Dryers Remain the Most Eco-Friendly Way to Dry Hands

In today’s eco-conscious environment, sustainability is an ever-growing concern for the public and businesses alike. For example, in public restrooms, consumers’ preference for hand dryers over paper towels grows significantly when they are reminded of paper towels’ impact on the environment. Not only do a majority (two-thirds) of consumers support the use of commercial hand dryers in public restrooms, but even more— three quarters—indicate the method is better for the environment, and this perception strengthens among consumers aged 40+ (MetrixLab US Dirty Bathroom Survey Data, 2023). In response, companies across the globe are striving to minimize their carbon footprint and make eco-friendly choices—steps we’ve been taking for decades. 

Sustainability comparison of hand dryers vs. paper towelsTo back our sustainability claims with the latest available information, we recently commissioned TrueNorth Collective to conduct a comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment to illustrate the environmental impact for each stage of a product’s lifespan and create Environmental Product Declarations on each of our products. The results aren’t surprising: our hand dryers are still the most eco-friendly way to dry hands. The cradle-to-grave global warming potential of dryers can be 83% less than the cradle-to-grave global warming potential of paper towel baseline.

What is a Comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

An environmental LCA examines a broad range of environmental impacts at all stages of a product’s life cycle, from “cradle-to-grave”—including all material, energy, water and pollutant inputs and outputs. The objective of TrueNorth’s report was twofold: to understand the environmental impacts associated with each stage in the life cycle of the four Excel hand dryers when compared with a paper towel baseline, and to provide the necessary background data for the creation of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)—which communicate these impacts—for Excel Dryer’s products.

The Life Cycle Testing Method

The comparative analysis conducted in the LCA focused on evaluating the life cycle impacts of Excel Dryer’s four energy-efficient hand dryers —The XLERATOR®, XLERATOReco®, XLERATORsync®, and ThinAir®—when compared to a paper towel baseline. 

The paper towel scenario considered two variations: paper towels with 0% recycled content (two sheets per use) and paper towels with 100% recycled content (four sheets per use). Additionally, the paper towel scenario included other materials required for a complete paper towel hand drying station, such as a waste bin, waste liner, dispenser, dispenser batteries and infrared (IR) sensors. The comparison was based on drying 260,000 pairs of hands with six categories in mind, including IPCC 2013’s Global Warming Potential and five from TRACI 2.1:

  • Acidification Potential
  • Eutrophication Potential (Causing excessive richness of nutrients in affected bodies of water)
  • Smog Formation Potential
  • Ozone Depletion Potential
  • Fossil Depletion Potential

The Results

The results of the comparison revealed Excel Dryer products exhibit 79%–97% fewer environmental impacts when compared to the paper towel baseline with 0% recycled content. Similarly, when compared to the paper towel baseline with 100% recycled content, the Excel dryers demonstrated 82%–96% fewer impacts. Notably, the life cycle impacts of Excel dryers were primarily driven by the use stage, while the impacts of the paper towel baselines were primarily driven by the raw material stage. 

Based on the results and study assumptions, methods and data for the comparative analysis base scenario portion of the study, all four studied Excel dryers have fewer environmental impacts in all categories than paper towel scenarios. 

A History of Sustainability

We’re not new to pioneering sustainability—we’ve been leading the way for decades. In 2015, we commissioned an environmental LCA to measure the impacts of our high-speed, energy-efficient XLERATOR, a conventional electric hand dryer and paper towels. That study found XLERATOR reduced the environmental impact of hand drying by 50%–75% over a decade.

Electric hand dryers are an environmentally friendly addition to any restroom. Use our paper towel cost calculator to see how much your facility can save when using hand dryers vs. paper towels

Learn more about our green hand dryers, and reach out any time to ask how our products can help shape your facility’s eco-friendly future.