A bathroom revolution? Dyson heats up the hand dryer war


About five years ago or so, I started noticing something remarkable going on in public bathrooms across the country. These fancy new silver hand dryers, attached to the wall about thigh-high rather than at elbow level, were popping up all over the place. They automatically turned on when you stuck your hands in them and they dried faster and better than anything I’d seen before.

It was in that way that I became a fan of Dyson. Not knowing the first thing about vacuum cleaners at the time, the Airblade hand dryer was my first exposure to the British company. Since then, I’ve become something of a hand dryer snob. I’ve made mental notes of the public bathrooms that have Dysons in them and I often go out of my way to frequent them if I have to go.

On Monday, Dyson introduced a trio of new hand dryers. Call me nerdy, but I’m excited.

First, there’s the redesigned Airblade mk2, which is pretty much the same as the old machine, only 1.1 kilograms lighter. At a briefing at Dyson’s offices in Toronto on Monday, company representatives said carbon emissions have been reduced by 40% during manufacture as a result of using fewer materials. The air hitting your hands, however, is still blasting at 675 kilometers an hour.

Next up is the Airblade V, which is a much smaller version of the bigger dryer. This one is installed higher up on the wall, like regular hand dryers, and is meant for bathrooms where space is at a premium.

The coup de grace is the Airblade Tap, which combines washing and drying into a single fixture. The Tap features a regular infrared-activated faucet, but it also has two “arms” on either side of it. When you’ve finished washing, you put your hands under the arms and they blast your hands with air.

Here’s Sir James Dyson explaining how they work:

The dryers aren’t necessarily cheap: commercial buyers can buy the Airblade for $1,599, the V for $1,149 or the Tap for $1,799. Dyson says the costs are typically recouped in about 18 months, with operators saving on things like paper towels. The devices cost about $48 per year to run, according to the company. Dyson reps say they’re not really planning on selling the tap to residential buyers, but they’re expecting to get a lot of interest, so who knows?

I’m not so sure. The Airblade Tap is cool, but does anyone really want a loud air-blasting faucet in their home bathroom?

I’ve been meaning to write about the hand dryer wars for some time but haven’t yet, probably because that’s a story only I’d want to read. It’s impossible to measure market share in this sort of thing, but anecdotally it’s clear that Dyson has forced competitors to raise their games. I’m seeing fewer and fewer bathrooms with lame hand dryers that barely blow any air. Competitors such as Xlerator are proliferating, so bathroom-goers everywhere are benefiting as a result.

I can’t wait till I wander into a bathroom with the Airblade Tap. It’s time to start making a new mental list.