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This Article was first placed in the African Cleaning review Jan/Feb 14 edition - click on the magazine above to view the article or read the full article below-

Hand dryers are punted as the ultimate solution in the modern washroom because it benefits the environment by reducing paper use and associated waste. It also reduces costs and alleviates washroom maintenance. In this article Dean Smith of Costa Lambrianos (Pty) Ltd, leading importer of hand dryers into Southern Africa, sheds more light on hand dryer issues, past and present.

During a visit to the US, Costa Lambrianos came across the introduction of hot air dryers into the International market, realising the potential for an alternative way of drying hands he concluded a distributor agreement and received the first shipment of hot air hand dryers in South Africa during 1985. At the time the market was dominated by continuous cotton towels with paper towels a close second.

However it was not all plain sailing as once the dryers arrived, it became clear that it would not be easy to convince the market of the benefits of the new system over that of the traditional hand drying methods. Costa also realised that he was about to embark on a long market education process and in doing so, pioneered the use of the air-drying systems as we know it today. Companies were renting the cotton towel service, and Costa knew he would have to offer the products on a rental basis in order to compete. Once the service industry realised the benefits of the new system they too followed suit and Costa ceased to rent, and concentrated on servicing the rental market.


Hand dryer metamorphosis

The early models were expensive, bulky, loud and cumbersome to operate with unhygienic push button systems. Electric motors were inefficient and housings were visually unattractive. Over the years the product offering has become smaller, with automatic sensors replacing the buttons, energy hungry motors have been replaced by smaller more efficient motors, generating more power and consuming as little as 500Kwh compared with 2,500 Kwh and more. A real weakness of hand dryers in the early days was the time it took to dry your hands compared with the traditional methods. The top selling hand dryers in the market today takes as little as 10 to 15 seconds to dry hands, with no waste and at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.



Traditionally hand dryers had limited applications, and were restricted to high traffic areas only. However new technology now allows dryers to be used in both high traffic areas such as shopping malls, train stations, airports, schools, office blocks and even in homes. HEPA filters are now being fitted to dryers, and the American Food and Drug authorities have approved these to be used in food and medical environments, previously considered unacceptable.


Installing the correct hand dryer in the right environment will result in cost saving, minimal environmental impact, reduce waste generation and cleaner intervention. With proper consideration of walls and existing wiring, hand dryers are relatively easily to install at various designated heights by a registered electrician and it requires minimal maintenance.

Outright purchase

Initial purchasing costs are higher than traditional methods, however the return on investment far outweighs the initial costs. If the correct dryer is purchased with the correct International and SABS approvals, up to 95 percent can be saved on every hand dry compared with traditional methods.

Dryers per washroom?

As with all systems offered, traffic in the washroom need to be measured in order to decide the number of hand drying units to install. Fast drying systems lend themselves to high traffic areas, and the number of units will depend on number of dries required per hour during peak times, i.e. when a plane arrives, intervals at shows, meal times at restaurants etc. It is however generally considered that one dryer should service 2 – 3 basins in order to prevent bottlenecks from forming.


It is a legal requirement to submit hand dryer models to the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) for approval prior to offering it for sale on the South African market. Hand dryer buyers should therefore take care not to purchase units that do not comply and should rather insist on a SABS compliance certificate prior to signing the purchase order. It is important to realise that, if there are any failures in the use of non-compliant hand dryers, it could cause damage to property or even worse – electrocution. Both the seller as well as the buyer could therefore face serious consequences.

The future for hand dryers

Dryers will continue to improve, and we foresee smaller, more energy efficient, fitted with noise suppression systems and safer products being introduced to the markets. New technology caters for drying all sides of your hands at once, the heating element is replaced by higher cold airflow and air that is re-circulated within the machine and then released through a HEPA – filtered exhaust. With greater environmental awareness and the need for cost effective and cleaner washrooms more facility managers should consider hand dryers that consume less energy but offers more drying power.

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