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nzigler's avatar

What's better: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

Asked by nzigler (1323points) November 1st, 2009

This probably sounds like a dumb question, but hear (read) me out…

What’s ‘better’ for our environment: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?
Paper towels require energy and resources- from planting the seed of the tree, to cutting it down and making paper, to shipping the paper towels. Then of course, they go into the trash (or potentially the recycling) and must be transported and/or processed again.

Similarly, hand dryers use energy and resources (the material and energy resources needed to build the dryer itself). They also must be shipped around and periodically repaired/serviced. They often contain products made with petroleum derivatives and their likelihood to be recycled in part or in whole is dubious. Finally, they consume electricity which is generated by coal, gas, nuclear etc. power in many (most?) instances.

In short, can anyone tell me which is really ‘better’? I suppose carbon footprints would be the best measurement here.


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38 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

No question hand dryers, and they are finally becoming efficient. A model called The Blade, by Dyson has been installed in every washroom at my University, and it works very quickly and very well. It is noisy, but tolerable.

Dog's avatar

I consider paper towels a huge waste of environmental resources..
Many artists use them to paint with but I use rags the old fashioned way.

When washing my hands I ususally give them a good shake and call it done but if need be I use a towel.

But that is just me.

RareDenver's avatar

I would go with hand dryers here too, I think after the initial construction costs the energy to run them is far lower than the energy needed for the continual production and recycling of paper towels.

@pdworkin much lurve for the Dyson Blade, that evens sways me on which bars I drink in now, if there’s a Blade, I’m there

nzigler's avatar

I really should look into the dryer’s efficiency and see if dyson or anyone else can account for the energy used, soup to nuts and statistics on when the dryer becomes efficient. Out of the box, I would have to guess any hand dryer is immediately more resource-expensive but as it is used over time becomes more efficient compared to constant replacement of paper towels?

janbb's avatar

The Powers that be at my college installed the X-Celerator in our bathrooms in the library. They are effective at drying your hands and environmentally better that paper towels, but the noise is deafening. Sort of like a helicoptor landing in the bathroom every 10 minutes.

Darwin's avatar

I hate the hand dryers, and I refuse to waste trees, so I wash my hands and wipe them on my pants leg. Works for me, and nothing has to die to make my hands dry.

dpworkin's avatar

Dyson does indeed make explicit claims in terms of acres of trees saved per unit per year.

nzigler's avatar

What I really want to see is this:

1. Dyson makes this much of a carbon footprint to dry one pair of hands.
2. Paper towels make this much of a carbon footprint to dry one pair of hands.

janbb's avatar

@Darwin I find a hands on pants wipe works quite well too.

nzigler's avatar

Paper towels are bad but the paper used in them is the kind that is being replaced (usually faster than it is being used). They do not cut down trees in the amazon for our paper towels to my knowledge. Trees, are actually one of the few sustainable things we can count on. Correct me if I’m wrong here, please. (also:

That said, I don’t like the idea of wasting so much on a one time, disposable product. However, if they used considerably less energy in the process, I would have to rethink things as energy is the most universal and precious resource currently (considering how we obtain it).

lled's avatar

Hand dryer, however I like the paper towels because I need something to grab the door handle with…

BBSDTfamily's avatar

I prefer paper towels. I hate hand dryers.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

Techinically I’m pretty sure hand dryers are more environmentally friendly but boy do I hate them! It really bothers me when there aren’t any paper towels. Not only does it take forever to dry my hands with those stupid machines, I also have to touch the door handle with my bare hands when leaving the bathroom, which in my eyes defeats the whole purpose of washing my damn hands to begin with. I seem to be a little bitter about the no paper towels issue…Sorry

filmfann's avatar

Pant legs.

dpworkin's avatar

But that inefficiency is common to the “Press Button, Receive Bacon” hand dryers. The Dyson ones are a different experience.

janbb's avatar

@pdworkin What are you – a salesman for them? A tool of the capitalist master?

casheroo's avatar

I use my pants more than anything. Using the same towel over and over is not really sanitary, paper towels are a waste, and I don’t really like hand dryers. But I do sometimes use a paper towel to open the door.

dpworkin's avatar

I am a stoont at a school what gots them, and I use them daily. That’s about it, toots. Don’t you have a toilet to clean, somewhere?

Mat74UK's avatar

@pdworkin The Blade by Dyson is the sh1t!

rooeytoo's avatar

I hate hand dryers, you have to stand there forever and then your hands are still not dry and as @nzigler I am not sure about the carbon footprint bit and as @ItalianPrincess1217 says, I hate touching the door handle. So here is what I do, leave with my hands wet, then after I have opened all necessary doors in order to get the hell out of there, then I dry them on the seat of my pants figuring I will wipe off all the germs I picked up by touching the door handles. Then I have to go change my pants because of all the germs residing on them (just kidding – well about the changing my pants part! the rest is true)

Does this sound a little paranoid??? Howard Hughes like???

Mat74UK's avatar

@rooeytoo With the blade you drop your hands in and draw them out, thats it!
Quote: Paper towels are expensive to buy, re-stock and dispose of – and they generate landfill. In fact, for the cost of a single paper towel, the Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer can dry 19 pairs of hands.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I absolutely ABHORE hand dryers. I refuse to use them. I have used the X-Celerator & they do a decent job, but there’s not many around. Every old fashioned dryer needs to be torn out & these put in. That being said, hand dryers are terrible as far as bacteria. There was a show on TV where they tore some a part & their insides were filthy & full of bacteria. They use hot air to blow your hands, of course, & all of that nasty stuff gets thrown out into the air. My pant legs do a good job, & then I follow up with hand sanitizer, especially at a restaurant.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Mat74UK – I have never seen anything like that, I have been in the Territory too long!
It looks interesting, must put out a lot of air pressure. But does your hand touch the thing, it looks as if you touch the unit on the way in and out? I don’t want to touch the thing!

Mat74UK's avatar

@rooeytoo You touch nothing! Just dip in and pull out! (so to speak)

JLeslie's avatar

I hate the hand dryers, especially the noise they make, but would guess they are better for the environment. As for grabbing the door handle, why can’t they figure out to make the bathroom doors swing out, so we don’t have to use our hand on the way out? I think I asked this as a fluther question a long time ago, might have been on facebook, and some people suggested it was fire code, but I really started paying attention and that does not see to be the case. I have seen doors open into hallways, it all seems random to me.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@JLeslie I agree with the doors opening out. What a simple solution. I also hate it when there’s no trash can near the door. You can’t reach the door & the trash at the same time most times. I’ve seen women just throw them on the floor by the doors, but I’d hate to do that.

Psychedelic_Zebra's avatar

@pdworkin LOL at press button receive bacon reference.

dpworkin's avatar

3. Wipe hands On Shirt

Psychedelic_Zebra's avatar

that Dyson fellow is a genius, even more so that Wiley E. Coyote!

dpworkin's avatar

Dyson is an Acme brand product™

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

I had to chisel my car out of some ice…

jenandcolin's avatar

Hand towel! After drying my hands, I use them to open the bathroom door when I leave (so I don’t have to touch the door handle).

Cruiser's avatar

The back of the guy in front of you.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Bathroom doors that you have to pull to open and push to get out are great. That way, after washing my hands, they can just be given a shake, and a nudge with the hip opens the door.

janbb's avatar

@dpworkin I finally was somewhere where they had that Dyson hand dryer and used it. It is quite neat.

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