Hand Towels vs Hand Dryers

Hand Towels vs Hand Dryers 

Ok, you asked… the hotly debated question… are hand dryers better than hand towels!? There is no right or wrong answer I believe, but let’s point out some things that you may not have thought of before which will help you decide what is best for your workplace or establishment.


Here’s a list of the key points to be covered in this article… if you’re short of time then click on the most relevant to be taken to the answer!


Are hand dryers more hygienic than paper towels?

Are hand dryers cheaper than paper towels?

What is the most environmentally friendly way to dry hands?

What are the different types of hand towels available?


Are hand dryers more hygienic than paper towels?

The short answer is, no! There are various studies demonstrating the bacteria increase from using a hand dryer rather than paper hand towels.

But then there are different types of hand dryers to consider too with some versions having a higher level of efficacy and increased ‘eco’ credentials.

If you take an ‘old school’ conventional hot air dryer, then the negatives far outweigh the positives –


Reduced labour as no need to refill towels
Very high energy costs with heating a coil
No requirement for a bin or emptying
Ineffective drying with weak air flow
Hands left damp increasing bacteria growth leading to potential illness
Requirement to be wired in – high cost of installation
Requires frequent cleaning & sanitising
Risk of break down

It’s worth mentioning at this point that some modern hand dryers are now fitted with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter which is designed to help stop microbe-filled air from reaching your hands whilst they are being dried. This is another step in the right direction to reduce the growth and spread of microorganisms which in turn reduces the risk of illness to users. 

So, the previous comparison demonstrates some of the negatives for a cheap to buy hand dryer but then we can look at some other options:


                Jet Blade Hand Dryer                                                          





                                                                                           High Speed Hand Dryer




These are far more advanced and modern alternatives to the conventional hot air hand dryer, coming in at a far higher cost but then having many advantages over against the old style.

Faster drying time
Modern look
If something breaks, then higher cost to replace
Inbuilt filters to decrease bacteria spread
High air output often causes water on hands to be sprayed elsewhere i.e. clothes, walls. This increases the chance of bacteria growth elsewhere
Easier to clean
Electricity supply needs run to dryer installation point
Antimicrobial casing
Lower noise levels
Lower cost to run


And now let’s look at the pros and cons when compared against hand towels:


Reduced labour as no need to refill towels
Can result in queues for the hand dryer in busy areas whereas a towel can be taken, and person moves aside
No requirement for a bin or emptying
Powerful air movement blows the water against wall and onto person using the hand dryer. This in turn can lead to bacteria growth on objects
Long term cost saving (as long as no costly hand dryer repairs required)
Thorough and regular cleaning and sanitising of dryer required to limit bacteria growth and spread.
Reduces the amount of paper used by your organisation.
High noise levels
Risk of costly break downs
Can dry hands out too much causing sore and cracked hands
Increased energy costs

There are many pros and cons, and the question is whether one positive outweighs another negative. Its for you to make the decision whether paper hand towels are better than electric hand dryers. What is considered when we say ‘better’. Better drying, hygienically better, better aesthetics? Every environment is different, and some compromises can be made when deciding but sometimes short cuts can’t be taken. Take for example in a food factory. Auditors often recommend against the use of hand dryers due to the high risk of bacteria multiplying rapidly and spreading onto food products.

So, for your situation have you decided yet which is better, paper towels or hand dryers?! Keep reading if you still haven’t made up your mind.


Are hand dryers cheaper than paper towels? 


Hard to quantify this one but on the face of it then yes hand dryers would appear in the long run to be a more cost-effective option for high traffic washroom areas. If you only have a few users of your washroom throughout the day, then the outlay of a hand dryer is probably not worth the expense when only a few hand towels would get used daily. The reason hand dryers can potentially save money over time is because they do not require the continuous purchase and disposal of paper towels which both cost money. Along with this though you must factor in the one-off high cost of a hand dryer purchase. Also, consideration needs to be taken as to the other down sides of hand dryers. Will this less hygienic method of hand drying mean a potential increase in workplace illness resulting in higher business costs due to absenteeism? Will queues at the hand dryer result in people not bothering to wash their hands? These are all points that you will need to weigh up when deciding on the best hand drying method for your company.


What is the most environmentally friendly way to dry hands?


Arguably the most environmentally friendly way of hand drying is to wipe your hands down your clothes! However, although this method saves on paper and electricity usage, it is far from hygienic and encourages bacteria growth on your clothes. Not to mention making your clothes damp and looking a mess!

So, the next best most sustainable way would be to use an electric hand dryer with a green energy rating which means that it uses a low amount of power whilst operating and thus ensures energy usage is kept low. These come at a higher cost when compared to a conventional dryer but then an ‘old school’ dryer uses a high amount of electricity when in use so over time a more efficient option would pay for itself.

Using the correct paper towels is also another option that should be considered. Look out for towels that are made from recycled paper content. Some places also recycle paper towels, but this depends on if they are contaminated with dirt or not. 


What are the different types of hand towels available?


Is you are opting for the paper towel choice then there are a few considerations to keep in mind. What quality of towel do I need, how many ply, what colour, what type of fold are all questions that arise. Let us briefly cover off these points.

Hand Towel Quality – depending on the environment you are to be using the hand towels in will determine what quality you go for. In a smart office washroom then you would want something fitting with the environment so a 2ply white soft hand towel would fit well. A hotel washroom would opt for a better quality again with perhaps a 3ply white embossed towel depending on the star rating of the hotel. On the contrary, a food manufacturing plant would be more likely to pick a blue towel (colour – blue detectable, the towel can be identified easily if it falls into food) and 1ply which helps keep cost down as likely to be higher usage in this type of environment.

How many Ply – Hand towels come in different ply. This is how many individual sheets or layers of paper make up the product. If multiple plies, then the sheets of paper are usually glued together or sometimes embossed together or a mixture of both. The higher number of layers usually donates the more luxury the towel is.

Colour – As mentioned above, the colour may be required for a particular environment. Otherwise, the standard colours available tend to be white, blue or green with blue and green being a thinner ‘economy’ option.

Fold – Hand towels are folded in various ways so that they can easily be dispensed from a wall mounted dispenser.

            C fold Hand towels – looking end on it denotes the shape of a letter ‘C’. Usually, a 1ply towel and regarded as an economy, cost effective towel.


            Z Fold or M Fold Hand towels – again demonstrates the shape of the letter. These types of towels are usually interlocked so that when you pull one towel out, the next towel begins to present itself out of the dispenser ready for the next user to easily take. M Fold towels are often joined to each other via a weak perforation which also helps the next towel to follow out of the dispenser. 



V Fold Towels are another common option. They are also known as interfolded towels and one locks into the other, again for easy dispensing. However, the sheet size of these towels tends to be smaller than a Z fold towel meaning that the costs of these are usually lower.



Where to buy disposable hand towels?

Your next question is going to be where can I buy paper hand towels? There are many places where to buy paper hand towels with the most common option being online. You are not so likely to find this type of towel in supermarkets as supermarkets are focused more on household items whereas these type of hand towels are suited more to business or industry use.

There are many hygiene and janitorial companies out there that stock these products and no doubt you have some local companies that can help. Often it is easier and most cost effective to go online and look at the options prior to making a purchasing decision. Perhaps it’s a good idea to order a case of different types to begin with so that you can be sure you get the product you want.


Hopefully this article has provided some clarity around hand towels and hand dryer options but please reach out should you have any further questions.


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