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Which Hand Dryer Should I Buy?

The good news is that there are more amazing hand dryers in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of features, at great prices. But this bounty of choices can also be daunting. Below, we will outline some of the features that can help make a choice.

  [UPDATE]  This article was updated to reflect recent COVID-19 related developments.

High Speed Hand Dryers

Today's hand dryers are MUCH faster than previous generations, with the quickest drying hands as fast as 8 seconds! (See the XLERATOR by Excel Dryer.) And while the difference between 30 seconds (the slower hand dryers) and less than 10 seconds may not seem like a big deal, studies have shown that among those who prefer not to use hand dryers, the number one reason is that they take too long. And for busy restrooms, this can be even more important.

So, in general, we always recommend a high speed hand dryer first. And coincidentally, because they operate for less time, they tend to be much more efficient.

High Efficiency Hand Dryers

Another important feature, with today's focus on environmental awareness, is energy efficiency. This is a great opportunity to let your guests know that you are "green-minded." Because of this, some dryers even come with placards explaining the benefits of hand dryers and how much energy and paper waste are saved.

As discussed above, one component of energy use is, of course, how long the dryer is operating. The shorter the time the dryer is turned on, the less energy it uses.

There is, however, an even bigger factor that influences energy consumed. The heating element. In almost all cases, uses the majority of the energy used by a hand dryer will be the heating element (unless there isn't one!).

Some heated dryers, therefore, are also equipped with adjustable heat to address this. When the heat is turned down, or even off, they use much less energy (See the SMARTdri by World Dryer.)

A common miss-conception is that heat also helps to dry hands more quickly. In fact, testing shows that heat has very little affect on dry time. Some of the fastest dryers have no heating element at all! (See Dyson hand dryers and the XLERATOReco by Excel Dryer.)

This isn't to say that heat has no benefit. A warm air dryer can be more comfortable to use, especially in cold climates and during the fall and winter. Don't underestimate the importance of comfort to your guests!

Noise Level

At this point, you may be saying to yourself, "Well that's easy. I just need a high speed hand dryer with an adjustable heating element."

There is, unfortunately, one significant drawback to some high speed hand dryers. And that is N O I S E. Bathrooms tend to be small, enclosed areas, frequently with tile on the floor and walls. This creates the perfect environment to echo and amplify sound. So noise level (usually reported as Decibels) can be another important factor. Because of this, many dryer manufacturers publish (and advertise) the operating sound level of their dryers.

But the story doesn't end there. As with many features, there is no universal (standard) methodology for measuring noise level. For instance, how close was the microphone to the dryer. Was it above, below, or right at the nozzle. Were the dryers activated electronically, or by placing hands under the dryer. How close were the hands held to the dryer. All these things can dramatically affect results. And lastly, the results are almost always self-reported, and so have to be taken with a grain of salt.

So how can dryers be compared? The easiest way is to find one in use and try it out. But this is often not practical. To help with this, we will periodically test a series of hand dryers and create a video of each. THIS IS NOT MEANT TO BE A SCIENTIFICALLY SOUND EXPERIMENT! We just try to get a ballpark "apples to apples" comparison and give some general commentary.
You can find these videos on our Hand Dryer Demonstration Videos page .


Hand dryers come in a wide variety of formats. Here are some aspects you will want to consider:

Mount Type

There are surface mount hand dryers which are attached to the surface of the wall. There are semi-recessed hand dryers which are sunk partly into the wall, and there are fully recessed hand dryers, which are fully enclosed into the wall and do not project more than 1/4" out from the wall.

The decision here can be motivated by several factors. In some cases, the decor in a bathroom is suited to a minimalist presentation. So a fully recessed, stainless steel hand dryer may be appropriate. In other cases, there may be an ADA projection requirement based on the location of the dryer (check your local building codes for more on this) and so a fully recessed, or semi-recessed hand dryer may be necessary.


Size can be another important consideration. Some bathrooms are very small, or only have a very limited amount of space in which to mount the hand dryer. In this case, a compact dryer is best. With new hand dryer technology, you will be amazed at what they can fit in just a tiny enclosure. The BluStorm BOLT by Palmer Fixture is only 5-7/8" wide by 9-3/4" tall! That's smaller than many soap dispensers.


Here, there are a wide variety of choices, depending on your environment.
  • Cast Iron: Thick iron, up to a quarter inch. Usually with a white porcelain enamel finish. This is nearly indestructible and has even been known to withstand a bullet strike! Cast Iron covers are great for areas prone to vandalism or other harsh conditions. The World Dryer AirMax XM5-974 is a great example of this.
  • Stainless Steel with a Brushed Finish: Still very, very durable and resistant to vandalism. The steel prevents all but the most determined vandalism, and the finish can usually be repaired from marring and scratching with just a steel wool or scotch brite pad and some patience. It also matches the most common material used in other commercial bathroom appliances.
  • Polished Stainless Steel or Chrome: Beautiful, durable, and easy to match with high design faucets and fixtures.
  • BMC or ABS Plastic: These are the most economical covers and can save you a lot on the cost of the dryer. They are durable and practical and will hold up well in most environments. They will usually be offered in white or light gray.
  • Other Unique Finishes: Many manufacturers offer their own particular finishes. For instance, Excel Dryer offers a textured graphite finish , and even custom colored finishes. Dyson offers the Airblade V hand dryer in a sprayed nickel finish and World Dryer offers several models with a black or white finish and a SteriTouch antimicrobial ingredient that helps prevent the spread of germs.

Hand Dryers and COVID-19

The discussion of "Paper Towels vs Hand Dryers," as relates to environmental concerns, cost of operation, and hygiene, has been going on for years. You can read about the hygiene studies in detail in our earlier article here.

With the advent of the Coronavirus, however, much, much more attention has been given to this topic. And with more outlets than ever (I'm looking at you FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube), anyone with an opinion can broadcast it to a wide audience, whether or not they are actually in a position to offer expert advice (or benefit from publicity one way or the other).

Fortunately, there are experts in the field, and they are not hard to find. Here are some recent quotes from three highly respected sources that have extensive experience, and a track-record of public service, in this area:

In addition, considerably prior to the pandemic, many hand dryer manufacturers were already adding HEPA filters (which are tested to filter at least 99.99% of viruses) to further enhance the benefits of their products, even allowing them to meet the strictest standards set out by the FDA for food processing areas. Dyson has lead this development with the AirBlade series of hand dryers, but World Dryer, American Dryer, Saniflow, and Excel Dryer quickly followed suit. Excel has even introduced a HEPA filter retrofit kit that can be added to existing XLERATORs that were purchased without one.

TLDR: All research to date shows that hand dryers are as safe as any method for drying hands. And all authorities agree that washing hands and drying them is important to preventing the spread of viruses and bacteria.

For more information on this topic or any of the products mentioned, please feel free to call us at (704) 937-2673 , or email info@berls.com and we will be happy to assist you!

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