«Embrace the towel»


by Massimo Medugno

It is particularly disappointing to see some large international organization, even someone promoting the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, make the choice of products made of non-renewable materials and consuming energy each time they are used. I refer to the adoption of hand drying devices instead of paper napkins.

Often this choice is accompanied by communication campaigns that emphasize the environmental advantages of these dryers.

But there are numerous studies and communication – including from the World Health Organisation – pointing out the merits of single use towels to ensure the full hygienic value of handwashing. Paper hand towels reduce the number of bacteria and harmful microbes, compared to hot air hand dryers that blow and further disseminate bacteria and microbes in the air.

The Eurofins study, done in Germany during 2012, measures the contamination of the devices and of the floor in 150 washrooms (chosen by Eurofins) where different hand drying devices were used (Paper Towels, Warm Air Dryers and Jet Air Dryers). The results are really impressive and fully promote paper towels, while substantial critical points are individuated for the electric dryers, particularly the high speed ones.

The Mayo Clinic Review article published in June 2012 on the peer-reviewed clinical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, illustrates the clear superiority of Paper Towels vs. air dryers from a Hygiene viewpoint. The article is particularly important due to prestige of the publication, the fact that it is totally independent, the thorough review performed in the article of all the studies available and the conclusion reached: «From a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers.».

The University of Leeds study, which shows that microbes from the hands can be aerosolised during hand drying and that water droplets can contaminate users and bystanders. The presence of this contamination in the air has been measured even 15 minutes after the hands were dried. This study is peer reviewed, has been published on the Journal of Hospital Infections, has been presented at the Healthcare Infections Congress in Lyon on November 2014 and has been reported by hundreds of scientific and general public Websites.

Additionally, the sustainability credentials of paper in terms of sustainable sourcing of renewable natural resources, recycling, green energy, climate benefits, reduced water use, ecc. make it a product of choice.