Paper Towel Dispenser Types:

Dispenser Reviews

What type of paper towel dispenser is the best? What type of paper towel dispenser will save money? Is it possible to reduce waste with a paper towel dispenser? – The short answer to these questions is a Controlled Output Roll Towel Dispenser, but finding the best dispenser for your application is key to limiting waste and maximizing your budget.   This article will review all three styles of paper towel dispensers.

There are approximately 3,000 tons of paper towels used in the United States each day (Source).  If you are a business owner or purchaser trying to reduce operating costs this blog post is meant for you! The type of paper towel dispenser installed in restrooms directly correlates to the number of towels people use.  Unless everyone uses “the perfect paper towel method” then selecting the best dispenser is the most effective way to limit the quantity of paper towels used.

An alternative to paper towels are electric air dryers.  Studies show that not only do people prefer paper towels but there are hygienic concerns related to air dryers.  The original study can be found here.  The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post both published articles regarding the findings from a Mayo Clinic study.  This blog post is not meant to dissuade you from electric air dryers but rather inform you about the three different types of paper towel dispensers.  Note: Keep Clean Products carries all three towels, dispensers and electric air dryers. Our recommendations are based on manufacturers data, our own experience/research and our customers experiences.

Center Pull Dispenser

This style of dispenser is most often seen at gas stations.

Simple design, easy to install new rolls.

X. Roping is a term used to describe center pull towels becoming intertwined and tightly wound and thus not perforating properly.   People keep pulling, but the towels do not perforate.  On average people use 30” of center pull towels to dry their hands. (Including waste from roping)
X. Effectiveness – Center pull towels are not effective for drying hands.  A paper towel that is roped in your hands is not conducive for effective drying because the towel must be unwound.  No one unwinds center pull towels instead they just use more.  Surface area is important for effective hand drying and center pull towels lack surface area when they are roped together.
X.Stub Roll” – Partially used rolls need to be switched out to avoid costly “emergency refills.”  What happens to the “stub roll?” Maybe it ends up in the supply closet to be used later.  Most likely the stub roll ends up in the trash can.  Business owners pay for paper towels to to dry hands and if part of each roll ends up in the garbage you are throwing money away and promoting waste.

Multi Fold Dispenser

Probably the most common dispenser found in public restrooms. Known as: Multi-Fold, C-Fold, Single Fold etc..

✓ Fixtures look good. Oftentimes they are recessed in the wall, or underneath the counter.

X. Overuse– People use an average of 4 folded towels to dry their hands (including waste). The dispenser makes it easy to grab handfuls of towels.
X. Wasteful – Oftentimes someone might grab a fistful and half the towels fall to the ground. Keep in mind you paid for all of the towels and when a big stack ends up on the floor they go straight into the garbage.
X. Wasteful – Have you ever gone in the restroom and noticed a stack of towels sitting above the dispenser or on top of the counter? Stacks left sitting on top of the dispenser could have been put there by someone that grabbed too many. More likely that the stack was put there by the maintenance person that needed to refill the dispenser and did not have enough room for the full packets.  These towels will be used, but if left out in the open they are more likely to end up contaminated and in the trash.

Controlled Output Roll Towel Dispenser

There are many styles of roll towel dispensers – levers, battery operated, and mechanical hands free.  These 3 types all dispense and perforate from the roll.

✓  “Stub roll” feature.  Once the roll has been partially used it can be placed in the back of the dispenser and a new roll can be loaded in the front.  The “stub roll” is dispensed until the roll is empty then the new roll automatically dispenses.  This feature will reduce service visits to the restroom as it increases the capacity of the dispenser.  There is a video that shows this feature here.
✓ Controlled use: Certain roll towel dispensers can be customized to limit the length of towel dispensed.  It takes much longer to get 4 towels from a roll towel dispenser than it does from a multi-fold dispenser, as such this style dissuades visitors from using more than 2.
 Retrofitted Appearance: New roll towel dispensers can be retrofitted to fit in recessed towel dispensers.  If you are in Los Angeles please call us! Keep Clean Products will calculate your potential savings by switching to a controlled use roll towel!  If you are not in Los Angeles please find a local janitorial supply company that sells paper towels.
 ✓ Savings by Switching: Reduce waste by 25{29497a36df11100784819e924e8b66b0f25d418a900623423f96b54872417f20} to 35{29497a36df11100784819e924e8b66b0f25d418a900623423f96b54872417f20} by switching from multi-fold towels.  

X. These towels may have limited distribution.
** To gain all the benefits above be sure to find at least a dispenser with a 800′ roll capacity.  Also l
ook for dispensers that come with a “stub roll” feature.  I mentioned the wasteful “stub roll” in the center pull towel section and it can also come into play here.**

Paper Towel Styles by the inch

Average length of towels used (including waste) per hand dry for each category. 


In addition to reducing waste buyers should consider other environmental impacts from paper towels.  Check out Green Seals “Choose Green Report on Bathroom Tissue and Paper Towels”  for more information and for recommended paper towel products.


  • 40{29497a36df11100784819e924e8b66b0f25d418a900623423f96b54872417f20} of our landfills are paper products.  
  • Bleached towels are harmful to wildlife and aquatic systems.
    • Elemental chlorine contains dioxins which are known as  human carcinogens.
    • Furan is a carcinogen and mutagen that is harmful to living systems.
    • Both chemicals bio-accumulate in organisms.  The concentration of these chemicals increases as it travels up the food chain.  Specifically affecting immune and reproductive systems.
The Green Choice: 
  • Unbleached towels – They are just as effective at drying hands.  
  • Green Seal Certified – GSC is easily identifiable and is the standard for environmentally preferred products.
  • Alternatives to GSC paper:
    • 100{29497a36df11100784819e924e8b66b0f25d418a900623423f96b54872417f20} Recycled content – Containing at least 40{29497a36df11100784819e924e8b66b0f25d418a900623423f96b54872417f20} post consumer waste.
    • Process Chlorine Free (PCF), Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF), or Total Chlorine Free (TCF).
    • Pick a Hardwound Roll Towel that has 800′ or greater capacity.
  • Bring a reusable cloth towel with you to public restrooms.
  • Hardwound Roll Towels reduce packaging by 80{29497a36df11100784819e924e8b66b0f25d418a900623423f96b54872417f20} – Require less storage space because they are more compact.
  • Hardwound Roll Towels can reduce waste by 35{29497a36df11100784819e924e8b66b0f25d418a900623423f96b54872417f20} compared to multi-fold towels – It is impossible to grab a fistful of roll towels – stub roll feature ensures all the towels are used to dry hands.


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