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The Hand Drying Dilemma

metal hand drier in public toilet
Have you ever thought twice before using the air dryer to dry your hands in the restroom? Well according to the article, “There Is Nothing Cut and Dried About Hand Washing in Restrooms,” you aren’t the only one. Apparently, people prefer paper towels to hand dryers by a 4-to-1 margin when drying their hands in the restroom. So what makes paper towels more preferable? Is one more effective than the other? Well, not necessarily.

Although dryers are claimed to be less messy, more affordable, and overall ecologically friendlier, the paper towel industry defends the paper towel as being able to accomplish so much more than the hand dryer will ever be able to do. Bob Brand, a spokesman for paper-towel leader Kimberly-Clark Corp., says, “Anyone who has needed to wipe a chocolate mess off a child’s face . . . is well aware of the limited capabilities of air dryers.” He continues by noting that paper towels are better for “removing make-up, drying your face and freshening up a bit between business meetings.” Additionally, leading paper towel giants including Kimberly-Clark and Georgia-Pacific LLC are now utilizing innovative technology for touchless towel dispensers and “high-end hand towels” in order to keep their place in the majority of American hearts.

But the dryer industry isn’t giving up just yet. With their machines now in three times the number of bathrooms they were in back in 2007, the hand dryer industry continues to grow immensely. The challenge remains, however, to build a better dryer. Mr. Robert from American Dryer references potentially game-changing hand dryer technology that can kill bacteria and odors. In fact, the eXtremeAir introduced last November by American Dryer was tested to have the capabilities to kill off both E. coli and tuberculosis bacillus, a triumph that could help preference for the hand dryer skyrocket.

So the question remains: which one’s better for you? According to a Mayo Clinic publication from 2012, paper towels proved superior to hand dryers from a hygiene perspective, as dyers were less effective in wiping bacteria off the hands. But in contrast to these findings, University of Buffalo researchers stated just last year that high-speed hand dryers were actually more hygienic than paper towels. And to make this research even less helpful, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remains silent on the ever-going debate. So for the average hand washer, it all comes down to a matter of preference. Which will it be for you? Paper towels or hand dryer?

Emily Scott

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