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Tips and Techniques [1402.08]

How to Use One Paper Towel

I recently stumbled upon a TEDx talk on "How To Use One Paper Towel", which demonstrates how to potentially save 570 million pounds of paper a year by using only one paper towel to dry your hands. My reaction was, "hey, that's my urawaza!"

For a while I worked in a building with restrooms that seemed optimized for inconvenience. They were located outside our company's secure boundaries, so you were in trouble if you forgot to take your badge with you. The sinks were optimized to wet your stomach: the counters were deep, the sinks were offset several inches in from the edge of the counter, the paper towels were located a distance from the sinks (resulting in pools of water stretching from the sink to the towels), and the faucet handles were so far in it was difficult to reach them without leaning against the drenched counter.

I pondered the problem without finding a solution (other than trying to remember not to lean over, which I could never seem to do). However I realized that the problem would not exist if people shook the water off their hands before leaving the sink. This, in turn, would have the added benefit of requiring less paper towels to dry your hands.

Around this time, Sheryl Crow had come out with the suggestion that "the average person should use only one toilet paper square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required". Ultimately it turned out she was joking, but it did give me the idea to see if I could figure out a way to get by with one paper towel.

What I came up with differs slightly from the TEDx presentation. Here is my method:

Per the TEDx video, I tried folding the paper towel to see if "interstitial suspension" really works, and I can't say that it does. My method seems more effective, especially with smaller pieces of paper towel.

With either method, there is another benefit to first thoroughly shaking off your hands: you can quickly pat them dry on your arms or clothes, if it turns out the paper towel dispenser is empty.

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