Hand dryers or paper towels? That is the question.

When it comes to making a decision about whether to install paper towel dispensers or hand dryers in school washrooms, there are several factors that must be taken into account; cost comparison, hygiene, the environment, noise, and convenience.

This guide explores all these elements, providing comparisons, stats and facts to help you make an informed choice, save money, and keep pupils safe and hygienic. 

Cost comparison

Based on the example of 400 pupils and 40 staff using hand towels:

  • Each student would use 3 hand towels on average 3.5 times a day, and an adult 4.5 times a day. Over a year this would be 948,000 paper towels.
  • This would cost approximately £2844 -£4740

An energy efficient hand dryer, such as the Turboforce Junior PLUS hand dryer, a popular model for schools, servicing the same amount of people:

  • Would use 2.5 - 5.75 watts/hours per dry, totaling 790 - 1817 kW/hours of electricity per year.
  • A normal tariff would be about 12p per kW, so that's just £94.80 - £218.04 a year to run.
  • Quite a difference saving £2625.96 - £4645.20 per year.

You would also be saving around 38 trees and reducing your carbon footprint by approx. 6129 - 6683 kg/CO2 a year.

Additionally, with energy efficient hand dryers there is the cost saving of reduced staffing time used to replenish and maintain the paper towels and dispensers.

Please see the case study at the end of this article highlighting examples of annual cost savings and carbon production for organisations of various sizes when comparing energy efficient hand dryers, paper towels and conventional hand dryers.


There is no evidence, from any reputable source, to indicate that paper towels are more hygienic than electric hand dryers. Good hand washing practice and thorough drying is the most important factor in hygiene and there are various technologies and modifications, such as HEPA filters and non-touch units, which are enhancing hygiene even further.

Bacteria is spread by direct contact with surfaces and hand dryers are largely all sensor operated. Hand towel dispensers are not usually, and germs can be transferred by touching the towels in the dispenser. However, automatic paper towels dispensers are a way of minimising this risk.

Empty/unstocked dispensers also pose a hygiene risk where washroom users may leave with wet hands or use items of clothing, which can result in enhanced germ transfer.


Most modern hand dryers that use as little as two to four watt hours per dry and have a negligible effect on the environment.

Based on Dyson's life cycle research into the carbon emissions produced by paper towels, drying your hands with paper could create at least 22.5 grams of CO2 each time. This is generated from:

  • Felling virgin trees
  • Transporting raw materials for processing
  • Energy to process
  • Further transportation to finishing mills
  • Energy consumption to manufacture the particular paper product and packaging
  • Further transportation to main warehouse
  • Distribution to local warehouse
  • Distribution to the customer
  • The constant replenishment cycle

Paper towels cannot be recycled, they can only be made of previously recycled paper, so they will end up in landfill. 25,000 paper towels equates to one average virgin tree for paper production.


There are considerations that need to be made for young children, people with autistic conditions and wheelchair users, which is why we offer a range of quieter and adjustable hand dryers that still remain effective.

There are a host of good performing, quiet hand dryers in our range, many of which have been awarded the official Quiet Mark - meaning they are one of the quietest in their class.


A reliable hand dryer means no one has to remember to restock them, so they are always available. They also mean clean, tidy washrooms with no unhygienic bins to empty.

Case Study: Examples of annual cost savings for an office - energy efficient hand dryers compared to paper towels and conventional hand dryers

1) Organisation that services 200 people, 260 times a year

Number of toilet visits a year: 234,000

Number of paper towels used per year: 702,000

Paper towelsConventional hand dryerG-Force MKIIDryflow ViperStealthforce PLUSDryflow Tri-Jet
Rated power (W)-2500420 - 1500600 - 2000750 - 16501760
Drying time (secs)-4012 -2315 - 201611
Watt-Hours per dry-27.782.68 -53.33 - 8.333.33 - 7.335.38
Annual kW/h-6500627.9 - 1170780 -1950780 - 17161258.40
Annual cost (£)2106 - 3510*780^75.35 - 140.4093.60 - 23493.60 - 205.92151.01
Annual saving against paper towels (£)-1326 - 27301965.60 - 3434.651872 - 3416.401900.08 - 3416.401954.99 - 3358.99
Annual saving against conventional dryer (£)--639.60 - 704.65546 - 686.40574.08 - 686.40628.99
Annual carbon production (kg/CO2)5265**3510#339 - 632421 - 1053421 - 927988

*Price of paper towel range from 0.3p - 0.5p per towel

**Carbon production for paper towels is based on 22.5gms/CO2 per dry

^Based on 12p per kW/h

#Based on Carbon Trust standard of 1kW/h = 0.54 kg/CO2

2) Organisation that services 500 people, 260 times a year

Number of toilet visits per year: 585,000

Number of paper towels used per year: 1,755,000

Paper towelsConventional hand dryerMitsubishi Jet Towel SmartDryflow Elite MKIIDryflow Classic PLUS MKIITurboforce
Rated power (W)-2500410 -98010001400350 - 1600
Drying time (secs)-4011 - 18221812 - 24
Watt-Hours per dry-27.782.05 - 2.996.1172.33 - 5.33
Annual kW/h-16,2501199.25 - 1751.75357540951365 - 3210
Annual cost (£)5265 - 8775*1950^143.91 - 210.21429491.40163.80 - 374.40
Annual saving against paper towels (£)-3315 - 68255054.79 - 8631.094836 - 83464773.60 - 8283.604890.60 - 8611.20
Annual saving against conventional dryer (£)--1739.79 - 1806.0915211458.601575.60 - 1786.20
Annual carbon production (kg/CO2)13163**8775647.60 - 94619312211731 - 1685

*Price of paper towel range from 0.3p - 0.5p per towel

**Carbon production for paper towels is based on 22.5gms/CO2 per dry

^Based on 12p per kW/h

#Based on Carbon Trust standard of 1kW/h = 0.54 kg/CO2