Clearing the air about warm air hand dryers

1st of October 2020
Clearing the air about warm air hand dryers

There have been mixed reports, and some confusion, as to where warm air hand dryers fit in the hygiene-focused washroom of the future. In this special report, Excel Dryers explains why they are a good, clean part of it.

As the emergence of Covid-19 has gradually but surely changed the very ways we live, infection control has become global society’s top priority. In turn, hand hygiene, including hand washing and drying and washroom cleanliness, have become more relevant than ever—and hand dryers are a good, clean part of it.

Experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) state that proper hand hygiene is the best defence against the spread of germs,including coronavirus. Specifically, the WHO recommends that everyone “frequently clean [their] hands…” and “dry [them] thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.”

When it comes to germs, hand washing is only half of the hand hygiene equation. Hand drying is equally, if not more important, and choosing a no-touch hand dryer as a solution not only follows health organisation guidance - it creates a tidy washroom environment, giving visitors peace of mind.

A comparison

While both hand dryers and paper towels are recognised as safe, effective and hygienic ways to dry hands, paper towels come with their own challenges:

• Limited supply - as we saw during the pandemic, paper products can run out, and paper towels are no exception. If unavailable, hands cannot be dried at all - and wet hands have been shown to be 1,000 times more likely to transfer germs than dry hands.

• Hygiene - paper towels can be left in damp piles on countertops, across the floor, spilling out of waste bins and clogging up toilets. These messes provide breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria at a time when hygiene is a matter of life and death. One independent study showed 17 species of bacteria on unused, recycled paper towels, including Bacillus, which can cause food poisoning.

• Source - paper towels come from trees, a threat against the increasingly important need for environmentally sustainable practices.

• Transportation - fuel-consuming, carbon-emitting delivery trucks are required to transport timber to mills and finished product to businesses; paper waste must also be transported from facilities, to landfills.

• Production - paper is produced through chemical or mechanical pulping, which is another stress on the environment. One ton of virgin paper pollutes 7,000 gallons of water in production.

• Maintenance: - paper towels require labour hours to restock, clean and discard.

• Life cycle - a used paper towel - even if 100 per cent recycled - has only one ultimate destination: the landfill.

Hand dryers offer these benefits:

• Hygiene - hand dryers eliminate the mess of paper towels. Hands-free, no-touch sensors reduce the number of washroom touchpoints.

• Sustainability - compared to paper towels many hand dryers provide up to a 75 per cent reduction in carbon footprint.

• Cost - hand dryers can offer significant cost savings versus paper towels.

• Labour - warm air dryers eliminate the maintenance and waste of paper towels.

Correcting the myths

Myth 1: “Paper towels are a ‘greener’ option than hand dryers.” Sustainability is a major area of concerns regarding hand dryers. A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Study conducted by Quantis, an international life cycle assessment research firm, disproved the notion paper towels are better than the environment than certain energy-efficient dryers. It concluded that using high-efficiency dryers can reduce the carbon footprint of hand drying by 50-75 per cent.

Considering the processes required in their ongoing manufacture and disposal, paper towels are not necessarily the highly sustainable option many believe them to be.

Myth 2: “Paper towels are more cost effective.” Converting from paper towels to the more energy-efficient hand dryers now available actually represents a 95 per cent cost saving, and the typical payback period  can be less than a year.

These proven statistics easily stand to reason. The dryer is a one-time purchase: once installed, it requires significantly less attention than paper towel dispensers, saving money on labour and maintenance. And in contrast to paper towels, which are purchased by the case, the energy costs of using a hand dryer amount to pennies per day.

Myth 3: “Hand dryers aren’t hygienic”. There’s no denying paper towel waste is the cause of many, if not most, conditions that make a washroom visibly unclean. Simply put, hand dryers eliminate this waste - altogether.


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