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Loud hand dryers - what can you do?

Hand Dryer NoiseLoud hand dryers cause problems. In schools, nurseries and public areas such as shopping centres, small children are often frightened of them. In business situations they can disrupt meetings if washrooms are next to meeting facilities. In village halls they can disrupt events and performances.

But the problem is that most modern hand dryers are, by their very nature, noisy. This is because they work not by warming up and evaporating the water from your hands, but by blasting the water off with high powered jets of air.  And to generate these high speed jets of air takes a very fast, and therefore frequently very loud, motor.

Not only that, but the volume levels increase dramatically when the air hits your hands. Travelling at up to 100 metres a second, air becomes very noisy.

And a washroom is not usually the most sound-absorbing environment – with hard surfaced walls and floors, noise reverberates and echoes around the room rather than being absorbed.

So on the plus side, the result is a dramatic reduction in energy used, and a dramatic reduction in time taken to get your hands dry (around 10 seconds for most modern dryers). And on theloud negative side, you may have a solution which is so loud that it cannot be used.

For a solution to this, it would seem to make sense that we can just choose a dryer with a low decibel rating (almost all the hand dryer manufacturers do now publish their noise levels for each model). Unfortunately in practice, this does not work very well. This is for 3 main reasons:

  1. Just choosing the quietest dryer will mean you almost certainly end up with the worst dryer.
  2. Measuring a dryer’s sound level in a lab is not the same as in a real world environment (for the reasons mentioned already, to do with placing hands in the airstream and the typically bad acoustics of a washroom).
  3. Not all manufacturers measure the levels in the same way, and some may be described as ‘optimistic’ at best, so comparisons may not be meaningful.


Rather than this, what we recommend is that if you think that a loud hand dryer would cause you problems, choose one which still performs well, but has an adjustable motor speed. That way, you can adjust the volume level according to your environment, making sure that you don’t have to put up with a bad dryer unnecessarily. If it’s too loud, you can just turn it down.

There are quite a few hand dryers which have this level of adjustability, but for the most adaptable, look for one which is adjustable on a rotary dial rather than just a low/high setting.

If all this talk of loud hand dryers has made you scared to buy any dryer for fear of choosing the wrong one, don’t worry! Just give us a call to talk through exactly what you need – we’re the unashamed hand dryer nerds and if we can’t answer your question, no-one can!