A timeless debate: paper towels vs hand dryers

Ever since electric hand dryers became commonplace in public washrooms over 40 years ago, a question has persisted – what’s better, paper towels or hand dryers?

There is, of course, no simple answer to this question, and much of the decision-making process for washroom providers comes down to personal preference. But we do think it’s important that providers and end users are informed, and many factors such as hygiene, noise, our environment and cost, should be taken into account when making a decision.

We often come across businesses whose preference is to use paper towels, but have found that this decision is based on what is felt is a simpler option, rather than exploring more widely and reflecting on the economic and environmental impact it holds.

Here we will take a look at the elements you should consider when making your choice between paper towels and hand dryers. Firstly, let’s talk about:


Some studies have surmised that paper towels are a more hygienic method of drying than electric hand dryers as there is less risk of bacterial dispersal in the atmosphere. However, this is, of course, dependant on how the towels are disposed of and stored. Damp paper towels left uncovered in a warm environment have a huge potential of becoming a breeding ground for germs.

In addition to this, health professionals agree that the prevention of bacterial spread is dependent on how thoroughly you wash your hands and hand drying can only go so far in ensuring hand hygiene.  Simply put, using proper hand washing techniques and soap is the best way to stop the spread of germs after using the washroom, and although good hand drying practice can help to further halt bacteria, it’s no good alone.

Our hands are constantly exposed to a wide range of bacteria, and our own immune systems do an excellent job at keeping it at bay and maintaining our health. It is now widely agreed that studies which show paper towels to be more hygienic are simply theoretical, and a slight fluctuation in bacteria makes no difference to our overall health. So whether you use a paper towel or an electric hand dryer to dry your hands after using the washroom is simply down to your personal preference and will not have a significant impact on your hygiene, provided you have washed your hands properly in the first place.


Many businesses opt for paper towels over hand dryers due to the sound levels emitted by most modern hand dryers. As electric hand dryers have become more powerful and more efficient at drying our hands, they have also become louder and more intrusive, which is especially noticeable when they are used in locations such as libraries and schools.

Airdri was the first-hand dryer manufacturer to be awarded the Quiet Mark™ by the UK Noise Abatement Society in 2012, and we continue to innovate in this area, creating some of the quietest hand dryers on the market.

The prestigious Bodleian Library at Oxford University recently fitted their washrooms with the quiet Airdri Quad™ hand dryer, which speaks to its exceptionally low sound levels, and it has also been customised with a child-friendly cartoon dragon fascia, for specific use in schools and nurseries.

Washroom owners no longer need to be concerned with the effects of loud hand dryers. Airdri has a wide range of quiet hand dryers for you to choose from.


Many people do not realise that paper towels are not recyclable, and almost always end up in landfill. The paper used to create paper towels is manufactured in such a way that makes it unsuitable for recycling, with tonnes of it ending in our ever-growing landfill sites.

On the contrary, almost all the components of an electric hand dryer can be recycled once it reaches the end of its life cycle, and uses much less energy to manufacture and run over a 5 year period than the equivalent usage in paper towels.

Our GreenSpec awarded hand dryers assure that you are contributing towards a greener future, and our consultants can help you to meet your carbon reduction targets by helping you choose the perfect Airdri hand dryer for your environment.


Studies show that the average washroom user grabs 2-3 paper towels at once when drying their hands, which can cost the owners of a busy washroom over £1000 a year to supply and replace. We find that these base costs can at times be hidden from business owners among monthly contract fees so they are often unaware of how much money could be saved by switching to a hand dryer.

The Airdri Quazar™ runs at just 1kW, and will cost the owner less than £80 a year in electrical costs (based on the UK average), and will pay for itself over a 6 month period when compared to paper towels.
Use our cost calculator to compare models and see how much you will save by switching from paper towels to an Airdri electric hand dryer.

So, which is better?

The decision to equip the washroom with paper towels or an electric hand dryer is always the owners to make, but with many businesses facing tighter budgets and there being more emphasis on the protection of the environment, switching from paper towels to hand dryers has never been more appealing. At Airdri, we can help make that switch easy.

Call us on 01865 882 330 or email [email protected] today to get in contact with Tom Allen who will be delighted to help you.