Paper Towels Versus Hand Dryers
- Are High-quality Towels Worth the Cost?
- Limiting Paper Towel Consumption and Waste
BY CleanLink Editorial Staff
In this article, industry manufacturers answer common questions asked by building service contractors.
Are there benefits to using towels to dry hands over hand dryers?
A comprehensive study by the Mayo Clinic in August 2012 on the efficacy of paper towels versus hand dryers, stated quite succinctly that paper towels dry hands effectively, remove bacteria effectively and cause less contamination when compared to hand dryers. What is also proven from other research is that users prefer paper towels and will be more inclined to wash their hands if they are available over the presence of hand dryers.
— David Shapiro, Senior V.P. of Sales & Marketing, Sofidel, Haines City, Fla.
It’s been documented for years that paper towel is the most hygienic choice when it comes to drying hands. A recent study conducted by the Bradford Infection Group, University of Bradford, reported that, “Rubbing with paper towels appeared to be the best means of reducing bacterial loading on the fingertips.”
These findings correlate with the results of an earlier study conducted by the University of Westminster, London. That study found that when participants used paper towels to dry their hands, the number of all types of bacteria on the hands was reduced by up to 77 percent, and that air dryers actually increased the number of most bacteria on the hands — up to 254 percent more for warm air dryers and 42 percent more for jet air dryers.
In addition to examining the bacteria on users’ hands, the study also looked at the potential contamination of other users and the washroom environment. The study found that the jet air dryer was capable of blowing microorganisms up to six-and-a-half feet away, potentially contaminating users and the washroom. Traditional warm air dryers spread microorganisms less than one foot away, while paper towels showed no significant spread of microorganisms.
The final portion of the study looked at the number of bacteria in the machines themselves. Some of the bacteria found were potential pathogens that could cause disease (E. coli, Staphylococcus). Based on the results of this study, the use of warm air dryers and jet dryers should be carefully considered in locations where hygiene is of great importance. These places include hospitals, clinics, schools, kitchens and other food preparation areas.
While damp hands can transfer up to 60,400 bacteria, properly dried hands can spread around 200 of them, thus reducing the risk of bacterial contamination and transmission. However, most people don’t have time to wait in line to dry their hands using the hand dryer. When they do, they often leave before their hands are completely dry, meaning that paper hand towels are a more effective choice.
— Félicia Roy, Trade Advisor, Cascades Tissue Group, Kingsey Falls, Quebec, Canada
Proper hand drying with a paper towel can be as important as using soap and water in ensuring healthy building occupants. A University of Westminster study noted that, “It is generally accepted that the transmission of bacteria and other microorganisms is more likely to occur from wet skin than from dry skin (Gould 1994).” That same study reveals that using paper towels can reduce bacteria on finger pads by up to 76 percent and on palms by up to 77 percent.
When purchasing products or solutions for public areas in commercial buildings like washrooms, decision-makers should evaluate the needs and preferences of their tenants. Researching the capabilities and functionality of a specific product and listening to a user’s preferences can help building service contractors determine the best solution for a particular environment. According to the “Washroom Products Survey” (Housekeeping Solutions magazine, 2009, Washroom products study), 79 percent of participants preferred touchless towel dispensers to air dryers. Similarly, a separate research study by Directions Research Inc., in 2007, concluded customers who use automated touchless dispensers are satisfied with its performance, citing the top three attributes of dispensing: reliability, towel quality and ease of refilling. By not offering a drying solution that is preferred by most users, facility managers can create an environment that may deter tenants and guests from properly washing and drying their hands.
Facility managers should also consider the image and atmosphere of a washroom when selecting products. An air dryer’s sound level can reach up to 95 decibels or higher, which is comparable to a subway train that is 200 yards away. However, the dispensing sound of an automatic paper towel dispenser can be similar to a normal two-person conversation.
— Vince Rountree, Business Development, Senior Marketing Manager, Office Building Segment,
Georgia-Pacific Professional, Atlanta, Ga.
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Are High-quality Towels Worth the Cost?
Are High-quality Towels Worth the Cost?
POSTED ON: 4/18/2013