I washed my hands today in the kitchen sink and proceeded to dry them on a tea-towel hanging on the stove. I, like most people, do this often. Today I stopped to think – that tea towel is probably not very clean – I probably just made my hands “dirty” again.

I am not a germ-o-phobe so this didn’t bother me. I’ll probably do the same thing again later today – probably more than once, but it did get me thinking.

Which is better, paper or air? Let’s look at the two options, and the three main categories

Environment
I think this is probably the easiest one to answer, obviously the air dryers are best for the environment. I have done no formal studies, but I think the electricity generation required to power the hand dryers probably has less of an impact than the electricity and raw materials used to create the paper towel. Even if the paper towel is made with 100% recycled materials you still have to use electricity to turn those materials into paper, and then fossil fuels to ship that paper, and then you ultimately wind up with all this recyclable paper towel in the land fill.

Germs
I suspect paper towels are the more sanitary product here. Hand dryers; for the most part just blow the bathroom air full speed back at your hands, likely contaminating them all over again. If you’re using a hand dryer that filters and purifies the air, then I suspect that the hand dryer is the least germy choice, but only if your hands get 100% dry.

Functionality
The vast majority of air hand dryers I have used absolutely suck – that is till I tried the Dyson Airblade. I had seen many commercials and thought, hey, its just another hand dryer, then when waiting at a recently revamped BC Ferries terminal, I saw in their washrooms, they had the Airblade installed. I was pleasantly surprised to see my hands 100% dry in a matter of seconds. According to their website, they use a HEPA filtration system, so that makes it clean too.

As far as I am concerned, paper towel is my method of choice, unless the hand dryer is one that actually works.

When visiting a public washroom, do you prefer paper towel, or air hand dryers?

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