paper towels or hand dryers

Dryers or Towels – that is the question

Everything is up for review as we look at how to get people back to work safely. One limitation to numbers in the office is the number of toilets available, but you also need to consider how best to let people dry their hands after a trip to the loo.

There has been research into this, and like much else when it comes to battling coronavirus, it seems that simple solutions are best. Just as washing hands frequently with soap and water has been shown to be among the best preventative measures there are, drying hands with disposable paper towels could be safer – on balance – than relying on installed automatic hand dryers.

But don’t ditch your dryer yet.

There has been a long-standing debate about whether or not the simple hand towel is better for commercial customers than hand dryers. Here are some things to think about in your own office situation. (Figures quoted are pre-covid.)

Cost of Hand towels versus Hand Dryers

Most UK companies employ fewer than 50 staff, but let’s assume your company has nearer 50 than five. 50 people using hand towels get through an average of 146,250 paper towels a year, at a cost of anything from £731 to £1200 depending on the cost of towels used.

For the same company, using a hand dryer that is energy efficient – using 2-4 watts/hour – costs about £28 in energy for the same level of usage. Quite a difference!  Check these costs yourself here


The Environment

Paper towels can be made from recycled paper, but can’t then be recycled and manufacture is energy-intensive. Using towels made from virgin paper involves carbon emissions for harvesting trees for pulp, transport, manufacture, transport again, packaging… By comparison, most, modern hand dryers have a tiny effect on the environment for that equivalent usage of just 2-4 watt-hours per dry.


If paper towel manufacturers can’t win the cost argument, do they win when we consider the hygiene of hand dryers? Our link above might suggest yes, but when it comes to true hygiene, it’s up to the individual to wash their hands properly first. Neither drying option prevents infection on its own.


A good reliable hand dryer helps maintain a clean and tidy washroom and there is no need for large waste bins that need to be emptied frequently.

So, planning your return to work might swing businesses towards using paper towels in the short term, principally for the reduction in airborne particles, but the height, position and power of good quality automatic hand dryers can be adjusted to offset any concern. Ultimately though, hand dryers are better for the environment and for budgets: so don’t turn them off even or remove them, instead consider replacing older models with new models, which are more energy-efficient, and reposition dryers to achieve the optimum balance of safe and efficient usage.  Contact us for the best advice tailored to suit your business needs