Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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a self-cleaning roller-towel system

Half-dried hands spread bacteria
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I used to think hot-air hand-driers must be more hygienic than costly paper-towels, or the long-gone roller towel. And they might be if they didn’t take forever to dry your hands completely. I concluded this when I read of hospital research proving partly dried hands spread dangerously more disease germs than completely dried ones. So I launched my own research programme of noticing how often others, like me, left impatiently with hands half-dried, presumably exchanging bugs via an already damp exit-door handle. Hence my very half-baked proposal for a self-cleaning and sterilising roller-towel system. Any good designer could produce one, [if paid enough!], combining old and new technology to give washed hands an intuitively satisfying, rapid and complete ‘dry’. Of course, the blow-drier makers might have already improved their devices - though I don’t know how.
rayfo, Sep 03 2000

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       If they made the dryer hot enough to be actually useful, some idiot would burn itself and sue them.   

       I think it'd be difficult to pull off an on the fly self cleaning towel, although it might be possible to use one that's much longer than you actually see, and bleach/sterilize it with powerful UV...
StarChaser, Sep 03 2000
  

       That's what I had in mind - a buffer storage roll, as in the long-gone machines that provided a generous loop of fresh towel for each user.
rayfo, Oct 24 2000
  

       Long gone? I still see them around from time to time, invariably with a single strand of soggy towel left hanging down.   

       I used to think these devices were an endless loop of towel, like ribbon in a printer cartridge, but of course that would be unhygenic (unless the towel was washed in the machine as Rayfo suggests). The single strand of soggy towel (and the shape of the machine) gives it away that there were two rollers inside the machine, more like a tape cassette.   

       I guess the reason you don't see them so much these days, is that the cost of taking the completed roll away and washing it is somewhat greater than the cost of refilling a plastic wall hanger with disposable paper towels. Unfortunately, I suspect the cost of producing and maintaining Rayfo's machine would also make it economically unviable.
Lemon, Nov 14 2000
  

       So centralize the towel-cleaning machine for an entire building, or perhaps even a neighborhood or city, and run ribbons of clean and dirty towels in ducts (right next to the clean and dirty water pipes). At Fresh Towel Central, thick wads of towel come pouring in on all sides, go through industrial-size washing machines, and circulate back out in a continuous loop...
egnor, Nov 15 2000
  

       Imagine drying your hands on a towel bearing the legend: "Help! I am locked in Fresh Towel Central!"
Lemon, Nov 15 2000
  

       Hey! The blow driers blow downwards only don't they. Is that why they don't dry very rapidly in spite of all that roaring and heat?
  

       How about a CROSS-CURRENT of air instead, that schloops the wetness out to one side and blows dry air in from the other side?
rayfo, Nov 16 2000
  

       I disagree, Peter. I think the impetus for roller towels would be environmental (used paper towels don't appear to get recycled - although they probably will be made from recycled paper). Paper towels are the cheap alternative. The cost of "having live persons around to restock the paper towels" ain't a great deal, - it's one of the least onerous and time consuming tasks when cleaning restrooms.
Lemon, Nov 17 2000
  

       Ten years later .. :) I've had this idea for awhile too, and think it's very much applicable to folks with infrequent trash service and/or septic systems. Maybe someone could put up with a slightly dirty yet sterile towel? I think it'd be too much to ask for a complete wash/bleach/rinse to get the roll lily white. Maybe just a vibrate and a UV application.
RobotVoodooPower, Jun 07 2010
  

       bowl of isopropyl alcohol would work just fine: shake off your hands, then dip them into the bowl, then shake that off: disinfected and dry before you got to the door.
FlyingToaster, Jun 07 2010
  

       //bowl of isopropyl alcohol would work just fine//
That's how most hand sanitizers work. The commercial products add a foaming agent, to economize on propanol, and some glop to stop it drying out your hands so much. Dipping in propanol would probably work for the occasional hand-wash, but for people who have to do it 30 or 40 times a day, every day, the moisturizing goop is important.
mouseposture, Jun 08 2010
  
      
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