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Hand Dryer vs. Paper Towels: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on March 22, 2024
Hand dryers are electric devices for drying hands, while paper towels are disposable sheets for hand drying.

Key Differences

Hand dryers provide an electric means to dry hands using air flow, which can be more environmentally friendly by reducing waste. Paper towels, on the other hand, are single-use items made from paper that are disposed of after each use, potentially leading to more waste.
Hand dryers, often found in public restrooms, work by blowing air to evaporate water from the hands, offering a touchless way to dry hands and reduce the spread of germs. Paper towels offer a physical method of drying by absorbing water, which some argue is more effective in removing bacteria.
The debate between hand dryers and paper towels extends to environmental impact, with hand dryers boasting lower long-term environmental footprints due to reduced paper waste. However, paper towels are argued to have a lower carbon footprint per use, considering the energy consumption of hand dryers.
In terms of user preference, hand dryers eliminate the need for restocking and can lower maintenance costs in public restrooms. Paper towels, however, are often preferred for their quick and tactile drying method, providing a sense of thoroughness and immediate disposal.

Comparison Chart

Drying Mechanism

Uses warm air to evaporate moisture
Absorbs moisture with paper material

Environmental Impact

Lower waste, higher energy use
Higher waste, lower energy use per use


Controversial effectiveness in germ removal
Considered more effective in removing bacteria


Lower maintenance, no need for restocking
Requires regular restocking and waste management

User Experience

Touchless operation, may take longer to dry hands
Quick drying, tactile feedback, immediate disposal

Hand Dryer and Paper Towels Definitions

Hand Dryer

Can be more eco-friendly by reducing paper waste.
The company switched to hand dryers to minimize their environmental impact.

Paper Towels

Often found in public restrooms alongside or instead of hand dryers.
The paper towels in the restroom are always fully stocked.

Hand Dryer

Some models use HEPA filters to improve air quality.
Our hand dryers are fitted with HEPA filters to ensure clean air flow.

Paper Towels

Can be made from recycled materials to reduce environmental impact.
The café uses recycled paper towels to align with their green policy.

Hand Dryer

Often installed in public restrooms for communal use.
The new hand dryer in the library's bathroom is much quieter than the old model.

Paper Towels

Disposable sheets used for drying hands or cleaning spills.
We ran out of paper towels in the kitchen, so I couldn't wipe the counter.

Hand Dryer

An electric device that uses air to dry hands after washing.
The restroom was equipped with a high-speed hand dryer to improve hygiene.

Paper Towels

Generate waste with each use, requiring disposal.
The school's recycling program includes separating used paper towels for composting.

Hand Dryer

May vary in drying efficiency and speed.
This hand dryer is efficient, drying hands in just 10 seconds.

Paper Towels

Preferred for their quick and effective drying capability.
I prefer paper towels because they dry my hands faster than the hand dryer.


Are paper towels recyclable?

While paper towels can be made from recycled material, used paper towels are often not recyclable due to contamination but can be compostable.

Do hand dryers spread germs?

Some studies suggest that hand dryers can disperse bacteria into the air, but this is subject to ongoing debate and research.

What are hand dryers?

Hand dryers are electric devices that use air to dry hands.

How do hand dryers work?

Hand dryers work by blowing air, either warm or room temperature, to evaporate moisture from the hands.

Can paper towels be composted?

Yes, unbleached paper towels without chemical contaminants can be composted.

What are paper towels?

Paper towels are disposable sheets used for drying hands or cleaning up spills.

What is the environmental impact of hand dryers vs. paper towels?

Hand dryers have a lower waste impact but may use more energy, while paper towels generate more waste but have a lower energy use per use.

What factors should be considered when choosing between hand dryers and paper towels for a facility?

Considerations include cost, environmental impact, user preference, hygiene standards, and maintenance requirements.

Are hand dryers cost-effective compared to paper towels?

Hand dryers can be more cost-effective in the long run due to reduced need for restocking and waste management.

Is it better to use hand dryers or paper towels in terms of hygiene?

This can depend on individual preference and the specific context, though paper towels might offer better hygiene in removing bacteria.

How can the environmental impact of using paper towels be minimized?

Using paper towels made from recycled materials and ensuring they are properly disposed of or composted can minimize environmental impact.

Are there any health risks associated with using hand dryers?

The main concern is the potential for spreading germs; however, many modern hand dryers are designed to minimize this risk.

What are the best practices for hand hygiene in public restrooms?

Best practices include thorough hand washing followed by complete drying with either a hand dryer or paper towels, depending on availability and preference.

hand dryers or paper towels?

Paper towels are often considered more hygienic for effectively removing bacteria, though hand dryers offer a touchless option.

Do hand dryers and paper towels have the same drying time?

No, paper towels generally dry hands faster than hand dryers.

Are there different types of hand dryers?

Yes, there are various models, including high-speed and traditional warm air hand dryers.

How should used paper towels be disposed of?

Used paper towels should be thrown in the trash or a compost bin if they are compostable.

How often do hand dryers require maintenance?

Maintenance frequency can vary based on model and usage but generally includes cleaning and checking for operational issues.

Can hand dryers be used in homes?

Yes, hand dryers can be installed in homes, though they are more commonly found in public restrooms.

What innovations are being made in hand dryer technology?

Innovations include improved energy efficiency, reduced noise levels, and enhanced hygiene features like UV light sterilization.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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