The argument over which is better, hand dryers or paper towels is an age old debate. Of course we are going to have a degree of bias but we hope you can see from the information we provide that we present balanced and logical arguments. The reason why it is such a heated debate is obvious, because both hand dryer manufacturers and paper towel manufacturers stand to make money by convincing people that their method is best!

Cost comparison

Take the example of an office with 50 people using hand towels. Each person would use 2.5 hand towels on average 4.5 times a day. Over a year this would be 146,250 paper towels at an approximate cost of $3,546.  Each time a hand dryer is fitted in its place that ongoing stream of revenue is lost forever for the paper towel manufacturers.

The total cost of using an energy efficient hand dryer using 2-4 watt to dry the same number of hands, would be the cost of 1170 to 2340 kWh of electricity. A normal tariff would be about $0.28 so that's just $328 to $655 a year to run. Quite a difference!  There is also the cost saving of reduced staffing time used to replenish and maintain the paper towels and dispensers, which would be put to good use elsewhere.

So, in terms of costs the consumer benefits greatly from installing hand dryers.

Cost calculator

Work out your own unique cost savings using our handy cost comparison calculator.  See which energy efficient hand dryers save you the most when compared to paper towels, conventional hand dryers and roller towels.  Click the picture or here to be taken to the calculator


The paper towel industry cannot fight the cost argument so it has always commissioned its own purpose built studies to discredit the hygiene of hand dryers. So are they right?

Well strangely those studies conducted by the paper towel industry always say they are and those conducted by the hand dryer industry always say there is no difference.

The paper towel companies certainly had a point when they argue that quick, effective drying is the key to good hand hygiene. If the hands remain wet, then bacteria can breed more readily. This argument rather fell down when the new generation of fast dryers came in and if anything produced a more thorough dry than using hand towels, which unless used correctly fail to really dry between the fingers and under nails. A good hand dryer is less reliant on the user to do the job than using a hand towel.

One thing is certain, that the paper towel industry have never conducted their tests to any established protocol, they always devise testing with huge bias. Hand dryers like the eXtremeAir CPC have actually been tested to pre-existing international hand sanitiser protocols and have shown their technology kills residual bacteria left on surfaces, something not claimed by the paper towel industry. They also remain quiet on this and mainly focus their attention on discrediting the more, well-known hand dryers like the Dyson Airblade. Dyson of course refute the paper towel industries studies as unrealistic and scientifically unsound.

There are reports from both sides and various independent studies, all of which vary in their opinion.

In reality, good hand washing practice and thorough drying is the most important factor and there are various technologies, particularly cold plasma which are enhancing hygiene even further. You have to remember air is all around us and the thought that drying your hands with air is unhygienic is not really logical, bacteria are really spread by direct contact with surfaces and hand dryers are largely all sensor operated now, hand towel dispensers are not usually.

Also hand towel dispensers are often not stocked up and an empty hand towel dispenser is definitely the most unhygienic!

You may see more negative articles about hand dryers than about paper towels online, but you have to consider that paper towel companies are multi-billion pound global giants and until Dyson entered the market, most hand dryer manufacturers were family run SME's. So you know who has the most resource to throw at protecting their vested interests!

More information on this topic has been written here

Hand dryers with enhanced hygienic properties can be viewed here

The Environment

Most, modern hand dryers that use as little as 2-4 Watt per dry have a negligible effect on the environment. In the office example we mentioned previously, 117kWhours equates 63.18 kg CO2 per year.

Based on Dysons life cycle research into the carbon emissions produced by paper towels and the estimates we have for paper towel usage, drying your hands with paper could create at least 22.5 grams of CO2 each time. This is generated from chopping down virgin trees, transporting raw materials for processing, energy to process, further transportation to finishing mills and energy consumption to manufacturer the particular paper product and packaging, further transportation to main warehouse, distribution to local warehouse, distribution to the customer and the constant replenishment cycle. 

So the same office would be creating 1287 kg/COper year when using paper towels.

You have to remember paper towels cannot be recycled, they can only be made of previously recycled paper, so they generally end up in landfill too.

25,000 paper towels equates to one average virgin tree for paper production.

I think you can see who wins this argument.

Energy efficient hand dryers can be viewed here

Carbon calculator

Work out your own unique carbon savings using our handy comparison calculator.  See which energy efficient hand dryers save you the most carbon when compared to paper towels, conventional hand dryers and roller towels.  Click the picture or here to be taken to the calculator


Paper towels definitely win here. A hand dryer will always be louder than a paper towel and we would always say there are certain locations where unfortunately you may have to pay more and have hand towels. An example would be a hospital ward, where people are sleeping or recovering and require the least disturbance possible or in an area that had very thin walls backing onto a noise sensitive area.

There are definitely considerations that need to be made for young children, people with autistic conditions, wheelchair users and some elderly, thats why we offer a range of quieter and adjustable hand dryers that still remain effective.

We like to think we don't blindly recommend products in our commercial interests and present good logical arguments, we have the sense to recognise that our products are 99% a better solution but in the odd instant are not!

Interestingly in Japan, there is almost always background music in toilets to hide the silence and potentially embarrassing noises. Silent public toilets can actually cause great distress for anxious toilet goers, particularly young children so the noise of a hand dryer can be a welcome distraction.

There are a host of good performing, quiet hand dryers on the market which can be viewed here


A good reliable hand dryer has to win. They mean no one has to remember to restock them so they are always available. They also mean clean, tidy washrooms and no need for bins to take up room. Paper towels create a job no facilities manager, school caretaker or cleaner wants.


This is quite divided; some people prefer paper towels, some people like hand dryers, surprisingly there are actually 1000's of people who regularly post updates and pictures on their favourite hand dryers. We love hand dryers but even we think this is a bit too much love, but each to their own!

At the end of the day, there are too many benefits for your business costs, operations and the environment to be derived from buying a good quality hand dryer, so a mild preference in this instance probably isn't the most important factor, unless of course you a choosing for royalty or a particularly high maintenance rock star!

I think that's covered it, there is plenty in our blog about this subject which is regularly updated and published on social media, so join our hand dryer and environmental obsessed community if you want to know about the new technologies and advancing debate.

Who would have thought something so everyday could make such a difference!

View and download our hand dryer catalogue (pdf) by clicking here