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Hand Dryers vs Paper Towels: Which is Best for Business?

Hand dryers or paper towels which is better

If you’re a business owner who’s renovating your business washroom, you’ll want the most modern and efficient washroom dispensers you can afford. Choosing your soap dispensers, toilet roll dispensers, and air freshener dispensers is fairly straightforward, but when it comes to drying your customer’s hands, you’ll be faced with a choice: do you want an electric hand dryer or a paper towel dispenser? This buyer’s guide will give you the answers you need.

Paper Towel Dispensers or Electric Hand Dryers: Which is Better?

customer washing their hands in a business bathroomThere isn’t really an objectively ‘better’ choice to make between paper towel dispensers and electric hand dryers. Rather, you have to look at your business’ requirements and decide which suits you best. Both paper towel dispensers and electric hand dryers are good at different things, so we’ll break those down for you in this buyer’s guide.

Before we start; you may know that the internet is full of conflicting information about the hygiene of electric hand dryers and paper towel dispensers. This is because of a rivalry between the paper towel industry and the hand dryer industry who are both competing to fill the same gap in the market. You can read more about it here, but the short version is that neither option is more hygienic than the other if you’re using them correctly and washing your hands properly.

Advantages of Paper Towel Dispensers

Paper towel dispensers are a little more flexible than electric hand dryers, which makes them ideal for industrial environments, building sites, and garages, where large amounts of people need to regularly wipe their hands.

No Need for Electricity

Manual paper towel dispensers don’t need to be plugged in so you can install them virtually anywhere. This makes them perfect for portacabins or building sites which might not have access to a power supply. Also, this means they’re not subject to PAT testing so they’re much quicker and easier to install in the workplace. Note that if you’re looking for an automatic paper towel dispenser, you will still need to power it.

chef washing hands in the kitchenCan Serve Multiple People at Once

Once a user has pulled out a paper towel, they can move away from the dispenser and let someone else dry their hands. This means a paper towel dispenser is great for very high-traffic areas or places where your staff need to constantly clean their hands, such as a garage or a kitchen.

Quick and Efficient

2 ply paper towels for paper towel dispensersPaper towel dispensers can dry hands very quickly – if you keep them stocked with quality paper towels.


While there are electric hand dryers that are quiet, it’s impossible to find a silent one. Paper towel dispensers sidestep this problem completely, so they’re recommended for smaller businesses or workplaces where noise is a concern.

Cheaper to Buy

Paper towel dispensers are generally the more affordable choice for your washroom, so if you know you have a large washroom that needs several sets of hand drying options, a paper towel dispenser is the most cost-effective solution.

Advantages of Electric Hand Dryers

In times gone by, electric hand dryers were an expensive and often impractical luxury. However, hand dryers have come a long way in the last decade or so, meaning they’re faster, quieter, and eco-friendlier than they’ve ever been.

Cheaper to Run and Eco-Friendly

Electric hand dryers cost a little more to buy, but most modern models are so energy-efficient that you’ll make that money back in energy savings compared to the cost of replacing your paper towel supplies. Hand dryers such as the Jet Blade cost, on average, between £4 and £10 a year to run, dramatically reducing your overheads and helping out the environment, too.

man drying his hands with an electric dyson hand dryerSpace-Saving

If you have a paper towel dispenser, you need to make sure you have some storage space to keep your replacement paper towels. If you only have one paper towel dispenser, this isn’t much of a problem, but if you have several then you’ll need to keep a lot of bulky paper towel packages. An electric hand dryer completely avoids this problem, so they’re good for any business where space is at a premium.

Cut Down on Waste

jet blade hand dryer for energy efficient hand dryingFor every paper towel you have to store, you also need to bear in mind that you’ll need to dispose of that towel once it’s been used. That brings with associated costs, such as extra waste bins for your washroom, extra cleaning and maintenance, plus waste disposal. An electric hand dryer produces no waste whatsoever, perfect for any environmentally conscious business.


Hand dryers need barely any maintenance to run properly. In addition, they tend to stay more hygienic as you don’t need to touch them much to use them. With an automatic hand dryer, users don’t need to touch the unit at all to dry their hands, reducing the number of bacteria that ends up on the unit. This reduces the time it takes to keep them clean, making hand dryers an essential purchase for any business washroom in a high-traffic area, such as a service station or shopping centre.

Quick and Efficient

Modern hand dryers can dry hands in around 10 seconds – just as quick as a paper towel. As with paper towels, though, the drying time can vary depending on the quality of the product you buy. A cheaply-made hand dryer will take much longer to dry your hands than a quality paper towel and vice versa.

Overall: Should You Get an Electric Hand Dryer or a Paper Towel Dispenser?

To sum up, if you’re an environmentally conscious business that wants a low-maintenance, low-cost hand drying solution for your washroom, an electric hand dryer is the best choice. If you want something that can be used flexibly to dry user’s hands quickly and often, or if you want the freedom to install it in areas without electricity, a paper towel dispenser is the best choice. If you use your hand dryer or paper towel dispenser properly and you ensure your staff and customers can use a hygienic soap dispenser to wash their hands, there isn’t any difference when it comes to hygiene.

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