There have been some debates over whether automated hand dryers are necessarily safer than towel dispensers; this debate can be explored through the hygiene benefits of hand dryers over towel dispensers, from how much bacteria is actually killed with either, as well as at how new dryer technology is pushing them ahead of towels. Moreover, it’s worth thinking about the mechanical safety and risk of vandalism associated with both hand dryers and paper towel dispensers, and what kind of hazards they could cause.
In terms of hygiene, automated hand dryers, or dryers with sanitisers attached, tend to dry freshly washed hands in a very short space of time – hot and cold air removes moisture from hands after they’ve been disinfected. By comparison, paper towels are used to rub away water after cleaning. In some respects, paper towels will remove more bacteria by rubbing and exfoliating the skin, with hand dryers creating the risk of blowing germs away from hands and back onto clothes and shoes.
However, it is difficult to say which is more hygienic – cold air hand dryers are more efficient than hot air dryers, and typically work in controlled bursts that are designed to reduce the optimum amount of moisture from hands. You also have to factor in whether towel dispensers are regularly changed and fixed – often, you may have to pull down a damp paper towel to get to another one, or may find yourself faced with an overflowing bin full of paper.
Automatic hand dryers are also being developed to reduce the amount of infection and bacteria risks associated with public bathrooms; these technologies include anti drip and anti splash mechanisms, as well as antibacterial coatings for the plastic on the outside of dryers. Many dryers also now blast out air freshener to kill airborne germs. Moreover, the curved shape of blade dryers means that a vacuum is created within a dryer, with a filter used to prevent a buildup of dust and dirt. Humidity sensors can similarly be used to detect when a dryer is getting too warm.
Mechanical Safety and Hazards
For mechanical safety, automated hand dryers typically use less moving parts than towel dispensers, which can create the risk of catching your fingers; this is a particular problem for children. In addition, towel dispensers can lead to more slip hazards than automated hand dryers with anti drip technology; it’s common to encounter bathrooms where wet towels have been dropped on the floor, rather than put into a bin. On the other side, however, paper towels don’t always use an electrical mechanism, reducing the risk of shocks.
It’s also worth thinking about the long term environment safety and impact of automated hand dryers and towel dispensers. Unfortunately, towel dispensers, even with options for recycling paper, still produce a significant amount of waste compared to hand dryers – paper is dumped into landfill, while manufacturing new paper towels leads to deforestation; this process generates more CO2 into the atmosphere, and can cause more damage to the local environment of a processing factory. When deciding between automated hand dryers and towel dispensers, it’s important to remember, then, that while paper towels can remove more bacteria when used aggressively, in terms of technology and potential hazards, hand dryers have several key advantages.
George Papas contributed this article to Our Home Tools on behalf of a provider of hygiene solutions to the UK. Visit their website to see Handy Dryers selection of hand dryers today.