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Written by Jessica Ting Oct 3, 2019

Paper Towels Versus Hand Dryers

Are you trying to decide between paper towels and hand dryers for your facility’s restrooms?

There are a lot of different factors that can go into your decision. We’ve highlighted some of the key variables to consider below:


Quality hand dryers, which can easily cost a couple of hundred dollars to purchase, have a higher upfront cost than paper towels. But over time, the cost per use for the dryer will usually become significantly lower than paper towels.

According to Restroom Direct, “a hand dryer costs between .02 cents and .18 cents in electricity per dry versus a paper towel that typically costs about 1 cent per sheet.”



Offering paper towels in your facility restrooms means that you need to constantly restock the paper towel dispensers with new inventory. Also, you may need to deal with the extra maintenance and cleaning that results from unruly guests throwing paper towels onto the floor, or worse, into the toilets.

In contrast, air dryer maintenance tends to be more minimal. While you should frequently wipe down the exterior surfaces of the dryer, you will likely only need to replace the filters once in a while. Routine inspection is typically recommended once a year or twice a year, depending on your restroom traffic. Also, many air dryer models come with multi-year warranties, so if your dryers start creating trouble for you, you can get them easily replaced.



From an environmental sustainability perspective, air dryers are the clear winner. The amount of energy used to manufacture a paper towel is greater than the amount used to power an air dryer.  

The Paperless Project reports that in order to create one ton of paper towels, 17 trees are cut down and 20,000 gallons of water become polluted. In the U.S., we use over 13 billion pounds of paper towels annually which leads to over 3,000 tons of paper towels sent to the landfill.  



A 2012 report from the Mayo Clinic asserts that “from a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers.” Many scientific studies have found that, compared to air dryers, paper towels are more effective at removing bacteria and result in less contamination in the bathroom environment.

For workplaces where proper hygiene is critical, like doctors’ offices and hospitals, paper towels are highly recommended.



Adoption of hand dryers has grown rapidly over the past decade due to the increasing concerns around the environment, the desire to reduce energy usage, and the higher customer demand for energy efficient equipment. In fact, MarketWatch has reported that the international hand dryer market is estimated to drive around $1.9 billion in sales by 2026!

In general, I find the lower cost, hassle-free maintenance and lower environmental impact of air dryers pretty compelling. But as a business owner, it is ultimately up to you to decide whether paper towels or air dryers are better suited to your facility.

At ACTION Unlimited Resources, we offer a variety of facility cleaning and maintenance products to keep your business operating smoothly. Our team of trained professionals are here to help you find the high-quality supplies that are best suited to your business needs!

Topics: Commercial Cleaning

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