How do you feel about using paper towels versus hand dryers? See these survey results

by Brianna Crandall — August 18, 2017 — In the ongoing debate of whether to provide air dryers or paper towels or both for public restrooms, specialized workplace product and services provider Cintas Corporation commissioned a survey to identify which hand-drying method is preferred in the United States.

The survey, conducted online by Harris Poll between May 19 and 23, among 2,048 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, found that the majority of respondents (69 percent) said they prefer to use paper towels over air dryers when drying their hands in public restrooms.

The survey did not include an analysis from a sustainability perspective in terms of reducing paper consumption, nor from a custodial perspective concerning keeping restrooms clean and orderly.

Of those who chose paper towels as their preferred method to dry their hands in a public restroom, the top five reasons include:


Paper towels dry hands better 70%

Paper towels dry hands faster 69%

Paper towels provide something to open the restroom door with 52%

Air dryers blow bacteria (e.g., on hands, in the air) 24%

Air dryers are too loud 22%

The survey found that age is a factor in the paper towels vs. hand dryer debate. Seventy-six percent of Americans aged 35-44 prefer paper towels compared to only 60 percent of those aged 18-34. Additionally, women are more likely than men to prefer paper towels, with 73 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

Note that the above findings are based on people’s perceptions and not necessarily scientific evidence. Although Cintas didn’t conduct research on bacteria and loudness (the fourth and fifth of the top five reasons above), the company did cite a study from the University of Westminster that determined that, on average, warm air dryers increase the number of bacteria on the hands of users, while paper towels and continuous towel rollers decreased the number.

The company also cited a study referenced in the European Cleaning Journal that determined that jet hand dryers have the same impact on ears as a close-range pneumatic drill, and are especially dangerous for children’s ears, as air dryers are typically positioned at the same height as a child’s head.

For more information about Cintas’ solutions for facilities, visit the company’s Web site.