Do we need hand dryers for children?
Very few companies differentiate between children and adults when it comes to washroom products. One area that does need this differentiation, in my opinion, is Hand Dryers and the children’s hand dryer market is now starting to blossom in the UK. I have to put my hands up here and explain that I have a vested interest as I have helped develop Puff the Magic Dryer. Puff has taken 8 years to develop. Being in the hygiene business and having a daughter who hit the ceiling when a Dyson Airblade went off gave us some incentive to do so but since launching Puff we have had to sit and watch other companies try to rebrand adult hand dryers for the children’ market.
Let me start by saying this to all you hand dryer and paper towel manufacturers – Drying hands is part of the process! It is the final stage of handwashing but equally as important as washing properly in the first place!
Noisy white boxes scare younger children, which surprise, surprise, puts them off washing their hands.
The other extreme is the slow ‘never-dry’ hand dryers which nearly every school in the UK has. These models are put in but invariably have little power, they may be cheap to buy (I have seen models as cheap as £45) but they use up to 10 times more electricity than a modern fast dry unit. It should also be pointed out that Children also have a low boredom threshold so if a dryer is too slow, they either don’t bother or use the ‘uniform as a towel’ method. Not ideal. So Puff was developed to be quiet enough to encourage good hand hygiene, fun enough to keep them interested and quiet enough to make sure it does the job.
Common lies told by hand dryer manufacturers – noise
This may surprise you the reader but with regard to hand dryers, there are no guidelines on how you measure the noise levels. Some manufacturers measure noise levels 1 meter away, some further still. Have you ever had long enough arms to dry your hands a meter away?
Another trick is to measure the machine free-standing, sound waves dissipate evenly away from the unit giving a lower reading.
No manufacturer quotes sound levels once you have your hands in. this can increase sound levels by as much a 9dB, which in real terms equates to 3 times increase of the impact on the ear. This 3dB figure is key, a classroom of chatting children will generate noise levels of between 62 and 69dB. The difference between say 70dB and 90dB is huge, especially on younger children. Any child with sensitivity to noise (visit www.Hyperacusis.net for more info) will barely accept any noise levels above 75dB. Children on the autistic scale may be sensitive to noise levels even lower.
I have to say that Airblade type dryers are just unsuitable for nursery and primary school-age children. I have no issues in secondary schools where appropriate but these schools are dealing with Young adults and that is a blog for another day!
What are the options?
Here is an unbiased view of the hand dryers now available for the children’s market.
Puff The Magic Dryer
The original Children’s dryer. Puff reinforces good hand hygiene (Hand Wash High Five) and rewards good practice by blow-drying the children’s hands quickly and quietly. Puff retails at about £400 but comes with striking visuals including a large backboard (great for covering up old drill holes) to reinforce the hand hygiene message. Every dryer includes Hand wash high 5 stickers and Knights and Princesses toilet door stickers. 5 year parts and labour warranty as standard with average school use will last up to 10 years.
The Biobot is a converted Bio Dryer unit painted Blue with two googly eyes. BioBot focusses on the environmental impact of hand dryers versus paper towels. The back Splash is a vinyl graphic which looks great on wet wall or tile but is difficult to adhere to block or brick finishes (common in schools). The Biobot blows cold air and this adds to the environment message but our experience is children don’t particularly like cold hair hand dryers (please let me know if you see any studies that show different?) The BioBot retails at about £300 per unit however its big failing is the noise levels. It claims to be 76dB at 1m but we know that this level is between 85 and 89dB with hands in. This unit comes with 3-year parts and labour warranty and does not have a reputation for reliability within the sector.
There are a few other dryers out there which are any standard white unit with a shrink-wrap design. This works of course but it makes it impossible to compare!
So there we go if you are looking for a children’s unit remember the installation height should be adjusted for the children. Have a good look around and ask to see a unit so you can hear the noise levels for yourself.
The Toilet Expert