Electric Hand Dryers VS Paper Towels

It’s a battle of the bathrooms… should you install an electric hand dryer or stick to the good old fashioned paper towel? From cost-effectiveness and hygiene considerations to environmental impact and user experience, there are several key aspects to evaluate.

In this guide, we will explore the factors that facilities managers and business owners need to consider when deciding between electric hand dryers and paper towels. By examining the costs, hygiene implications, environmental impact, maintenance requirements, and user experience, we aim to provide valuable insights to help make an informed decision that aligns with your organisation’s goals and priorities.

Factors to Consider for Facilities Managers and Business Owners

Facilities ManagementWithin this guide, we’ll cover the core factors that Facilities Managers and Business Owners will need to consider when deciding between installing an electric hand dryer or a paper towel dispenser within their organisation’s toilets. Here is a summary of the factors to consider:

Cost: Both the upfront, installation, and maintenance costs, with examples of where the different options may be more cost effective in different environments.

Hygiene: Considering factors such as touchless operation, bacterial filtration systems, and the potential for cross-contamination.

Environmental Impact: Not only is this a concern for your customers and employees, but often times environmental credentials can have an impact on your bottom-line.

Maintenance: Evaluate the ongoing maintenance requirements for each option, including cleaning, restocking, and potential repairs, as well as the availability of resources and manpower to manage those tasks.

User Experience: Considering factors such as speed, convenience, sensory experience, and overall user satisfaction associated with each option, specific to the requirements of different types of organisations.

Venue-Specific Factors: Consider the specific characteristics of the facility, such a foot-traffic volume, ventilation, available wall space, power supply reliability, and industry-specific regulations.

Electric Hand Dryers VS Paper Towels – Cost

Industrial Cleaning IconUpfront Costs

Electric hand dryers generally require a larger initial investment for purchasing and installing the units. The cost of electric hand dryers can vary depending on the brand, features, and quality, but they generally have a higher upfront cost compared to paper towels. On the other hand, paper towels have relatively lower upfront costs since they only require the purchase of the dispensers and the initial supply of paper towels.

Operational Expenses

Electric hand dryers have lower operational costs in the long run as they eliminate the need for constantly restocking paper towels. Once installed, hand dryers require minimal maintenance, and most modern electric hand dryers have lower energy consumption compared to earlier models.

On the contrary, paper towels require ongoing expenses for purchasing and replenishing supplies. This ongoing cost can add up, especially in high-traffic areas. Facilities managers and business owners should assess the volume of hand drying needs in their facilities, estimate the associated operational costs over time, and weigh them against their budgetary considerations.

Electric Hand Dryers VS Paper Towels – Hygiene

Washing Hands In SinkWhat might be surprising is that most studies show that drying your hands using paper towels is usually more hygienic (National Library of Medicine, 2012). This is because hand dryers can sometimes spread the bacteria across the room, whereas paper towels can provide a more thorough dry.

Therefore, paper towels are often recommended within environments where hygiene is of top concern, such as a hospital.

This isn’t to say that Electric Hand Dryers aren’t hygienic, as this is usually only the case with older units.

For example, a lot of our modern hand dryers are fitted with HEPA filtration and antimicrobial technology to reduce contamination risks within any facility. This helps to overcome the main concern of bacteria particles, making our range of modern electric hand dryers a perfectly hygienic solution. Learn more about our range of high-tech commercial hand dryers.

Electric Hand Dryers VS Paper Towels – Environmental Impact

environment iconElectric hand dryers are generally regarded as the more environmentally friendly option. They eliminate the need for paper production, reducing deforestation and energy consumption associated with manufacturing paper towels.

Paper Waste

Moreover, electric hand dryers produce no paper waste, contributing to waste reduction and landfill diversion efforts. On the other hand, paper towels have a significant environmental footprint. They require the harvesting of trees, manufacturing processes that consume water and energy, and result in paper waste generation.

Disposal Requirements

The disposal of used paper towels also adds to the overall waste stream. Therefore, when aiming to minimize their facility’s environmental impact, facilities managers and business owners should consider the sustainability advantages of electric hand dryers as a viable alternative to paper towels.

Electric Hand Dryers VS Paper Towels – Customer Experience

Disinfection IconElectric hand dryers usually offer a convenient and hassle-free experience for users compared to paper towels, which can have a positive impact on your company image and customer satisfaction.

Some modern hand dryers even feature advanced technologies like rapid drying times and adjustable heat settings, enhancing user satisfaction.

On the other hand, paper towels offer a familiar and tactile experience for some customers. Many individuals prefer the sensation of drying their hands with a towel, associating it with a thorough and satisfying result.

Electric Hand Dryers VS Paper Towels – Maintenance

Free installationElectric hand dryers generally require less maintenance compared to paper towels.

Lifespan & Upkeep

Once installed, hand dryers typically have a longer lifespan and require minimal upkeep, such as regular cleaning and occasional filter replacements. In contrast, paper towels require ongoing maintenance. Facilities must ensure an adequate supply of paper towels, regularly restock the dispensers, and dispose of used towels. This upkeep can involve additional labour, storage space, and costs associated with purchasing and storing paper towel inventory.

When should I use an Electric Hand Dryer over Paper Towels?

Most businesses could benefit from using hand dryers instead of a paper towel dispenser in their toilets, but there are some where it may be even more viable. These are:

Clean Restaurant Large ImageHigh-Traffic Environments

Hand dryers can accommodate a large number of users without requiring constant restocking of paper towels, ensuring a consistent hand drying solution for the influx of visitors. Examples of businesses where this may be the case include: Airports, Restaurants, Educational Institutions, Hotels, Gyms, and Shopping Centres.

Eco-Conscious Organisations

Businesses that prioritise sustainability and environmental responsibility, such as eco-friendly hotels, green buildings, and environmentally focused organisations, can benefit from electric hand dryers. Hand dryers eliminate the need for paper towel production, reducing deforestation and waste. They align with the sustainability goals of these businesses by reducing their environmental impact.

Premium Environments

Can Cleaners Empty Sanitary Bins UK feature imageBusinesses that value aesthetics and sleek design in their restroom facilities, such as upscale hotels, restaurants, and spas, can benefit from electric hand dryers instead of paper towel dispensers.

Our range of sleek hand dryers come in a range of modern and stylish designs, that can enhance the overall look and feel of the restroom, providing a more upscale and sophisticated experience for guests. We can also provide a wide selection of colours to suit the specific design of your interior and your company brand. Learn more about our range of electric hand dryers.

When should I use Paper Towels over an Electric Hand Dryer?

There are some situations where paper towels are a better option than an electric hand dryer, such as areas with poor power supply, limited ventilation, or very specific hygiene requirements.

Locations with Poor Power Supply

A good example of this might be a festival, campsite, or a business that’s on-the-move. In areas where power outages or electrical disruptions are frequent, businesses may choose paper towels as a backup hand drying option. Paper towels can ensure that restroom facilities remain functional even during power outages.

Areas of High Humidity or Limited Ventilation

In environments where humidity levels are high or ventilation is limited, such as swimming pools, spas, or certain industrial settings, paper towels can be a viable option. These situations may make it more challenging for electric hand dryers to effectively dry hands, potentially leading to prolonged moisture on the skin.

Cleaning Surface With Spray BottleEnvironments with Specific Hygiene Requirements
Certain industries, such as healthcare facilities or laboratories, may have strict hygiene regulations that prefer the use of single-use paper towels. In these settings, disposable paper towels can provide a higher level of hygiene assurance and minimise the risk of cross-contamination.

Saying this, many modern electric hand dryers are fitted with HEPA filtration and antimicrobial technology to reduce contamination risks. This helps to overcome the main concern of bacteria particles, making our range of modern electric hand dryers a perfectly hygienic solution.

To find out whether your environment could benefit from HEPA and antimicrobial technology, or whether you need to stick to paper towels, contact a member of our team for a chat.

To summarise, here’s an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of using electric hand dryers and paper towel dispensers.

Advantages of Electric Hand Dryers over Paper Towels

  • Navy HanddryerCost-effectiveness and reduced operational expenses
  • Environmental benefits and sustainability
  • Hygiene and cleanliness considerations
  • Convenience and ease of use

Find out more about our range of modern, high-tech, and affordable commercial hand dryers here.

Disadvantages of Electric Hand Dryers over Paper Towels

  • Noise levels and potential disruption
  • Potential for airborne germ spread
  • User preference and perception
  • Electricity usage and connection to the mains
  • Upfront costs are higher than paper towel dispensers

Advantages of Paper Towels over Electric Hand Dryers

  • Black HanddryerFamiliarity and user preference
  • Absorbency and effectiveness
  • Hygiene and reduced germ spread
  • Flexibility in usage scenarios

Find out more about our range of sleek, robust, and practical paper towel dispensers here.

Disadvantages of Paper Towels over Electric Hand Dryers

  • DOFF BLOG earthHigher expenses and maintenance costs
  • Environmental impact and sustainability concerns
  • Disposal and waste management challenges


Cleaning Supplies BlogWe hope that you’ve found this article useful in making your decision between choosing an electric hand dryer or a paper towel dispenser. If you would like to discuss any of the topics mentioned in this article, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team!

If you’re still undecided, consider reading up on our range of paper towel dispensers or our range of modern, efficient electric hand dryers.

Facilities managers and business owners should assess the costs, including upfront and operational expenses, while also considering the hygiene implications of each option, such as touchless operation and bacterial filtration systems.

Environmental impact is another critical factor, with electric hand dryers offering sustainability benefits by reducing paper waste. Maintenance requirements, user experience, and venue-specific factors should also be taken into account. Ultimately, the choice depends on the specific needs, priorities, and constraints of the business.

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