OPINION: Bring back towels

Paper towels are better than hand dryers


It’s a passing period on a slow Monday, and you gamble on using the restroom hoping on the off chance you’ll be able to make it to class on time. Only, after you step out, does the realization hit you. You’ve just missed the bell.

Maybe if you hadn’t been stuck hunched over the bathroom air dryer violently shaking your hands you would have made it there on time.

Anyone who regularly washes their hands has almost certainly had this universal experience in one form or another, but there’s a bigger issue. Although the bathroom air dryers may seem gimmicky at best and inconvenient at worst, they are a mistake that is putting our health in jeopardy.

It’s a common misconception that hand drying only serves the purpose of getting water off your hands, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

What do students think?

Hand dryers are the best for the environment.

— Elijah Shigeta ‘25

I like the hand dryer because the towels get all soggy from people trying to rip the old ones.

— Ava Mason ‘25

Hand dryers suck. Air dryers are so unsanitary.

— Carmen Vigil ‘24

The bathroom will always be a safe haven for germs, and it should be a priority to keep it as clean as possible. Unfortunately, Boulder Valley School District’s solution was rather to completely eliminate the use of paper towels in favor of brand new hand air dryers. Although there have been air hand dryers installed since the school was built, they have slowly taken over the restrooms of the school.

The district does have a reason for the change. “The Facilities department has removed paper towel dispensers because of vandalism caused by people needlessly flushing paper towels down toilets & urinals and causing sanitary sewer back ups,” BVSD director of facilities, Carey Jensen, said.

Although studies have shown that the effectiveness of air dryers and paper towels are about the same in eliminating germs from wet hands, air dryers have one unforeseen downside–the influx of airborne germs during and after use.

According to the University of Leeds, “Jet air and warm air dryers result in increased bacterial aerosolization when drying hands. These results suggest air dryers may be unsuitable… as they may facilitate microbial cross-contamination via airborne dissemination to the environment or bathroom visitors.”

The use of electric hand dryers creates an environment ripe with cross-contaminated surfaces.
The study, Deposition of Bacteria and Bacterial Spores by Bathroom Hot Air Hand Dryers, proves, “hand dryers with HEPA filters reduced bacterial deposition by hand dryers 4-fold.”

However, our school currently uses the brand World Dryer model RA5, a hand dryer which fails to incorporate a HEPA filter in any form.

Even if paper towels require more maintenance to restock and empty the trash, the solution shouldn’t be air hand dryers, but rather to expand janitorial staff. If the janitorial staff do not have the staff or the time to empty and restock paper towels, it exposes the underlying issue, the lack of actual manpower. In no way should the blame fall upon our custodial crew.

With the size of our school and the frequency at which bathrooms are used, it should be a no-brainer that we put the health of students and staff first. Not only does this require action from the school, but the students themselves have to be responsible to not cause unnecessary problems for janitorial staff.

Although air dryers may be viable for larger, low traffic restrooms, they have no place in a school. Even if the reintroduction of paper towels is logistically impossible, the very least that could be done is to install hand dryers with integrated HEPA filters.

It takes responsibility from all of us to bring back the paper towel for good!