Which is best suited for your commercial washroom?

Reading time: 7 minutes / Updated: August 03, 2022

Each fitting in a commercial washroom, such as taps, soap dispensers, and hand drying facilities, must be carefully selected because each product within its range has unique features, advantages, and disadvantages. But how do you choose?

What may seem like a quick and easy decision, selecting the hand drying facility best suited for your commercial washroom comes with much consideration. These factors include design, hygiene, accessibility, sustainability, maintenance, environmental impact, waste, and cost.

Dolphin offers a comprehensive premium range of hand drying products, including automatic hand dryers and paper towel dispensers in a wide range of finishes and special coatings. This article focuses on all the elements to consider before making your final decision.

Top 5 Considerations

Hand dryer and paper towel dispenser design

1. Design

Automatic hand dryer

Commercial hand dryers are available in numerous mounting options, sizes, and designs to suit any style and layout of today’s modern washroom.

“Hands under” or “hands in” designs range from behind the mirror, blade, recessed mounted, to standard wall mounted hand dryers, each with their own unique design features to suit your commercial washroom.

Automatic hand dryers can be coated in a beautiful range of finishes such as Ceramic coating, Physical Vapour Deposition, and Polyester Powder Coat, or choose a mirror polished stainless steel or a brushed satin finish to add something special to the fitting.

Paper towel dispenser

Paper towel dispensers are available in a wide variety of touch free or manual options, sizes, behind the mirror, counter recessed, flat based, lockable, and recessed mounted styles.

The options do not end there as paper towel dispensers include characteristic features such as “pulling down” from a wall mounted dispenser or “pulling up” from a surface mounted dispenser and a choice between different paper towel folds such as an interfold or C fold.

For a chic look, paper towel dispensers can be Polyester Powder Coat or finished in a Ceramic coating. Stainless steel and brushed satin are also available to match the special finishes in the washroom, for example, taps, hand dryers, toilet roll holders etc.

2. Hygiene

Automatic hand dryer

Choose a hand dryer that includes a HEPA filter which adds an extra layer of protection to purify the air before blowing out on a user’s hands. HEPA filters consist of extremely fine fibres that help remove airborne particles such as dust and bacteria and reduce the risk of infection efficiently and effectively. Hand dryers with HEPA filters also comply with WELL standards.

Paper towel dispenser

Renowned as the most effective process to remove contamination, paper towels are single-use which means a lower chance of bacteria transmission. The paper towel is immediately disposed of in a nearby bin reducing the risk of cross-contamination with other users.

Hand dryer and paper towel dispenser accessibility

3. Accessibility

Automatic hand dryer

BS 8300-2:2018 – Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment – Part 2: Buildings – Code of practice specifies that hand dryers should be readily accessible to persons with disabilities and should be operated either by a sensor or an easy to push button. It should be located close to the door side next to the washbasin and must not obstruct access to the WC.

Keep in mind that hand dryers may cause difficulties for those with heightened sensitivity to noise or neurological processing difficulties. There are hand dryer models available that produce quiet sound levels as low as 67 dB at 1 metre which is an appropriate and unobtrusive noise level for noise-sensitive areas.

Paper towel dispenser

BS 8300-2:2018 provides guidance that paper towel dispensers should be suitable for single-handed use or for those with limited dexterity. The dispenser should be incorporated into the design to not obstruct transfer from the wheelchair to the WC pan and should not be placed within the manoeuvring area for wheelchairs.

Single-sheet toilet paper dispensers are more suitable as they are easier to pull a paper towel down and out rather than tearing off a sheet from a roller towel.

4. Sustainability & Environmental impact

Automatic hand dryer

Sustainable hand dryers produce up to 60% less carbon emissions than paper towel dispensers with their high-speed, low-energy features. Choosing the right sustainable product means ticking off requirements commonly found in green building certifications such as WELL, BREEAM, NABERS UK, and LEED. Some of the hand dryer rating criteria include energy consumption, nominal power output, drying time, motor speed, and standby power levels.

Paper towel dispenser

The supply chain process to manufacture paper towels is not the most eco-friendly as producing them requires trees, chemicals, fuel, water, and electricity. Touch free paper towel dispensers also consume energy. However, there are alternatives to keep within global sustainability goals when incorporating this appliance into the washroom.

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions, paper towels are being manufactured for the circular economy with recyclable and compostable properties. The dispenser itself may also enter the cradle-to-cradle concept to be manufactured with biodegradable properties or have the potential to be recycled into new products.

Paper towel dispenser fold

5. Cost

Automatic hand dryer

The capital expense for a hand dryer is significantly more than a paper towel dispenser. A further cost factor to consider is whether the chosen hand dryer is a standard design or high-speed, low-energy.

A standard hand dryer is proven to use more electricity which increases the energy bill whereas a high-speed, low-energy hand dryer consumes less electricity, thus reducing energy costs and saving you money in the long run.

Depending on whether a special finish is applied to the hand dryer will also add to the cost.

Paper towel dispenser

The purchase price may be cost-effective but there is an ongoing cost to refill depleted stocks. The number of paper towels used by each person determines how often the paper towels will need to be replenished.

For example, each person uses two sheets after washing their hands. In a building of 50 people, each person visits the washroom three times a day. That means 300 sheets of paper towels are used in just one day. Based on this average, should you purchase a case quantity of 3000 paper towels, the stock would need replenishing within ten days.

The type of fold in a paper towel must also be considered in the cost factor. Interfold (or Z fold) paper towels are a little more expensive than a C fold but are much easier to use because the tail of the next towel presents itself when a towel is pulled out.

C fold paper towels are less expensive than interfold paper towels but are not so easy to pull out the dispenser as the next tail does not present itself.

Which hand drying appliance should you choose?

Click here to get in touch and book in a meeting, or to see more information on washroom design visit our learning hub here.


Whatever you aim to achieve in your commercial washroom, you must determine what best fits your budget and design vision and ensure the users get the most out of your chosen hand drying appliance.

If your goal is to achieve a WELL, BREEAM, NABERS UK, or LEED certified building, then speak to your washroom supplier regarding the best product specifications in line with the relevant standards.

Are you still torn between which hand drying appliance is best? Find out how you can achieve your project goals with Dolphin Solutions.

Get in touch