Back to all articles

The History of Hand Dryers

You may be surprised to learn that the very idea of washing and drying one’s hands is a relatively recent concept. It was first pioneered in the 19th century by Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor. When he first proposed the idea, he was actually ridiculed by his fellow doctors! Thankfully, the practice did catch on eventually and in 1907, the Scott Paper Company created the first disposable paper towels intended specifically for hand-drying; they were called Sani-Towel. Then in 1922, the Airdry Corporation patented the world’s first hand dryer; it was often referred to at the time as an “electric towel.” The first restroom hand dryer that featured a push-button start and warm air debuted in 1951. The hand dryer really began to catch on in the 1970s when McDonald’s installed warm-air hand dryers in all of its U.S. locations. In 2006, Dyson introduced the Airblade, a completely touchless jet dryer that used high velocity air (instead of hot air evaporation) to dry users’ hands. Today, hand dryers are still a common sight in public restrooms, and while some people are definite fans, others have concerns over their hygiene, effectiveness, and noise level — there are even ongoing scientific studies about which method of hand drying is most effective at removing germs!

Share this article

card showing the history of rocking chairs

Your go-to guide for weird history facts

Subscribe to the FREE daily email that makes learning about history fun.