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Paper Towel Dispensers and Electric Hand Dryers

Your choice of a hand drying system for your office or store restrooms is not at all trivial. Creating an environment that is both neat and sanitary is important to the image of your business. If your business is in food service, hand washing -- and thus hand drying -- is particularly important.

The three main choices are paper towel dispensers, rolled towels, and electric hand dryers:

  • Paper towel dispensers hold and dispense paper towels rolls, single fold towels, and multifold towels.
    • A popular model of roll dispenser requires the user to push a lever to advance the paper, before pulling off a sheet. Some models are prone to jamming, so pay close attention to the manufacturer’s claims. Automatic paper towel dispensers advance the roll of paper when the user holds their hands near a sensor; this design is more sanitary than touching a lever. Some units of either type include timers that prevent the roll from being advanced too quickly in a short time so as to prevent overusage. The towels may be perforated for a clean tear, or they may be cut by a sharp edge on the dispenser (allowing variable length towels but often times leaving a jagged edge and unkempt appearance).
    • Folded towels typically are stacked in a box that is hung on the wall. The user then pulls one or more towels from an opening at the bottom of this box. One disadvantage of this alternative is that occasionally the next towel does not pop out and so the user must fish it out from inside the box.
    All paper towel systems require you to monitor the dispensers to be sure that they are filled, clean, and operational and that the waste towels are properly disposed of. Most units have some form of lock to deter theft of the towels.
  • Rolled towel dispensers are similar to paper towel roll dispensers except that the towel is cloth. Rather than being discarded, the towel is rolled back into the unit for a cleaner appearance, sent back to be cleaned, and replaced with a clean roll. While this approach appeals to recycling minded users, like electric hand dryers, it does not allow for cleanup of spills and other drying needs.
  • Electric hand dryers are wall-mounted units that send out a stream of hot air for drying hands. They also eliminate paper waste and thus promote a cleaner restroom appearance. On the other hand, many models take much longer to dry hands thoroughly than do paper towels, and users may be concerned about over drying their skin. Accordingly, pay close attention to manufacturers’ claims and guarantees. Electric hand dryers come in both push-button and automatic (hands-free) models.
    • Push-button hand dryers require the user to press a button to activate it and have it run for a specified period.

    • The automatic models start when the user holds his or her hands in front of a sensor near the air discharge point. Most of these will keep running as long as the hands are kept there. As with hands-free towel dispensers, these are more attractive from a sanitary standpoint.

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