieces when absorbing water and also because once paper products have come into contact with fluids, it can contaminate the recycling process.

Depending on the model, an electric hand dryer will produce emissions of 20 to 80 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per use. Many studies would suggest that, even when using electricity sourced from a coal powered plant, an electric hand dryer has less of an environmental impact than that of paper towel.

Noise

Electric hand dryers are obviously noisier than using paper towel. A study revealed that the mean decibel level of a jet air dryer at 0.5m was 94dB, which is in excess of a heavy truck passing 3m away. In washrooms with jet hand dryers, the noise level could constitute a potential risk to those exposed to it for long periods.

Hygiene

Is there a difference between an electric hand dryer and paper towel? ABSOLUTELY.

Unfortunately, electric hand dryers are not as effective as paper towel for removal of bacteria from wet hands. Additionally, they also spread bacteria to other parts of the washroom. Another issue with electric hand dryers, is that people do not use them for long enough to completely dry their hands and they then unknowingly spread bacteria when touching surfaces and door handles.

Most studies suggest that paper towel can dry hands efficiently, remove bacteria effectively and cause less contamination of the washroom environment and from a hygienic viewpoint, paper towel is superior to an electric hand dryer.

 

Nowchem offers a variety of electric hand dryers, paper towel dispensers and refills. Talk to your sales representative about which option is best for you.

 

WATCH: Discovery’s MythBusters prove or dispel the “drying your hands with a hand dryer is less sanitary than using paper towel” myth here: https://fb.watch/5JWC3oJ0nG/

Information sourced from:

“Hand Dryers or Paper Towel? That is the Question.” https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health/hand-dryers-or-paper-towel-question#:~:text=your%20mark%20behind.-,A%20recent%20episode%20of%20the%20Discovery%20Channel’s%20Mythbusters%20also%20sought,using%20a%20paper%20towel%E2%80%9D%20myth.&text=The%20paper%20towels%2C%20on%20the,almost%20three%20times%20as%20much!

“The Hygienic Efficacy of Different Hand Drying Methods: A Review of the Evidence.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538484/#:~:text=Paper%20towels%20were%20found%20to,bacteria%20than%20paper%20towel%20drying.

“Paper towels or air hand dryers: Which is better for the environment & hygiene?”

https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-11-07/paper-towels-warm-air-jet-hand-dryers-environment-hygiene/10468580

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