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The City of Portland, Oregon

Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037


Hand Dryers (How to switch.)

High speed electric hand dryers are the best environmental option for hand drying, above paper towels and standard (not high speed) hand dryers.

high efficiency hand dryers

Choose an electric hand dryer that has:

  • Low reported dry time, around 12 -15 seconds
  • Low power rating. (Some high speed dryers are around 1500 Watts, but have low dry times.)
  • Been rated by US Green Building Council, Energy Star or other reputable appliance rating systems.

Warning: Not all electric dryers are equal! Standard (not high-speed) electric hand dryers are worse for the environment than either high-speed dryers or paper towels.

How to make your electric hand dryer even greener:

Use renewable energy! If solar or wind power aren’t supplying your building’s energy needs, you can still support renewable energy. Every Portland utility offers a renewable energy program. If you don’t pay your utility bills directly, ask your property manager to consider purchasing it.

hand dryer installed where paper towel dispenser used to be

Shorten drying times: Encourage people to run the hand dryer only once.  

Other tips and considerations

Make it second nature.

When switching to an electric hand dryer, try to install the dryer in the same spot paper towels used to be. This will reduce confusion and mimic what people are used to.

What about opening the door?

no hands pull

Some people use a paper towel to open the bathroom door and this can be a barrier to switching to electric hand-dryers.

However, there are now a variety of “sanitary door opener” devices that can be purchased and attached to restroom doors, allowing people to open the door with their arm or foot.

What about the noise?

There’s no way around it: electric hand dryers are noisier than paper towel hand dryers. For many workplaces, this won’t be a problem, but depending on where the restroom is located and how sound-proof (or not) the restroom is, this may be an issue.

If the noise is a deal-breaker in your situation, check out our suggestions for best practices around paper towel use and how to purchase sustainably made paper towels.