Half of men don’t use a public toilet hand dryer

19th April 2023

By Mark Hall

Half of men don’t use a public toilet hand dryer

The ritual ‘rubbing your hands on your trouser legs’ still rules in the gents

More than half of British men don’t use electric hand dryers in public toilets and would wipe their hands on their trouser legs even if paper towels are provided.

Those are the frankly weird findings of a waste and recycling company looking into the tonnes of paper towel waste that goes to landfill every year.

According to Yorkshire-based Divert.co.uk, it turns out that men are habitually greener (if not more hygienic) in public toilets by drying their hands on something that is essentially recyclable – their own trousers.

“We wanted to find out how to save paper towels, and also slash electricity used by super-fast dryers,” said Divert.co.uk spokesman Mark Hall, “but we found out something about male toilet habits we just had to share.”

“Interestingly, women are the complete opposite,” says Mark. “They’ve good higher standards, obviously”.

Dryer vs towel vs trousers: Let battle commence

Divert.co.uk asked hundreds of men and women which method they used to dry their hands after using a workplace or public toilet. The results were very much split along gender lines:


Hand dryer 14%

Towels 20%

Wipe hands on clothing 52%

Don’t know/don’t care 14%


Hand dryer 44%

Towels 40%

Wipe hands on clothing 5%

Don’t know/don’t care 11%

Asked why they don’t use the electric hand dryer or paper towels, men offered a variety of excuses:

“There’s always a queue, it’s far easier to wipe and walk” Tom H, London

“They’re unhygienic, blowing Covid germs all over the place” Andrew H, West Yorkshire

“They’re far too noisy these days, I can’t stand them” Colin B, York

“They never get your hands dry anyway. Why waste your time standing there?” Ben B, Swindon

“I’ll use paper towels if they’re there, otherwise it’s the trouser legs” Mike G, Nottingham

Additionally, a significant number of men (10% of the don’t know/don’t care) column say they don’t wash their hands at all after using the toilet. That figure was only 2% among woman.

As one man told us: “I only bother if I wee on them, which isn’t often. My aim’s really good”. Tony H, Ilkley

But on the other hand, one woman said: “Hygiene is important, especially in the pandemic. Washing and drying your hands is vital and we can’t afford to let our standards drop”.

What’s the take-home from this (apart from toilet germs)?

What started as an earnest investigation into the wasted resources involved in the art of handwashing became an eye-opening voyage of discovery into male toilet habits.

“We don’t as a rule hang around toilets asking pointed questions, but our industry is all about trying to cut down on paper waste that goes to landfill,” says Divert.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. “Sometimes you just end up with totally unexpected results.”

Here’s why we were asking: According to one hand dryer manufacturer, the average paper towel dispenser in a public toilet gets through about 80,000 paper towels a year, weighing 160kg. All of this goes to landfill.

And while giant steps are being made to decrease the power and noise levels from electric hand dryers, there are still tens of thousands out there drawing massive amounts of power for a 20 second drying cycle.

“That almost seems to sell the idea of wiping your hands on your trousers,” says Divert.co.uk’s Mark Hall.

But with dryers becoming more energy efficient, faster and far less noisy, it stands to reason that the age of the soggy paper towel is coming to an end.

And for the men of the UK, at least, that means the end of the wipe-and-walk of shame.

You might want to skip this bit

Our survey didn’t go exactly to plan, and we cannot finish without revealing what one truck driver told us after revealing he was one of the few who users paper towels all the time:

“I have seen with my own eyes an elderly gentleman drying his willy with a hand dryer at a motorway service station,” said this Knight of the Road, “It is something I shall take to my grave.” Mark T Addingham