The dirty truth for cleaning and maintenance professionals is that restrooms play a critical role in the public perception of cleanliness.
A recent poll conducted by the Cintas Corporation revealed what contributes to a user’s perception of a dirty restroom — 88 percent of those surveyed identified overflowing trashcans and 80 percent identified paper towels and toilet paper left on the floor.
Hand dryers have long been an alternative to paper towels in public restrooms, and newer models are helping facility maintenance professionals clean up their act.
The technological advancements in hand dryer technology has enabled newer models to dry hands up to three times faster while using 80 percent less energy than traditional models.
Simply choosing to adopt high-speed and energy-efficient hand dryers, or transforming a facility from paper towels to hand dryers, can help save time, money and the environment.
From ordering, stocking, distributing and removing waste, paper towels represent a time commitment for both large and small scale cleaning and maintenance management operations.
Smaller facilities operate with less staff that often cannot keep up with the pace paper towels are used, which can cause the overflowing trash cans and waste on the floor.
Larger facilities may have the staff to maintain restrooms on a daily or even hourly basis, but even that is sometimes not enough.
Airports, concert venues and sports stadiums are a few examples where even hourly maintenance routines struggle to keep up with restroom traffic and usage.
Larger high traffic facilities also seem to have frequent plumbing problems, like clogged toilets and urinals, from the improper disposal of paper towels.
“Hand dryers have reduced the cost and maintenance associated with paper towels in the stadium’s restrooms,” said Jim Nolan, vice president of operations at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, and recent adopter of high-speed and energy-efficient hand dryers.
With the newly-installed hand dryers at Gillette Stadium, the New England Patriot’s facility maintenance staff can focus on other areas of concern that impact the fan experience, like cleaning up spills to prevent slips and falls.
High-speed hand dryers also represent a dramatic savings in energy consumption and a reduced carbon footprint.
New hand dryer models operate in a third of the time required by traditional models.
One model dries hands in as fast as ten to 15 seconds, using 80 percent less energy than conventional dryers and is designed to run on a 15-amp service — which is great for older buildings that were previously unable to satisfy the energy requirements needed to run older models.
Both new and older facilities are now able to adopt environmentally-friendly hand dryers that reduce the carbon footprint of hand drying by 50 to 75 percent.
Retired Col. Deborah Roberts, a former construction and facilities officer said, “The National Guard is America’s representative around the world. Being green is critically important — it’s part of our global mission. We’re environmentally conscious and using dryers to reduce paper going into the waste stream makes a strong statement.”
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a beacon for green building and design, and reports an estimated 50 percent savings on energy due to the installation of high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryers in their LEED Platinum Washington, D.C. headquarters — not to mention the 95 percent in waste reduction diverted from the landfill.
New hand dryers also help organizations qualify for green certifications and credits that are earned through the adoption of energy-saving initiatives.
For example, high-speed and energy-efficient hand dryers qualify for several LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Those energy-saving certifications and credits transition into another benefit of high-speed hand dryers, money savings.
These hand dryers reduce waste, human resources and energy-consumption that equate to time that can be spent on other problems impacting cleaning and maintenance.
New American-made hand dryer models average less than a one year return on investment including the installation costs of installing the wiring to the restroom.
With the capacity to hold nearly 70,000 people for any one event, installing the hand dryers at Gillette Stadium produced a significant decrease in costs associated with paper towels.
The Patriots used an average of over 6.2 million paper towels a year which was reduced almost completely by installing high-speed hand dryers.
They saved over 95 percent, representing a savings in excess of $50,000 annually, versus the cost of paper towels including their maintenance and waste, while reducing the facility’s carbon footprint by 70 percent.
Something else to consider, “The continuous plumbing calls combined with the high levels of restroom maintenance were taking up a considerable amount of time and costly resources,” said Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Director of Facilities Engineering David Stout.
He also argues that damp, used paper towels regularly pile up around trash receptacles, and they can be a serious breeding ground for germs when left unattended.
That alone was reason enough for Northwest Memorial Hospital to adopt hand dryers.
A study published by the European Cleaning Review affirms that, “unless paper towel waste is regularly cleaned up, it can be a lasting source of bacteriological infection.”
The Great Hand Drying Debate
For the hygiene skeptics, high-speed hand dryers come in hands-free models that reduce the spread of germs.
Some newer versions are also producing anti-microbial wall guards and incorporating certified HEPA filtration systems that require stringent standards of 99.97 percent filtration.
HEPA filters improve the quality of the air by removing potentially present bacteria and particulates in the room that are 0.3 microns or larger.
This settles the debate about hand dryer hygiene as these HEPA filter models deliver clean, filtered, purified air, which is often requested — and even required — in the healthcare and foodservice industries.
Additionally, Dr. Franklin R. Cockerill III and his colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, conducted a randomized trial to determine the effects of four hand drying methods for removing bacteria from washed hands.
In a year-long study of 100 people who volunteered to have their hands contaminated with bacteria, researchers found that hand washing got rid of the same amount of germs regardless of drying style.
Results were reported in Mayo Clinic Proceedings (75:705 - 708).
Scientist P.D. Meers and K.Y. Leong’s letter to the Journal of Hospital Infection stated, “[There is] no bacteriological reason to exclude [hand dryers] from the clinical areas.”
Remember, it does not have to be an “all or nothing” approach.
Simply installing high-speed and energy-efficient dryers as an option in restrooms can help save time, money and the environment.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) installed both high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryers and paper towels in their Washington D.C. headquarters, which resulted in reducingthe total number of scheduled trash pickups from five to four pickups per week.
This hybrid approach led toreduced amounts of diesel fuel being used, lower airborne admissions during transportation and significantly less paper towel waste going into landfills, all while saving $30,000 annually in dumpster fees alone.
William Gagnon serves as the vice president of marketing at Excel Dryer Inc., the manufacturer of the original, patented, high-speed, energy-efficient XLERATOR® hand dryer. He applies over 15 years of industry knowledge and experience to a wide variety of marketing initiatives that have positioned the XLERATOR® with its proven effectiveness, performance and customer satisfaction. Learn more about Excel Dryer at www.ExcelDryer.com, e-mail Excel Dryer at Sales@ExcelDryer.com or call (800) 255-9235.