Battle for the Bathroom

District 214 switches from paper towels to hand dryers


In Prospects’ bathrooms, hand dryers line the wall where paper towel holders once hung. (photo by Emma Letzig)

Nick Doherty, Columnist

The war in the Prospect bathrooms has continued to wage. For the past three years, battle after battle has struck. First, there was an overthrow of the original rulers of the bathroom that would lead to Terrible Towels taking control. But suddenly, without warning, Operation Sierra-Oscar-Alpha-Papa would take place, which would effectively reinstate the previous rulers back to the kings of the Prospect bathrooms.

You might be thinking: what war in the Prospect bathroom? Have you lost your mind? And the answer to both of these questions is … yes.

District 214 (D214) has made the disastrous decision to bring back the hand dryers within all of the Prospect bathrooms under the cover of darkness. 

So after learning of the choice to switch back to these jet engine-like monstrosities, I had to know: why? Why would we switch from the world’s greatest invention of paper towels to these evil, bacteria-sucking machines? It’s not just me ranting about stupid things at Prospect that don’t matter. No, no, no. Science is on my side.

According to a study conducted by the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University, hand dryers can pull in air filled with bacteria and push it onto the hands of the person using the dryer.

Furthermore, another study conducted by Cleveland Clinic found that jet air dryers can disperse 20 times more virus than warm air dryers and over 190 times more than paper towels.

Now that you’ve learned the truth about the hand dryers of Doom… It has really made me wonder why D214 brought back the hand dryers? Well, Associate Principal for Activities and Operations Frank Mirandola says the answer is a lot simpler than a war.

“The cost of paper products, the cost of replacing or fixing pipes because paper ends up where it shouldn’t end up [are concerns],” Mirandola said. “Things like that, where [the paper towels end up] like in the toilet or in the sinks. There’s obviously a lot of costs associated with that.”

The reason that hand dryers are coming back is not because of the great bathroom war, but actually because of two things: student behavior and the cost of paper products. The cost of a six-pack of industrial paper towels is around $53-$63. If you think about it, there are 14 bathrooms that students can access at Prospect, and each needs one paper towel roll a day. That totals Prospect’s weekly paper towel bill at around $800 (That’s a lot of money). 

The new hand dryers that were installed at Prospect have a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter, which according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be able to remove 99.97% of all airborne particles from the environment. 

That means that these dryers should not be allowing germs back onto peoples’ hands. Also, what matters more is that these dryers cost $612 each. For Prospect to have hand dryers, it would cost about $8,500 for the entire school, compared to paper towels, $8,500 would only cover about 10 weeks of our favorite paper product.

With cost favoriting hand dryers, it is quite evident why D214 decided to go back to the dark side … or maybe it’s the light side. It seems like these hand dryers are the real deal and, according to the manufacturer, they are actually designed to help prevent the spread of germs. 

But for all the questions this information answers for me, it leaves me with a question that can’t be answered.

 How frequently does Prospect replace the HEPA filter in each hand dryer? Because, according to the EPA, for each HEPA filter to work and function properly they need to be cleaned and replaced frequently.

Besides these personal questions that I still have about these dryers, on paper, these new hand dryers are pretty safe to use with their fancy technology. 

So do I think students should use these dryers on a daily basis? Probably. But, personally, I won’t be using them the next time I step into the Prospect bathroom. I do truly believe that they are relatively safe, but to me paper towels will always beat out hand dryers. 

However, I’m not the ultimate bathroom ruler, so each person should make their own decisions about these new dryers because no matter how you dry your hands you should always be washing them. (Because if the cleanliness doesn’t get to you, the constant noise of the jet engine will make you go insane!)