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Electric Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels

Dryers have become very common in public restrooms, but again the question arises which method of drying hands is better, air dryers or paper towels.

While both methods of hand drying come down to the preference and choice of the consumers, where they simply prefer one type of drying method over the other. But, when it comes to air dryer vs paper towels, air dryers are an eco-friendlier option whereas paper towels are costly, but from the consumers perspective, they are more sanitary.

As it’s an individual’s preference for choosing the best hand drying method, the choice of selecting air dryer vs paper towel shouldn’t be based on misguided information. It is important to compare both on different factors to understand which method is more hygienic and best.

Electric hand dryers come in two varieties, these are standard warm-air hand dryers, and the other is jet air dryers by Dyson. Whereas paper towels usually are standard or made from recycled materials. The popular ones used in commercial or public restrooms are recycled paper towels or standard air dryers.

But the question remains which one is the best? For this, it is essential to understand that which hand drying method provides the most hygienic drying option. Here we will consider different factors in making an informed decision about which method, air dryers vs paper towels are better.

Electric Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels

Cost Comparison

The initial cost of buying and installing a hand dryer is more as compared to paper towel installation; however, the running cost of hand dryers vs paper towels is significantly cheaper. According to EPA, the standard cost of the air dryer is $0.0125 per use including the initial cost of buying. (For more information on energy usage, visit the product pages for our American Dryer or World Dryer products.)

On the other hand, the cost of paper towels not only includes the cost of paper towels, but there is an indirect cost associated with it as well which includes, bin liners, disposal, dispenser refilling, labor, etc. According to researchers, it costs about $0.0625 to use two standard paper towels.

Electric Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels - Cost

In a comparison of air dryer vs paper towels, paper towels cost more, and it’s on consumers choice on how they can minimize the impact of paper towel consumption on the environment.


There have been various independent studies on the subject of hygiene comparing air dryer vs paper towels with conclusions that paper towels are more hygienic. This conclusion is generally based on the argument that the key to good hygiene is effective and quick drying as bacteria tends to breed more easily on wet hands.

This argument does not stand true anymore as the new generation of hand dryers are high-speed, fast drying restroom hand dryers which negate the earlier proposition of the paper towel industry entirely. Because if the paper towel is not used correctly, drying between the fingers and under the nails, bacteria can undoubtedly breed. Air dryers hence are not reliant on the users’ correct usage to get the job done.

In fact, from a hygiene perspective, proper hand washing practices along with thorough drying are the essential factor. Air dryer manufacturers have considered this and have introduced various technologies like HEPA filters to enhance the hygiene factor even more. Furthermore, air dryers are mostly sensor operated reducing the risk of spread of bacteria which grows with direct contact; however, paper towel dispensers are not sensor operated.

Electric Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels - Importance of Hand Washing

Also, at times paper towel dispensers are not stocked up, and an empty paper towel dispenser can be very unhygienic. As people would leave with wet hands or use clothing items to dry hands which is not a hygienic practice.

The claim here is not that paper towels are unhygienic but to strike a balance on the argument air dryer vs paper towels hygiene factor because most studies tend to show negatives of air dryers only.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of hand dryers is much less than paper towels. Air dryers once installed can last between seven to ten years. A standard hand dryer releases 0.02 pounds of greenhouse gas peruse whereas modern jet hand dryers release 0.088 pounds of greenhouse gas, as they are more energy efficient.

However, the environmental impact of paper towels is not only based on its use but also on other factors that go into the process of making as well. These include the production phase, transportation, and disposal. As paper towel needs to be restocked more often than air dryers, hence their carbon footprint is more.

Electric Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels - Environmental Impact

Using two standard paper towels gives 0.123 pounds of greenhouse gas approximately, which is five times more than that of an air dryer. Also, paper towels itself cannot be recycled; they can only be made from previously recycled materials.

So, when it comes to air dryer vs paper towels, air dryers are eco-friendly.


When it comes to convenience, a good air dryer is the most convenient option. With an air dryer, there is no problem with restocking, and they are always available. An air dryer installed washrooms stay clean and tidy with no hassle of emptying the bins.

Paper towels require a bit of labor with restocking, trash disposal, cleaning bins etc. which might not be that convenient and stock replenishing may take some time creating inconvenience for the consumers.

The Bottom Line

Given all the factors discussed, which method of hand drying, air dryer vs paper towel is the best? Comes down to the choice of the consumers.

If you are concerned about the environment and the carbon footprint, then the best choice is air dryers. Where consumers still prefer paper towel over air dryers in public settings paper towels would be the best choice. For better customer experience, both options air dryers and paper towels can be installed giving consumers the decision to use whichever method they prefer.

When it comes to hygiene, before considering which method of hand drying is best it is essential to consider proper washing of hands. Washing hands thoroughly and adequately with soap is necessary for proper hygiene as it would leave no bacteria to be spread to the environment.

For better hygiene, properly wash hands with soap and use whichever method of hand drying is available to dry hands properly. Don’t let hands drip dry or dry them on your clothes.