In 2006 The Dyson Airblade was released, but this was no ordinary hand
dryer. It had what many considered to be a futuristic body that asked for hands
to be inserted into its mouth. The real difference was this was the first high
speed dryer. So futuristic it was used as a set dressing for Star Trek in
Most public bathrooms or washrooms
will offer one of the five following options to dry your hands.
- The pleated paper hand towel this can be recycled or
virgin paper and comes in several folding styles Z-Fold, N-Fold, C-Fold and the very
cheap V-Fold. There is also a wide variety of colours available although white
seems to be the dominant colour along with blue in the food industry.
- The Paper Roller Hand Towel, these are also made from
both recycled and virgin paper and are usually found in more up-market
- The Linen Roller Towel is made usually from cotton
and is more times than not on a rental agreement in large industrial
industries. In recent years the roller towel business is not as a dominant a
player in bathrooms.
- The old-style warm-air dryer ‘Usually dating back
to the seventies’ that indestructible metal hand dryer that, very slowly blows
down on your hands and takes an eternity to dry them.
- And finally, the super jet hand dryer the sort Dyson and other
manufacturers make ‘I don’t want this turning into an ad for Dyson hand
Dryers’. These are the new breed of hand dryers whose gale-force winds and heat
will dry your hands in less than 8 seconds.
In the war to dominate the washroom, it really had become a head to head
of paper towels
v jet hand dryers. The old slow speed hand dryers of yester year
are slowly becoming obsolete, as for the linen towels very few businesses use
them now. This battle of Hand Towels
V Hand Dryers is very much about business strategy,
marketing, advertising and public relations. It really is on par with Coca-Cola
The main area of battle has always been public hygiene. Depending on
who’s paying for the research science has tried and proven both arguments for
the use of Hand Towels
and Hand Dryers
. So it could be argued that science has
failed to give us a decisive winner as to whose product is superior. The
biggest fears with these studies really centre around the spreading of bacteria
in public areas. Giving journalists plenty of headlines ample opportunities to
spread fear and panic about washroom hygiene.
But when it comes to public hygiene in a hospital environment we have to
pay attention to research. In 2018 a microbiologist from California stuck a
petri dish inside a blade style Hand Dryer for three minutes and then incubated
it. Within next 48 hours the fungi and bacteria deposited on the dish by the
hand dryer multiplied, growing into a thicket of grunge. When the photo was
posted on Facebook over 500,000 people shared it within a week. One or Two
Dryer manufacturers argued the experiments methodology was too vague to have
meaning, but was it?
Going to the beginning the paper towel was invented before the hand
dryer but is not really much older. The Scott Paper Company, from America and
now owned by the tissue giant called Kimberly-Clark, developed the first
washroom paper towel in 1907. Whilst the earliest Hand Dryer was patented by
the Airdry Corporation from New York in 1922. So really not a lot of years
between the two, but the Paper Towel was by far the most dominant force of the
The battle for the control of the washroom has never been more fervent
than now in the 21st century with the arrival of the new breed of super jet
hand dryers from the likes of Wipeout, Viper, Air Force, ATC and many more.
Although the figures still weigh heavily in favour of the big paper towel
companies. According to market research by Technavio $4 Billion worth of Paper
Towels will be purchased globally in 2020, they also reckon hand dryer sales
will hit $856 million that is a 12% growth every year since 2012. This has had
quite an impact on paper towel revenues some reckon as much as $1 Billion over
the past 7 years, although I am not quite so sure about that claim. This is why
it is such an immense battle when you consider the money involved.
The fact of the matter is Hand Dryers
have come a long way when we consider only 5 in every 100 toilets had a hand
dryer in 1965 according to ‘The Good Loo Guide’ by Johnathan Routh.
Those involved in the decision making
process of buying paper towels and hand dryers compete on various dimensions:
- Product Dimensions
- Running Cost
The decision is not always an easy
one when we start to go.
An awful lot of the hygiene issues in the washroom rest on the so called
‘Holy Grail’ the contactless bathroom. In the industry belief is where our
hands need not touch anything that someone else’s hands have defiled. Maybe
this would explain the rise in sales for these chamber style hand dryers, but
we still have to think about the initial cost and maintenance of these jet
style dryers. But the Paper Towel industry is fighting back with more and more
automated vending of paper towels in roll format, where we have very cheap
running costs. Our obsession with
hygiene where we don’t wish to touch something some else has touched is already
very evident. Take for example some airport bathrooms now opt for a switchback
of walls, so that we don’t even need to touch a door handle. When inside the
bathroom, sensors eliminate the need to flush the toilet, turn the tap, press
the soap dispenser button or pull a paper towel from the dispenser. The modern
hand dryer, with no buttons to push, also neatly fits into this fantasy of the
For decades the leading manufacturer World Dryer a company founded by
George Clemens in 1948 and responsible for the release of the Model A Hand
Dryer in 1951. This robust baked enamel white hand dryer with its shiny round
steel button and many variations was the answer to a post-world war wood
shortage causing a severe shortage of paper towels. Right up to the 1990`s
World dryer believed that it could still dominate the market, mainly down to
the fact they signed a contract with McDonalds across the USA in the 1970`s
This convinced them they was winning the war. During this time both hand dryer
manufacturers and linen towel suppliers enjoyed a huge up surge in sales.
Ultimately the linen towel industry was probably biggest casualty to be
effected by this war between the paper suppliers and hand dryer manufacturers.
Even the hand dryer manufacturers were struggling as recently as the late
1990`s as they failed to invest in R&D when they was at their peak.
In the 2000`s the fundamental superiority of paper never looked to be in
doubt though. Ultimately no need for
huge investment in R&D with paper you don’t wait some 30 seconds the dryer
to do its job, no worries about malfunction. I mean think about it that famous
scene in the restroom where Mr Bean drenches his trousers. The paper towel
dispenser is empty so in a matter of desperation he gets caught humping a hand
dryer after climbing onto a bin to dry his trousers, would he have got caught
if the paper towel dispenser was full?
So back to where we started with and how the market is starting to
change with the introduction of the modern turbo hand dryers.