With technological advances constantly being made in washroom hand dryers, many people would be forgiven for thinking that hand dryers are the preferred washroom option, however a recent study of all surveys over the past 40 years has thrown-up some interesting statistics.
In June 2012, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in the US published a comprehensive study of every known hand-washing survey conducted since 1970. If we take hygiene as the first aspect to be reviewed, the authors concluded that drying skin is essential to staving off bacteria, and that paper towels were superior to driers.
Commenting on the study Dr Rodney Thompson, a hospital epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester said: “Paper towels tend to dry hands more efficiently and contain the spread of germs better. Hand dryers can spread bacteria between 3 and 6 feet. Another issue identified by the study was that many people were too impatient to wait for a dryer to finish and often wiped their hands dry on their trousers or skirt.
“Bearing in mind that some people don’t bother washing their hands at all, washroom door handles can harbor a multitude of germs which are more likely to be contracted by wet or damp hands.”
UAE-based Dhofar, which sells a 98% versus 2% ratio between paper towel dispensers and hand dryers, supported the claims of the study and pointed to the basic fact that people when offered a choice between the two, preferred paper towels.
“Psychologically people prefer paper towels. I think it’s a combination of two aspects. Drying your hands on paper can be much quicker than rubbing them in blowing air. Also the hygiene angle is very important especially in the Middle East, with so many different nationalities living here with different cultural approaches to washroom hygiene,” said Chandan Singh, Deputy General Manager at Dhofar Global Trading.
However when it came to sustainability the paper towel was beaten to a pulp by the hand dryer.
Research conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), looked at seven hand-drying methods commonly used in public bathrooms and deduced that the Airblade, (part of a new generation of hand dryers using a 12-second drying cycle) had the lowest environmental impact.
For almost all hand dryers, the majority of the impact comes from the actual usage, with the drying time and the energy of the machine contributing to the majority of the environmental impact; a small part of the environmental impact of the standard warm air dryer also comes from motor spin-down time which uses less energy.
However the new generation of dryers such as the Airblade, have no spin-down time and even lower environmental impact due to its reduced drying cycle.
The vast majority of the environmental impact from towel drying methods, occur during the manufacturing process, which explains why recycled paper towels, which are manufactured in much the same way as virgin towels, have similar energy, global warming potential and water use impacts but do better in terms of ecosystem health.
The greatest environmental impact of paper towels is due mainly to their disposability. Reusable cotton roll towels have a short life so therefore many thousands of towels would be manufactured and shipped during the five-year lifecycle of a typical hand dryer. Added to that the packaging, dispensers, waste bins and bin liners can account for up to 10% of the environmental burden.
Dhofar’s award-winning state-of-the-art organic tissue paper dispensers are modified to dispense a single sheet of pre-perforated tissue, which is commonly used across the region from hotel kitchens and offices to mall restrooms and cleaning companies.“We have continued with our commitment to product innovation and have helped our clients cut back on their paper consumption by 22% last year, which not only means cost savings for businesses but reduces the environmental impact during the manufacturing process,” added Singh.