Cloth Towels vs. Paper Towels vs. Hand Dryers

Let’s face it. If you want to debate something, you have an array of topics to choose from at any given moment. From who’s going to win the big game, what politician deserves your vote, the benefits of electric and hybrid cars over gas-only rivals and more, there isn’t a shortage of things to go back and forth about with your friends, family members or coworkers.

While you might not consider it on par with debates about those other topics, the common ways people dry their hands is also important and relevant. Whether you’re a business owner trying to keep your operational costs in line, an environmental activist trying to reduce harmful emissions or someone who wants to know the healthiest way to dry your hands, conversations about hand drying methods will continue to be crucial and meaningful for the foreseeable future and beyond.

Hand Towels vs. Paper Towels

paper towels

When you walk into a public bathroom, you’ll generally see at least one of three common hand drying alternatives: cloth or hand towels, paper towels or hand dryers. Before you examine the comparison between hand towels and paper towels closely, you may think there’s not much of a difference between the two because they’re both…well, they’re both towels.

While they are definitely both towels, cloth and paper towels are very different from one another. As their respective names imply, they are made with different materials, for example. Cloth towels are made with materials you can launder and use the same hand towel again and again. Paper towels are made from paper and are disposable. Since a cloth towel can be used multiple times, it can save you money over paper towels that regularly need to be purchased and restocked.

Additionally, because you can reuse hand towels, many consider them to be more environmentally friendly than their paper brethren. Although that’s the case, some paper towel manufacturers go to great lengths to produce their products in an eco-friendly manner by sourcing materials from local, sustainable forests, limiting CO2 emissions during the manufacturing process and using recycled materials.

Despite those laudable efforts, paper towels still pose a threat to the well-being of the environment. In the United States alone, paper towels account for no less than two percent of what’s in the country’s landfills. As they decompose, paper towels release methane, which is a greenhouse gas that harms the Earth’s atmosphere.

Still, while they may not be the friendlier option in the context of the environment, paper towels are the wiser choice for hand drying. If multiple people use the same cloth towel to dry their hands and one of them hasn’t cleaned their hands appropriately or they touched a contaminated surface before they dried their hands, every subsequent person who uses the same towel will pick up germs during the hand drying process. Because users will throw out their paper towels after they dry their hands, paper towels don’t have the same risk of cross-contamination.

Paper Towels vs. Hand Dryers

Now that you know paper towels are more hygienic than cloth towels for drying your hands, you’re probably wondering how they compare to hand dryers. In the context of sanitation, the hand dryers vs. paper towels debate hinges on a few key factors, such as the age of the hand dryer involved in the conversation. If you’re discussing an older model, it’s likely paper towels will be the more sanitary option because they’ll provide a more thorough hand drying experience.

As for hand dryers, even if you have a newer model that uses less power than its predecessors, you may still want to stock your restrooms with paper towels or at least offer them as an alternative for your guests. No matter how vigilant your team is about cleaning your washrooms, bathrooms are still environments in which microbes and bacteria thrive, including antibiotic-resistant strains like Staphylococcus. While that’s alarming in its own right, it’s even more worrisome when you consider that research shows jet dryers force bacteria off of and onto users’ hands, and they circulate microbes throughout a washroom.

If you do a hand dryer cost comparison, it’s unlikely you’ll be surprised that paper towels are less expensive than hand dryers. That is, hand dryers are more expensive upfront. Many modern hand dryers will last 10 years or more if they’re well-maintained. Given the built-in energy efficiency of newer hand dryers, they can pay for themselves in just a few months, something paper towels will never do. In other words, buying hand dryers is like absorbing the occasional capital expense, whereas replenishing your paper towel supply is more akin to managing an ongoing operational cost.

People who follow the entertainment industry are often familiar with the phrase “give the people what they want” because that’s what entertainers and entertainment companies attempt to do to ensure their acts will attract an audience. Most people—actually a full 75 percent of them — prefer paper towels over hand dryers to dry their hands. This is an important consideration for any business that’s attempting to build its brand and establish an image that shows they care about the well-being and preferences of its customers.

As the two relate to the environment, hand dryers may be the superior choice over paper towels. Hand dryers release fewer CO2 emissions into the environment compared to paper towels. In addition, used paper towels — along with the bags they’re disposed in — make their way into landfills on a regular basis. A hand dryer may not end up in a dump for years or even a decade or more after it’s initially installed at a given location.

Why Are Hand Drying Options Such an Important Consideration?

It’s easy to think of hand drying as an almost reflexive activity that naturally follows washing your hands. While that’s true in many cases, there’s a lot more to the act of drying your hands than meets the eye in both literal and figurative senses. That fact makes it vital for you to carefully consider the hand drying options you’ll offer in your washrooms.

Hand drying is a vital part of the handwashing process. In fact, it’s often wiser to not wash your hands if you can’t dry them immediately afterward. Wet hands transfer more germs than dry ones. Leaving the bathroom without drying your hands can defeat the purpose of washing them all together, and it can facilitate the spread of harmful bacteria and illnesses. To prevent germs from making their way throughout your business, it’s vital to provide a means for people to dry their hands thoroughly.

Because hand towels may remain damp between uses, you may want to stock your restrooms with paper towels or hand dryers instead. Since paper towels typically enable people to enjoy a more thorough hand drying experience, paper towels might be the best choice out of all three options.

It’s widely known that some viruses can survive on surfaces like faucet handles and doorknobs for days. Even if your guests wash their hands thoroughly, their labor will be wasted if they touch these surfaces after they wash their hands. By giving your visitors a versatile hand drying option, you can give them a layer of defense against latent viruses. Whereas a hand dryer serves just one purpose, paper towels and clean hand towels allow people to use them to both dry their hands and handle things like faucets without picking up a virus or other microbes.

One Point Partitions: The Easy Choice for American-Made Urinal and Stall Dividers

We have been selling high-quality washroom partitions to businesses located throughout the United States since 2007, and we know choosing the means your guests will use to dry their hands can be a challenge for even the savviest business owners and managers. While there’s not much we can do to make that decision easier, we can — and have — made One Point Partitions the easy choice for urinal and stall dividers.

Every divider we sell is American made, ADA compliant and backed by a warranty. Our partitions are made to last in washroom environments that are renowned for being moist and humid. The bathroom partitions we ship all over America are versatile enough to be used as shower stalls in addition to urinal and toilet dividers.

While our partitions aren’t free, they are affordably priced, and they come with some significant perks. A free design consultation and mockup, one-on-one customer service, complimentary shipping and free product samples are some of the benefits we offer to our valued clients.

Our restroom partitions are available in five material types and an eye-catching array of colors and visual textures — and they are the perfect choice to pair with any hand drying method and any aesthetic. We invite you to look through our bathroom partition products now and encourage you to contact us with any questions you may have.