Hand Dryers Clean Up Grand Central

Installing touch-free hand dryers in Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal eliminated paper towel expenses, reduced maintenance costs, and improved the guest experience.

Installing touch-free hand dryers at Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal eliminated paper towel waste. Graffiti-resistant custom covers fit into the décor of the historic structure.

Sprawling across 48 acres in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, Grand Central Terminal hosts 750,000 visitors daily and an additional 10,000 lunchtime diners. The facility houses 68 shops and 35 restaurants, and opens its doors to tourists and locals who enjoy tours, special events, and entertainment throughout the year. Esteemed for its Beaux-Arts architecture, the high-profile venue also holds another distinction: busiest train station in the country.

Given its popularity and historical significance, it’s hard to believe that Grand Central was once in danger of being destroyed. Through a preservation campaign led by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and a Supreme Court of the United States ruling, Grand Central’s rich history was recognized: the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and declared a historic landmark in 1976.

With the building preserved, restoration projects commenced. Over time, thoughtful planning was given to upgrading systems and integrating energy-efficient and sustainable products as new technologies emerged. “Everything we do, we must look at with sustainability in mind. We’ve made a number of upgrades to Grand Central Terminal over the years, including updating the electrical, plumbing, and lighting systems, led by our sustainability team,” said Steve Stroh, assistant deputy director of electrical and mechanical maintenance.

One area receiving attention were the restrooms throughout Grand Central. Originally outfitted with paper-towel dispensers, restroom floors were often strewn with errant waste, and the sinks and toilets were frequently clogged by improperly disposed of paper towels. To eliminate these problems, hand dryers were considered as a sustainable solution. An added challenge, however, was finding a product that could meet performance needs without compromising the integrity of the original architecture.

While at an expressway rest stop, Stroh experienced the Xlerator hand dryer, manufactured by Excel Dryer Inc., East Longmeadow, MA. Impressed with its performance, he and his supervisor researched the product and concluded it could meet all of their performance, reliability, and sustainability objectives. “We thought if they could hold up to the abuse of a public rest area, they would be a great option at Grand Central,” stated Stroh. “With the Xlerator, we don’t have to worry about paper towels ending up outside the garbage cans, clogging toilets, or plugging up our sewers. It’s eliminated the need for paper towels in our restrooms,” he continued. “We dug around and researched the Xlerator and saw that it also had a lot of green certifications.”

Since the Xlerator dryers were installed, the terminal restrooms have been nominated as among America’s best public restrooms. In addition to eliminating the paper-towel issues, the dryers touch-free, sensor-activated technology reduces touch points and improves hand hygiene.

Paper towels eliminated

The hand dryers proved to be the perfect solution at Grand Central. Twenty-four units were installed to replace paper-towel dispensers throughout the terminal in public and office spaces. In addition to eliminating the paper-towel issues, the dryer touch-free, sensor-activated technology reduces touch points and significantly improves hand hygiene. “Visitors don’t want to touch something that hundreds of other people have touched,” Stroh said.

Because of Grand Central’s historic significance and the unique needs of the facility, custom covers were recommended and selected. Offered in a variety of colors, textures, and finishes, Stroh had no trouble selecting one to fit in with the décor. An added benefit was the vandal-resistant coating and finish. The dryers “take a lot of abuse,” he said. “The new covers are great for our application because we can scrub them to get rid of graffiti and keep them clean.”

Others have taken notice of the newfound cleanliness of the restrooms. Since the dryers were installed, Grand Central Terminal restrooms have been nominated as among America’s best public restrooms in Cintas’ America’s Best Restroom contest.


— Visit Excel’s website.

— Calculate hand-dryer savings.

— Watch video case studies.

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