The Cost Debate: Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels

    Which is more cost effective? We’ve got some ROI!

    Of course there is no debate that sanitation in the restroom is a major concern, especially during flu season, but cost continues to be a top concern no matter what the season. Paper of every kind has become increasingly expensive over the past decade and typically people use more than they need to in public restrooms. In fact, on average, people use 2.5 paper towel sheets every time they dry their hands! With the cost of paper towels at up to 2 cents per sheet it can cost as much as 5 cents per person to dry their hands. So think about how many people use your restroom every day and multiply that number by 5 cents each. It’s an expense that can add up to thousands of dollars per year on paper towels alone. Consider, too, the shelf space required for stocking the paper towel supply, as well as the time it takes employees to restock the dispensers and clean up and dispose of the clutter paper towels leave behind.

    Currently, in terms of energy consumption, automatic hand dryers cost only about 7 cents per 200 uses with heat and only 4 cents per 200 uses without heat. Compare this number to the cost of using paper towels, and hand dryers can help restaurants achieve significant savings per year.

    In the past, many people preferred paper towels to hand dryers because they found it quicker to use paper and—using plenty of paper towels—they could be sure their hands were thoroughly dry. However, if you check out the new generation of hand dryers you will find they dry up to three times faster than older models, and they can use as much as 80 percent less energy in the process. Heat levels may be adjustable, and today’s dryers operate more quietly than in prior years.

    A case study in savings

    Based in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Community Counseling Center has served the mental health needs of citizens in a five-county region of southeastern Missouri since 1974. Larry Ream heads up the Center’s facilities management operations. One of his first tasks was to familiarize himself with all the functions and costs of his department and, where possible, to improve upon existing procedures. Community Counseling Center’s home office in Cape Girardeau had been using paper towels in its restroom facilities.

    Ream said he looked at cost per month and then cost per year, and then he looked at the cost of a hand dryer unit and its installation. When he determined that the ROI on the hand dryer was only 90 days, the decision to move to hand dryers instead of paper towels was easy. Ream said he didn’t even have to look at the labor cost associated with paper towels.

    Ream was sold on hand dryers because they are extremely energy efficient, which was very important to the institution. Additionally, if a hand dryer is GreenSpec® Listed it offers LEED credits to facility managers. Ream’s other goals were that the hand dryer be easy to mount and include hands-free automatic technology as well as a patented SteriTouch® antimicrobial technology to shield against the build-up of bacteria.

    Ream said being in a mental health environment where so many people seek service, the use of paper towels can be an issue. Dirty towels are often thrown around, landing on the floor and making the restroom unsightly and unhealthy. The installation of automatic hand dryers has helped the maintenance crew and produced a savings of 50 percent on the day-to-day costs of maintaining and supplying the center pull units. Ream said he would put hand dryers in the hallways and in the kitchen areas if he could!

    Facilities of all types—even those with lower traffic—are realizing the cost benefits of installing fast-drying hand dryers. Making just one switch—from paper towels to automatic hand dryers— can improve the functionality and efficiency of restroom fixtures, reduce and even eliminate some maintenance costs and help improve your institution’s bottom line.

    I invite you to check out the cost benefits yourself using our handy calculator. Go to and calculate the savings you can reap in 2015 by switching to a Word Dryer hand dryers that fits your needs—and your budget.