Hand dryers or Paper Towels; Which is the Best?

Here’s the situation; you’re in a public bathroom and you’ve just finished washing your dezeen_Dyson-Airblade-tap_3hands, you’re also in a rush and you don’t want to spend even more time drying your hands, so what do you do? Do you go for the hand dryer on the wall? Do you grab a paper towel from the dispenser instead? Or do you ignore both and leave the bathroom waving your hands in the air like you’re imitating a hummingbird? That’s if there’s even the option for both, many times there’s either one or the other and you don’t get a choice of preference, but if you did then what would you prefer?

Back in 2009 Harris Interactive conducted a study into what types of hand drying equipment people preferred in public bathrooms. Even with all the technology that’s gone in to today’s sophisticated hand dryers it seems that most people still prefer the old way.

Paper towels 55%
High velocity jet air dryer 25%
Hot air dryer 16%
Cloth towel 1%
Not sure 2%

Even with the faster technology in the second result, such as the Dyson Hand Dryer, people still prefer using paper towels and it all comes down to speed. 59% of the respondents said that paper towels were the fastest method of drying your hands, with high velocity jet air dryers far behind on only 25%. Paper towels are also the most hygienic way to dry your hands, despite people believing that a hand dryer was a more sanitary way.

According to this article a hand dryer spreads bacteria ‘between 3 and 6 feet from the device’ rather than actually getting rid of it. A paper towel is used once and then chucked into the bin, which apparently makes it more hygienic. It has to be noted that Dyson and a US paper towel manufacturer have previously rowed over this topic, with Dyson saying that the research that stated jet air dryers, such as the Dyson Airblade, increase bacteria on hands was “biased and misleading”. Dyson also says its Airblade uses 80% less energy than regular warm air dryers, and instead ‘scrapes’ water from the palms in 10 seconds using powerful sheets of air.

Dyson is right about one thing, it claims its Airblade has a carbon footprint that is at least 70% less than paper towels. Research shows that paper towels and warm air hand dryers have the biggest impact on the environment, with 70% more carbon emissions than the cold-air Airblade. Maybe the best option is to wave your hands in the air like you just don’t… wait, I mean wave your hands in the air to dry them.

At the end of the day not all bathrooms are going to have an Airblade, so it really comes down to personal choice. Personally I would stick to using paper towels, as they’re quicker. It is suggested that you use a paper towel to dry your hands and open the bathroom door with it so you don’t end up getting germs from people who didn’t bother washing their hands. Ideally doors should open outwards so they can be pushed without using your hands, or do away with bathroom doors altogether.

If Star Trek has the Dyson Airblade in the future then Dyson must be right, apparently!

One comment on “Hand dryers or Paper Towels; Which is the Best?

  1. [...] Here’s the situation; you’re in a public bathroom and you’ve just finished washing your hands, you’re also in a rush and you don’t want to spend even more time drying your hands, so what do you do? Do you go for the hand dryer on the wall? Do you grab a paper towel from the dispenser instead? Or do you ignore both and leave the bathroom waving your hands in the air like you’re imitating a hummingbird? That’s if there’s even the option for both, many times there’s either one or the other and you don’t get a choice of preference, but if you did then what would you prefer?  [...]

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