Time for Kimberly Clark to throw in the towel? Dyson delivers 10 knockout blows to Kimberly Clark’s campaign
The Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer was launched in 2007. It works, drying hands hygienically in just ten seconds. And it’s drying more and more hands as its popularity grows around the world. In response the paper towel industry has failed to innovate and instead resorts to producing paper-thin reports with little credible evidence.
Here Dyson responds to what it believes to be the latest Kimberly Clark work of fiction, the Take Control of Poor Hand Drying campaign:
Kimberly Clark falsehood 1: “The [Take Control of Poor Hand Drying] campaign has been prompted by recent scientific research conducted by London’s University of Westminster.”
False. The European Tissue Symposium commissioned the report. It is not a published scientific study, which would require peer review to confirm its scientific rigour and impartiality. It is the work of one man, Mr Keith Redway, a researcher. The report is a commercial assignment carried out by University of Westminster Trading Ltd., not a scientific report from the University of Westminster.
Shortly, an independent report on hygiene and hand drying from Bradford University – which forms the basis for the Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer’s hygiene claims – will be submitted for peer review and publication. Will Westminster Trading Ltd’s report be put under the same scientific scrutiny?
Kimberly Clark falsehood 2: “Researchers also found that using electric hand dryers could blow bacteria a significant distance across a washroom.”
False. This test was conducted under artificial conditions which do not mimic real life. Despite this, the data shows nothing more than what is found naturally on washroom surfaces as the result of dripping hands or splashes at the sink. Mr Redway offered no context as to whether the numbers are of any concern at all; he simply drew some preconceived conclusions.
Kimberly Clark falsehood 3: “Using a paper towel reduced the total number of bacteria on hands by an average of 77%.”
False. This claim is unsubstantiated. In his statistical analysis, Mr Redway demonstrated he could not be confident that his data was genuine and reliable. Despite this, Mr Redway chose not to run repeat tests, and just reported the results as valid.
Kimberly Clark falsehood 4: “Paper towels showed no significant spread of bacteria.”
False. This was not properly examined in the Westminster Trading Ltd. report. The report conveniently failed to mention the spread of bacteria that occurs via contamination on paper towel dispensers, for example. This has been proven in sound scientific work published in reputable journals .
Kimberly Clark falsehood 5: “In addition, organisations such as the World Health Organisation now recommend single-use towels for good overall hand hygiene.”
False. In Dyson’s opinion, Kimberly Clark cynically suggests that the World Health Organization only recommends paper towels. The WHO report actually says:
“Ideally, hands should be dried using either individual paper towels or hand driers which can dry hands effectively and as quickly as it can be done with paper towels, and have been proven not to be associated with the aerosolization of pathogens.”
An independent study conducted by Campden BRI, the UK’s leading food research institute, confirmed that aerosolisation of bacteria is not an issue for the Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer.
Kimberly Clark falsehood 6: “Businesses and organisations have often been told over the years that electric hand dryers are the most hygienic way to dry hands after washing them. The reality, however, could not be more different, with this research suggesting people could even be putting themselves at increased risk of spreading germs by using dryers.”
False. The Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer works very differently from warm hand dryers. As a result it has gained accreditations that, along with independent scientific reports, attest to its hygienic credentials. These include hygiene certifications from the NSF International (formerly the National Sanitation Foundation) and the Royal Society for Public Health. The machine is currently being used in hospitals, including the Royal Marsden and Kingston – after meeting their stringent hygiene requirements.
Kimberly Clark falsehood 7: “It’s well known that electric hand dryers can cause long queues in washrooms, which result in wet floors and disgruntled customers.”
False. The Westminster Trading Ltd report confirms that the Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer dries hands just as quickly as paper towels.
Kimberly Clark falsehood 8: “After washing and drying hands with the jet air dryer, the total number of bacteria were found to have increased on average on the palms by 15% and on the fingerpads by 42%”
False. The Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer uses a HEPA filter to ensure there are virtually no bacteria present in the air used to dry hands. Westminster Trading Ltd’s testing confirmed this, but still reported an increase in numbers on the skin – a clear contradiction that is not explained. The Westminster test sampled skin before washing and not again until after drying – making no distinction between the two stages. It is almost certainly the washing, not the drying, that increased the numbers in their test (due to rubbing releasing more ‘good’ skin bacteria to the surface of the hand). An independent scientific study from the IRM (Institut de Recherche Microbiologique) shows that drying your hands for 10 seconds with the Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer reduces the bacteria on the skin by 89.5%.
Kimberly Clark falsehood 9: “Intermetra found that while 63% of respondents preferred to dry their hands with paper towels in public washrooms, just 28% preferred air dryers and only 10% opted for pull-down linen towels.”
False. The Intermetra research cited (June 2008 survey) refers to conventional warm air dryers. The Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer works completely differently – drying hands hygienically by literally scraping the water off in 10 seconds using a sheet of unheated air. In a survey of 167,000 people by Dyson, 88% of people preferred the Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer to paper towels .
Kimberly Clark falsehood 10: “The high-performance AIRFLEX* Fabric used in the Kimberly Clark Professional* range of SCOTT* Xtra Hand Towels requires 15% less fibre than a standard fabric and helps reduce waste placed in the bin by up to 28%. Meanwhile, the average recycled fibre content in all Kimberly-Clark Professional * paper towel products is as high as 80%.”
False. No matter how much recycled fibre is used to make them, paper towels cannot be recycled once they’ve been used, so they end up on landfill.
Dyson engineers its machines and technologies to be reliable and durable, reducing the number of machines that need to be recycled or discarded. Almost all component parts are recyclable. For the cost of a single paper towel, the Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer can dry 19 pairs of hands .
 Bacterial transfer and cross-contamination potential associated with paper-towel.
Dispensing – Wendy A. Harrison, PhD,a Christopher J. Griffith, PhD,a Troy Ayers, MS,b and Barry Michaels, BSc Cardiff, United Kingdom, and Gainesville and Palatka, Florida (2003)
Technique to determine contamination exposure routes and the economic efficiency of folded paper-towel dispensing
Wendy A. Harrison, PhDa, Christopher J. Griffith, PhDa, Barry Michaels, BSb, Troy Ayers, MSc Cardiff, United Kingdom, and Palatka and Gainesville, Florida (2003)
Source: 167,000 touch screen votes at Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer’s concourse activity , O’Hare Airport, Chicago: 10th Nov – 30th Nov 2009.
Based on power costs of £0.09/kWh and paper towel costs of £0.0075 per towel