Paper Towel Dispensers Buyers' Guide

Dispensing the Essentials of Paper Towel Dispensers

Finding the right paper towel dispenser can play a large role in encouraging handwashing and keeping your customers happy. A clean, properly stocked restroom can impact a customer's perception of your business, and a correctly set-up handwashing station in a commercial kitchen helps ensure your employees follow the directions set forth in the Employee Health and Personal Hygiene Handbook. The type of paper towel dispenser you choose will dictate how often it should be refilled, what type of paper towels you will need to order, and how those will be dispensed.

Rolled vs. Folded Paper Towels

Paper towels can be purchased in several formats, but most dispensers are only compatible with one type. Paper towel rolls are available in white or brown paper, with brown paper being more environmentally friendly and often more affordable due to not having to be bleached. Paper towels on a roll are usually dispensed with a lever, crank, or an automatic sensor that either detects motion or dispenses a new length of paper towel every time paper is torn off. An automatic paper towel dispenser is often preferred due to being more sanitary and allowing the operator to control how much paper is dispensed each time, which can reduce waste. Another option is a center-pull roll, which dispenses paper towels from the center of the roll and automatically makes the next towel available as the user pulls.

Folded paper towels are available in C-fold and multi-fold designs. C-fold towels have two folds that result in a shape similar to the letter they are named for. These do not interlock, but instead lie on top of one another when folded. Multi-fold paper towels also have two folds, but are folded in opposite directions, resulting in a Z shape. This shape allows the paper towels to be interlocked, which lets more paper towels fit into a dispenser and pulls the next paper towel partway out when one is removed, making them easy to access. Paper towel dispensers made for folded paper towels can often accommodate both fold types, but the sizes of the towels vary between brands, so be sure to check that the size you order is compatible with your dispenser. Folded paper towels are available in white or brown paper and are generally the most economical option.

Installation Type

There are several installation styles to consider when comparing commercial paper towel dispensers, with the major determining factor being what kind of space you have to work with. For locations with more counter space than wall space, a countertop-mounted dispenser may be your best option. These use folded paper towels and are recessed into the countertop, allowing users to pull the paper towels straight up for removal. These are a great solution for crowded restrooms, but proximity to the sink and the open top of the dispenser can also result in the paper towels being splashed, creating extra waste.

If you have the wall space for a commercial paper towel dispenser, you have two options to choose from. A wall-mounted unit is installed on the wall and sticks out at least 4 to 12 inches. In a small bathroom, a recessed paper towel dispenser is a good alternative to help save space. These are installed into the wall, limiting how far they extend out, with many models being almost flush with the wall. This type of dispenser is also available with a built-in trash receptacle to further save space.

Plastic vs. Stainless Steel

Commercial paper towel dispensers are available in plastic and stainless steel. While the stainless steel is the most difficult to damage, plastic construction is also made to be very durable and is usually made out of an impact-resistant polymer. Plastic models often allow you to easily see the level of the paper towels inside at a glance, making stocking simple. The stainless steel models have slots either on the side or front of the unit to allow employees to see when paper towels are running low. While most plastic and metal models have locks, if you are worried about vandalism, a stainless steel model might be best for you. However, plastic is available in many colors to blend in with your décor scheme.

Paper Towel TypeConstruction Material
Counter Dispenserca_paper_towels6FoldedStainless Steel
Wall-Mounted Folded Dispenserca_paper_towelsFoldedStainless Steel or Plastic
Recessed Dispenserca_paper_towels2Folded or RollStainless Steel
Center-Pull Dispenserca_paper_towels3Center-Pull RollPlastic
Lever/Crank Dispenserca_paper_towels4RollStainless Steel or Plastic
Automatic Dispenserca_paper_towels5RollPlastic