Industry data: paper towels the hygienic choice for hand drying

Oct 29, 2019

Hygiene is of course a top concern for tissue makers, and leading research in this area is offering good news for the industry. While trends in hand drying have lately emphasized electric dryers, recent scientific studies have repeatedly shown that traditional one-use towels are far more effective at reducing the spread of bacteria. This data could have a significant impact on consumer demand in coming years.

Already in 2012, a study published by the journal of the Mayo Clinic concluded that paper towels offer clear hygiene benefits compared to drying machines. The study noted that wet skin transmits germs to a much higher degree than dry skin, and that hand-drying effectiveness was therefore a key component of hand hygiene procedures. With regard to drying efficiency, the effective removal of bacteria, and the prevention of cross-contamination, single-use towels were demonstrated to be superior to electric air dryers.

Numbers don’t lie

The Mayo Clinic report is just one of many studies that have reported similar findings. A recent publication from the University of Leeds highlighted the risk that hand dryer machines pose to healthcare professionals as well as the general public due to the dissemination of germs in public bathroom environments. The researchers found that in cases of poorly washed hands, the airborne contamination of warm air dryers is more than five times that of paper towels. Meanwhile, modern-style jet air dryers showed air contamination levels nearly twenty-four times higher than paper towels!

These potential health risks are underscored in a study published by the Journal of Hospital Infection on microbial contamination from hand drying. It found that jet dryers left behind a total of 59.5 bacterial colonies on average, and the number was only slightly less for warm air dryers – 41.5. The average for paper towels was just 2.2.

Significance for tissue makers

Flexibility was the main reason that ADNPM began investigating Valmet’s Advantage NTT concept for their mill. NTT is designed to easily switch between production modes. By changing the belts, ADNPM could go from producing plain tissue to higher quality, textured products in just a matter of hours.

A secondary concern for ADNPM was energy efficiency. Although the UAE is widely associated with fuel production, domestic energy prices have risen dramatically in recent years. Because NTT is designed to produce high volumes with added bulk and softness at a low rate of energy consumption, ADNPM had yet another reason to consider the solution.

Putting the best face forward

Many of these studies have also gained the attention of popular media outlets around the world, resulting in consumers having a growing awareness of the public health and safety implications of electric hand dryers. As more people begin to understand the hygiene benefits of traditional popular towels, and avoid drying machines altogether, a reasonable expectation is that suppliers for public restrooms will take notice.

All of this data suggests that the trend may soon shift away from electric dryers and toward single-use hand towels. This could very well result in further increased demand for paper towel products, and the owners and operators of tissue mills must be prepared to meet that demand.

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Category: Tissue in focus

Industry level: Introductory

Est. read time: 3 minutes

Summary: This article looks at recent studies about hygiene and single-use paper towels and asks what this data might mean for tissue makers.