The Trash Blog

To Towel or to Blow?

“I stand in the bathroom, my hands dripping from my vigorous post-visit washing, and I stare yet another moral dilemma in the face: to towel dry or blow dry my hands?

I have to admit, I like using paper towels. They make me feel cleaner than the air drying method. And usually, given the two options, I choose the towel. So I did some research…”

This greedy beast wants your paper towels. Think about all that goes into doing (drying) what nature is going to do anyway through evaporation.

This greedy beast wants your paper towels. Think about all that goes into doing (drying) what nature is going to do anyway through evaporation.

This was the typical beginning to Margaret’s post on the topic of paper towels and electric hand dryers. This is where she left the matter, being overwhelmed by the magnitude of information on the topic. I have stepped in to provide you with summation of the research and a healthy dose of realistic.

The Research

There’s an article in Slate that does a comparison between towel-drying and blower-drying on the basis of carbon production, and conclude that blowers are a less wasteful choice in 95% of the circumstances.

There’s a bit of propaganda produce by ProDryers, a distributor of hand dryers and public restroom supplies, which can be found at the illustrious handdryersvspapertowels.com (the name may not roll off your tongue, but has advantages in that it is somewhat clear). Unsurprisingly, handdryersvspapertowels.com suggests that only evil dictators would consider using paper towels, and that the rest of us should invest in hand dryers. The folks at ProDryers even go so far as to say that paper towels carry germs, citing an ABC news article.

Mythbusters, that oft-referenced pillar of scientific information, did a bit on the dilemma and discovered that using paper towels was more hygienic, but didn’t weigh in on which one was less wasteful, which is where I come in.

I think the people at ProDryer should visit this rest stop, with all those dyers they probably shored up the company through the flagging economy.

I think the people at ProDryer should visit this rest stop, with all those dyers they probably shored up the company through the flagging economy.

The Realistic

In the holy name of sanitation, we do allow ourselves to reach mighty heights of waste. Take some time to look in the waste bins next to bathroom sinks after you’ve tossed in your paper towels; most of the time there’s more dry paper than wet.

If you took the time to watch this TED Talk, you will realize that shaking your hands (undoubtedly a filthy practice) does wonders in drying them out. After a few good shakes, a single sheet of towel usually suffices to achieve the desired level of dryness.

This is about as bad as it gets: a roll of paper towel that you can't help getting wet when you pick it up to unravel a sheet or two. What was the plan here?

This is about as bad as it gets: a roll of paper towel that you can’t help getting wet when you pick it up to unravel a sheet or two. What was the plan here?

If you read the Slate article, you’ll have noticed the quip about drying one’s hands on one’s pants: hear hear, I say! This reduces the problem in scale, only leaving those who neglect to wear pants out in the wasteful cold. Of course, the real issue is that most of us feel entirely justified in using as many paper towels as we want, all in the name of cleanliness and many of us use great wads of paper towels simply because we don’t care.

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This entry was written by Margaret and published on January 9, 2014 at 5:22 pm. It’s filed under Community, Paper, Reduce and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “To Towel or to Blow?

  1. Be proactive! Carry People Towels Reusable Hand Towels, 100% Organic Cotton. Easy to have in your backpack. Dries quickly.

  2. In my experience only the Dyson Airblade actually works worth a damn. http://airblade.dyson.com/hand-dryers/airblade-db/airblade-db.aspx I use it every time it’s offered. (Although I read somewhere someone had to put up a sign to the effect that “This is NOT a urinal!) Jeez.

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