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Well, blow me down (as my Dad would say), I never knew that the subject of hand drying (on a commercial level) was so complex. If I'm about to lose you from reading on already, please stay with me; the topic of hand drying wasn't high on my lists of things to think about either, but it's actually quite interesting!
Now, I think it would be safe to say that the majority of people (correct me if I'm wrong) wash their hands, look for the nearest vacant hand dryer or paper towel dispenser, dry hands and then leave the room. For most, I suspect, there's nothing particularly taxing about the whole procedure. However, what if I was to ask if you've ever thought about the environmental impacts of different hand drying methods, or, considered the speed of hand drying and the degree of dryness in relation to the bacteria levels on your hands? What if I were to ask if you've ever considered how effective different drying methods are of removing bacteria from your hands and preventing cross-contamination? If you are still drawing a blank here and not altogether fussed about hand drying, maybe the following piece of information might change your mind: According to Dyson, some hand dryers on the market redistribute dirty air onto your hands. They suck in dirty air from the surrounding area and blow it out on to your hands, potentially blowing air containing bacteria, viruses and fecal matter onto your hands eugh! That throws a different light on the whole hand drying process doesn't it?!
Hygiene: Paper Towels versus Electric Hand Dryers
For business owners, or owners of commercial premises, the simple solution to such a problem could be to offer paper towels as a hand drying alternative. Many reports state that paper towels reduce more types of bacteria on the hands and are better at preventing the spread of infection in comparison with electronic hand dryers. Other reports, however, argue that certain electric hand dryers, in hygiene terms, are equally, if not more, effective. The World Dryer VMAX model, for example, is a hands-in, high speed hand dryer featuring a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filter system and antimicrobial technology. Users of hand dryers with HEPA systems can be comforted by the knowledge that these systems can filter up to 99.97% of bacteria at 0.3 microns from the airstream. So, where does that leave us? Well, the method of hand drying largely depends on the location; e.g. in critical areas such as hospitals the main focus may be on hygiene levels, whereas in other environments more importance may be placed on energy efficiency or sound levels. What's abundantly clear is that in this highly competitive market there are options to suit all requirements.
According to many leading electric hand drying manufacturers, the operating costs associated with paper towels is considerably higher than those associated with electric hand dryers. Additional time and costs are needed for staff to restock the paper towel dispensers, bin liners, waste removal etc, and space for paper towel storage is also needed. There are also plumbing costs involved when people try to flush paper towels down the toilet. With electric hand dryers, these operational costs are eliminated. Even models that require a filter change or a water tank change can now feature integrated LED technology to alert staff when attention is required making maintenance very simple. Some hand dryers even feature Bluetooth technology to alert an engineer if maintenance is needed. Oh, the wonders of modern technology! When considering the best type of electric hand dryer for a specific location, the drying speed and air temperature need attention. Hand dryers can be much more efficient when not using heat. According to a study produced by American manufacturer, Excel Dryer, its XLERATOReco hand dryer (which does not use heat), for example, reduces the Climate Changing Score (carbon footprint) of hand drying by 50 per cent to 75 per cent compared with traditional electric hand dryers and paper towels.
When it boils down to it, making a decision between paper towels and electric hand dryers, for the provider or the user, is a hard one to call. Personally, I do like a good old paper towel to dry my hands on (hand dryers that look like something from a Transformer movie kinda freak me out a bit) however, I do recognise the impact paper towels have on the environment. I must also champion the reliability of electric hand dryers with these machines, one never has to experience the disappointment/ annoyance of an empty paper dispenser. The difficulty really comes apparent when you are faced with both options at the same time (this actually happened to me at the weekend). A task that was once so very simple left me in a dither! Can you believe it?
If, after reading this, you have become fanatical about hand dryers, may I point you in the direction of a Facebook group called: Hand Dryers of the Year. Yes, this is a real group where people can upload pictures of hand dryers and share their comments with other hand dryer fanatics. Say no more.