Hand dryers offer some distinct benefits, which may continue to increase their popularity. It’s these reasons, experts say, that distributors should consider adding dryers to their offerings. And it can pay to understand each of these benefits so distributors can educate and persuade customers.

The first benefit is lower operating costs. Some customers are resistant to hand dryers, because they represent a larger initial cost than paper towels. When end users look beyond those up-front costs, however, hand dryers typically deliver long-term financial savings.

“Dryers may reduce labor costs by reducing the need to regularly refill hand towel dispensers,” says Walker. “They may also help reduce product costs and reduce the need for bulk storage of paper supplies, thus also reducing the need to track inventory.”

Just how much can switching from towels to a dryer save a customer? The numbers are pretty remarkable.

“The cost to run them is negligible, maybe $20 a year in electricity to run one hand dryer,” says Berl. “That could be the equivalent of something like $2,000 in paper towels.”

Anthony DiCicco, CEO of ProDryers, says even the most expensive hand dryers can deliver savings. A top-of-the-line dryer costs about $43 a year when used 200 times a day, he says.

“We sell to a lot of stadiums and schools where they use so much paper towel that the savings are huge,” says DiCicco. “Their customers would probably prefer paper towels, but the business benefits so much from the dryers.”

As a former small-business owner, Berl agrees that dryers are typically offered for the customer’s benefit, not the distributor’s.

“Small business owners are thinking about the bottom line all the time,” says Berl. “Hand dryers don’t have the ongoing, recurring costs week after week and month after month. They are installed and stay on the wall with minimal maintenance for five to 20 years. Having one less thing to worry about is very valuable.”

The second benefit is less waste. One of the biggest reasons for the cost savings with hand dryers is waste reduction. With towels, users tend to grab more than are necessary to actually dry the hands. Plus, some dispensers allow users to grab towels by the handful rather than regulating length and/or quantity.

Piles of paper towels on the floor or overflowing from waste bins is not only a waste of resources, but it’s not aesthetically pleasing.

“It just doesn’t look hygienic, and that can change the perception of the business overall,” says DiCicco.

Vandalism and other mischief can also add to the waste — and lead to even costlier issues for the facility.

“We get a lot of calls from people who are sick of cleaning them out of the sinks and toilets,” says Berl. “Their plumbing isn’t robust, and they’re calling plumbers in once a week to clean out toilets that are clogged with paper towels. Clogged pipes are very serious and very costly.”

There are also environmental considerations to take into account. Reducing waste not only benefits the bottom line, it also aids the planet. Sustainability continues to be a hot-button issue, and hand dryers can be an easy sell to customers who prioritize the environment, either because of personal conviction or government mandate.

“Paper towels are doing the environment a disservice,” says DiCicco. “You have to harvest trees, but it’s not just cutting down forests. Imagine all the emissions and pollutions that go into the air from transporting paper towels from point A to point B. It has to be massive. And the landfill space is pretty amazing, too.”

What’s more, hand dryer technology has made giant leaps in recent years, and that’s allowed hand dryers to radically improve from early designs. They are now touch-free, quieter, quicker and more attractive.

“The new ones take 10 seconds to dry your hands,” says Berl. “Not only are they efficient, they are kind of cool. They look neat and modern.”

Finally, there’s the question of hand hygiene. There’s an ongoing debate whether hand dryers or paper towels are more hygienic, and there are many studies to support both sides of the argument. In the end, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

“Studies sponsored by the paper towel industry say paper towels are more hygienic, and studies by the hand dryer industry say the opposite,” says Berl. “Truly unbiased studies find the hygiene is about the same.”

Dryers do have a leg up, however, when it comes to air quality, he says. Many newer machines include HEPA filters that actually clean the air in the restroom.

“The air in the restroom circulates into and out of that hand dryer,” says Berl. “It goes into the filter and comes out cleaner than it went in. That’s a nice, hygienic benefit.”

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