Kimberly-Clark, the U.S. paper towel and Kleenex maker, is causing a bit of a stir among restroom hand dryer proponents. A video on its website cites two studies that found that hand dryers actually increase the amount of bacteria on the hands. According to Kimberly-Clark, jet air dryers without warm air increase bacteria on the hands by 42 percent while air dryers with warm air increase bacteria on the hands by 254 percent. Kimberly-Clark says its hand towels made from AIRFLEX fabric actually reduce bacteria by up to 55 percent.
Assuming for a moment that what Kimberly-Clark is promoting is fact, are paper towels an environmentally preferable alternative to hand dryers? Here, Kimberly-Clark's case is shaky. While the company is obviously taking a poke at companies such as Excel Dryer and Dyson B2B, Inc., those hand dryer companies make a very strong case for reducing a hotel's environmental impact through the use of their products. According to Excel Dryer, their XLERATOR hand dryer reduces the carbon footprint of hand drying (when compared to paper towels) by 50 percent to 75 percent. For the same cost as one paper towel, Dyson's Airblade hand dryer will dry 22 pairs of hands.
Back to the hygiene argument. Dyson says its Airblade hand dryer uses a HEPA filter to filter the air before it is blown on a person's hands. Excel Dryer, on its website, cites studies that prove that how one dries one's hands matters little when it comes to bacteria on the hands.
What do I think? I have to side with the hand dryer folks. I just can't believe that cutting down trees, making paper and then transporting it is a more environmentally preferable option than hand dryers. What do you think?